How are you handling the Coronavirus situation?
Staying home. Staying alive! Following what the government is saying. I train at home. This is an extraordinary situation; one can’t be thinking about playing sport in these times.
How have you handled being in and out of the national team?
Thoda kharaab, buraa toh lagta hai (You do feel a touch bad) that you aren’t getting as many chances. I used to feel a bit down in the past about sitting on the sidelines and watching. But it’s important that you make yourself understand the situation. I realised that it’s not healthy if I slip into pity. That feeling isn’t good as you won’t be able to perform well when you get a chance.
You can’t complain too much as the other three- Ishant (Sharma), (Mohammed) Shami and (Jasprit) Bumrah are bowling well. So I can understand that for a team management, getting the right balance wouldn’t be easy. All four of us are experienced bowlers.
You do well in Indian conditions and you get a chhaap (image) like that. It’s sort of unfair as if I get regular chances in overseas Tests, I would definitely do well. I hardly get two matches in a row. Unless you play more in those conditions, you will not learn more about those conditions. I have stopped bothering too much about all this. The benchmark in our team is high, and I just want to do well in whatever opportunity I get. You have to always keep your fitness levels high, think that you can play any time. If you get into negativity, you won’t find motivation to train and be fit.
Has this constant in-and-out situation affected your aggression? You are one of the fastest bowlers in the world but you don’t have that aggressive aura about you.
The main thing is when you don’t play back-to-back games and get the odd match in between, what does happen sometimes is that you don’t have the match-rhythm of bowling. The kind of confidence that comes when you are consistently playing. That rhythm is different. You do worry about the fact that you might get dropped if you don’t do well in this chance. Your focus is different then.
Umesh Yadav is on fire, yet again. Has picked up two quick wickets in an over 🔥🔥
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 22, 2019
All that runs in the head. You are not thinking, ‘jaake mein uda doonga inko’ (I will go and blow them away). Mentally, something else is running. You want to take wickets, give less runs, and stuff like that. All that is bound to affect your bowling. When you bowl bindaas, khulke, without a care, it’s a completely different experience and you look different to people. You have no mental pressure. When you are coming back for a game in six months, you don’t have that positive body language as there are too many things running in your head. I keep telling myself and prepare myself mentally –that’s why you see I do well in Tests whenever I play – but you understand, it’s not easy and there is bound to be some affect. As I don’t even play ODIs, my off-period is longer.
But aggression doesn’t mean you get into angry fights with batsmen. I am not talking about that kind of behaviour. What’s the use of getting angry with the batsmen? If some batsmen trigger me deliberately, may be yes, but generally I like to keep calm and do my thing. That’s my nature.
What’s happening with the whole ODI stuff?
I haven’t understood that. White or red, the skill lies in swinging the ball, na? I can do it as I have done it. Of course, the lengths will vary and that is obvious and down to cricketing intelligence. If I get a series of ODIs, I feel I can prove myself as a wicket-taking bowler. I do feel I haven’t been used properly by selectors in ODIs. Get a game here and there, then sit out for six months. It does get difficult. Career has never been stable. Always up and down. I did well at the 2015 World Cup, but then again out.
On a lighter side, no one has to worry about my workload management as I don’t get enough work! (laughs).
Who helps you handle these emotions?
Myself! It’s not new; I have always been in and out of the team, through my career. My circle of people is also good. Subbu sir, Subroto Banerjee (former India bowler and coach) is a very energetic and happy person. He doesn’t allow me to linger too long in negativity. Another cricketer, Pritam Gandhi bhai is also there, another direct talker, doesn’t give any false hopes.
So it’s good, I feel. And when you perform well in the chances you are given; all doubts go out of the head. That gives you the most confidence. My main thought is to play cricket. Yes, I am a cricketer who plays for India but the main thing is the game which got me here. I want to play well wherever and whichever team I play – be it Ranji Trophy, India A, or for India. Just enjoy swinging it at pace.
Do you see yourself as a swing bowler or a fast bowler?
Primarily a fast bowler, but a fast bowler who swings the ball at 140 kmph and over. In this day and age, just bowling 140 kmph and over isn’t enough. You will get hit. You have to swing it and from the right areas. Try to get it to swing as late as possible and at pace. Not easy, not many bowlers do it but that’s my aim. There are bowlers who seam the ball off the pitch, I like to get it to swing. Swing bowlers are very few, especially those who do it at pace.
You used to seam it well as well. That ball to Ricky Ponting in the 2012 Perth Test, it came in to knock down his stumps!
I remember that ball well! But essentially, I see myself as an outswing bowler. At times, I have tried to get it to swing in from a really full length but because of minor problems with the grip in the past, it has gone down the leg side. I have sorted that out.
Could you detail the changes in grip now?
I used to hold the ball a bit up, on the top, with the fingertips. Some hold it in the palm, some hold it tight. I used to hold it up. When the head would fall, the ball would tilt away towards leg stump. I tried a few grips. With the fingertips. Now it sits well in the palm, not too loose. It has done two things for me of late: it doesn’t go down the leg side and, most importantly, it swings late. I felt that before the ball would swing too early, almost from the hand.
Now it swings late. Just a tweak really but it has helped a lot. After playing for years, you know what to do according to the conditions. My action does change also, high-arm or jumping out towards the corner, and things like that.
Apart from that ball to take out Ponting, what else do you treasure?
Clean bowling Faf du Plessis. Then the reverse-swinging spell against South Africa in the (2015) Delhi Test. Reverse swing comes naturally to me as I have a round-arm-ish action. I treasure a comment from the great West Indian fast bowler Andy Roberts. He said that I am a natural fast bowler, still bowling fast after 8-10 years. He encouraged me saying that’s a great thing, continue bowling fast. Those comments drive me. God has given me a good body, so why not use it?!
Look, I started leather-ball cricket when I was 19-20. When I played Ranji Trophy, others used to tell me that I am India material. It’s then that I thought I could do it. It’s been a dream journey. My father used to be a coal-mine worker. He wanted me to be a policeman and I too wanted a secure simple life. Here I am now playing for India. Years ago, I told my father to stop working and enjoy life for a change. Life has given me more than I have asked of it.
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