HomeSportsCricketImportance of Middle-overs Bowling is Hugely Underrated in T20 Cricket, Says Anrich...

Importance of Middle-overs Bowling is Hugely Underrated in T20 Cricket, Says Anrich Nortje

Dealing with disappointment is never easy for anyone but in his short career, South African pacer Anrich Nortje has proved that more than the skillsets, the ability to have a positive mindset regardless of the situation is perhaps the most important factor in being successful. When the Indian Premier League 2021 was being played in India earlier this year, the Delhi Capitals pacer didn’t feature in a single game owing to a false positive for Covid-19 for the first few games and then due to the Capitals’ playing XI permutation and the combination made him sit out and watch the games from the dug-out. However, when the second phase resumed in the UAE after a gap of 144 days, Nortje was back in the picture with a proverbial bang! In just seven matches so far, the 27-year-old has got 10 wickets at a staggering economy rate of 5.93. Last year Nortje had finished with 22 wickets in his debut season in the IPL while conceding 8.39 runs per over. So, what changes did he make to become a better version of himself this season? “Nothing much really! Bowling at the speed of 160(KMPH) doesn’t guarantee anything as you can still get hit for runs. The basics remain the same as your ability to control and execute your skills as pacer,” says Nortje.

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From his demeanour, Nortje appears to be a very simple and genial person off the field. Maybe it has something to do with him coming from a small city like Uitenhage (north of Port Elizabeth). The South African pacer has played a dozen game each in Test and ODI format and just one short of dozen in T20Is, but his approach to take wickets remains same across the formats. “The mindset and approach when you bowl in Test, ODI or in T20 leagues doesn’t change because you want to do the same sort of things. In T20 format, you can give everything and put all your energy in four overs but in Test cricket one tries to utilise as much pace (across five days). Also, you have to see, what others can bring in (with the partnership). In red ball, you try to stick to the top of the off stump, but in white ball it could be top of the middle stump. In Test, one also just assess the conditions on that day,” elaborates Nortje about his bowling philosophy.

In an era where everyone is prioritising white-ball cricket over red-ball from administrators across the globe to the young players, Nortje’s respect for the tradition format comes as a refreshing voice. “T20 format has given opportunities to so many pacers. Bowling just four overs with all out raw pace is exciting, but for me the main format is still Test cricket. Red-ball cricket takes more (energy) and is the most difficult format as you have to be so consistent,” says Nortje who has taken 47 wickets in Test cricket which also includes three 5 wicket hauls.

Nortje may not be the record holder for the fastest bowl bowled by a pacer in this season (which is being held by Sunrisers Hyderabad pacer Umran Mallik) and the New Zealander Lockie Ferguson may have bowled faster deliveries than him, but when it comes to bowling consistent thunderbolts, no one comes close to Nortje who has bowled 60 fastest deliveries so far in this season among the top 150. And, what is more remarkable is that he is the most economical bowler (at least those who have got 10 wickets or more in this IPL) with less than 6 runs in every over. So, does his approach change during the three phases of innings which is power play (first 6 overs), middle overs (7-15 overs) and the death overs(16-20)? “It depends on who you are playing against and who are batting at the crease. If you compare the good openers and good finishers both are tough to bowl, but with the new ball maybe you fancy your chances more (in getting wickets) but it really depends on the conditions. There is lot more which comes into play. However, it is the middle overs where a game is made is or broken. You may have got a good start but if you don’t not capitalise in the middle, those periods can really break the momentum. Its (importance) is hugely underrated (in terms of the impact on the result).

Along with his compatriot Kagiso Rabada, Nortje’s partnership with young Indian pacer Avesh Khan has made the Capitals’ pace attack one of the most fearsome. “We are a young team but have also got one or two guys who are little more experienced. We try and sort of try to bring as much as we can to the table. All and all, everyone is enjoying each other’s company and a lot of banter going around,” explains Nortje about the mood in the Delhi dressing room which has emerged as one of the most improved sides in the last couple of years ever since the former Mumbai Indians’ coach Ricky Ponting has come over as coach. “Ponting has been very nice and just listening to him and understanding how he sees the game and predicts what is going to happen is great. He breaks it down very simply and there is so much sense in his explanations. Ricky’s (methods) just goes on to show that you don’t have to over complicate it (the process) and we try to pick his brain how things are and realise that it doesn’t have to be over the top things,” elaborates Nortje on the impact of two-time world cup winning captain in his team.

Before we end our conversation, the Capitals pacer doesn’t forget to remind us that he has been learning Hindi as well from his Indian team-mates. “ Shukriya(thank you) is the best word,” says Nortje however the owners of the franchise can only say shukriya if Nortje and company can halt the resurgence of Kolkata Knight Riders on Wednesday night in the knock-out game which is Qualifier 2 among two of the title contenders of 2021 edition.

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