Morne Morkel bowled two immaculate yorkers to clean up Jacques Kallis and Saurabh Tiwary off consecutive deliveries. Dale Steyn's pace was a bit too much for Richard Levi. Lasith Malinga made Manish Pandey dance to his tune before ending his misery. If you missed seeing these dismissals and were told that it happened in South Africa in Test match cricket, you would have believed. Fortunately though, all this has happened in this year's IPL and for me, that's been the highlight of the tournament. Fast bowlers are not only making their presence felt but also winning matches on their own.
T20 cricket, especially in the sub-continent, is considered to be a batsman's game. The matches are played on flat pitches and the grounds are smaller. Hence, bowlers are expected to play a supporting role. The lead actors are always the ones with the willow in their hand, or so it is believed. But whatever we've seen in IPL-5 reiterates the fact that even though the format is condensed, the skills continue to be non-negotiable. If a bowler of Steyn or Morkel's quality is bowling, you need special skills to put him away.
Fast bowlers have realised that there aren't too many batsmen around who can comfortably hook a well-directed bouncer and hence we see a fair sprinkling of short-pitched stuff. If they find pace and good bounce like Steyn had in Vizag against Mumbai, they stick to the conventional bouncers aimed at the batsman's head. But if they realise that bounce and pace off the surface isn't their ally, they resort to different variations of the same delivery, which are the slower bouncers and ones directed outside the off-stump.
Bowlers are having a bigger say in this edition and that's a healthy sign for the game. Cricket is revered the most when there's a contest.
(The writer is contracted to RR)