IPL 2024: How Ruturaj Gaikwad's CSK side upskills their bowlers in two-month league | Crickit

IPL 2024: How Ruturaj Gaikwad's CSK side upskills their bowlers in two-month league

By, Mumbai
Apr 18, 2024 04:10 PM IST

In a format where attacking batting is the buzzword, Dwayne Bravo and Eric Simons plan, plot and teach the bowling group how to blunt batting blades.

When Tushar Deshpande saw Andre Russell take an off-stump guard in Chepauk, he came around the wicket and went wide off the crease. The angle, which denied the Jamaican a free swing of his bat, saw him hole out at long on to hand Chennai Super King’s Mumbai pacer his third wicket of the innings.

Chennai Super Kings' Matheesha Pathirana celebrates a wicket during their match against Mumbai Indians (ANI )
Chennai Super Kings' Matheesha Pathirana celebrates a wicket during their match against Mumbai Indians (ANI )

Deshpande expressed his gratitude to bowling coach Dwayne Bravo by imitating one of his many wicket-celebrations - a jig, rotating his arms as if he was sending the batter ‘back on his horse’.

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In a format where attack is the buzzword, CSK employs two specialists to strengthen the defensive facet of their playbook – bowling. Bravo, a trickster par excellence in the death overs, together with South African Eric Simons, CSK’s bowling consultant – he served as India’s bowling coach during the MS Dhoni years – work with the bowling group to help them tackle the rough-and-tumble of T20 cricket. Their spin attack is experienced and knows what to do. It's the pacers who have, with increased tactical awareness, begun to leave a bigger impact.

In CSK’s previous clash with Mumbai Indians, Deshpande and Shardul Thakur emerged as unsung heroes. With MI requiring 12-an-over in 6 overs on a batting friendly Wankhede pitch, CSK’s Mumbai duo conceded a mere 5 runs in the 14th and 15th over. It was a masterclass of defensive bowling against a set Rohit Sharma and power-hitter Hardik Pandya. In an IPL edition which has seen new batting benchmarks in run-scoring, CSK’s successful defense on a flat wicket stood out.

Simons called Thakur’s 2-run 14th over ‘one of the best overs you will see’. Thakur took pace off and his landing spots were accurate, not allowing Rohit or Hardik to get under the ball, as the bowler kept challenging them to clear the slightly longer on-side boundary.

Thakur has always had a wicket-taking knack but T20 hasn’t been his strong suit. His teammates would rib him last season that he was going for both the purple cap and the orange cap because of the number of runs he was conceding in bargain of wickets.

“But we backed him,” Simons said after the MI match. “One of the things we try to do is to make sure bowlers have clarity when they are out there. They must know what the tactic is but also why it is like that. Both Tushar and Shardul are very intelligent. They have a clear understanding and know which the big side is and what line to bowl.”

“What Eric and myself try to do is to allow them to express themselves and even make mistakes,” Bravo said in a CSK video. “We go to specific drills and practice, so that they are equipped which balls to use in a match.”

Simons gives an example of a drill he gave to Sri Lankan slinger Matheesha Pathirana. "I give him a glove, hit the glove. I give him a target at the bottom of the pitch, he hits the target. How he does it, he works his own technique out for himself. I don't try and coach internally,” he explained. “His accuracy (he picked 4-28 against MI) was the most rewarding for me. As he gets more accurate, he will get even better at what he does.”

It’s another example of there being room for coaches to upskill players even in a league where they get to work with them only for two months in a year. CSK chooses its net bowlers following a rigorous trial and those who showcase maturity are chased in player auctions.

Deshpande is one of them. He went unsold in the 2020 auction, was picked as a net bowler in 2021 and got played in 2022 to become their highest wicket-taker. “This version of me you see is because of CSK,” he once told HT.

Even this year, Deshpande is the second most economical Indian fast bowler behind Jasprit Bumrah. Deshpande’s role is clearly carved out. In the powerplay, he looks to hit the top of off-stump. For the death overs, he seeks Bravo’s counsel. Deshpande takes a break from death overs duties when the skillful Mustafizur Rahman and Pathirana are available. It will soon change when Mustafizur leaves the league on May 1.

Against KKR, Deshpande bowled the slog overs, where he got Rinku Singh out with a well-disguised slower ball. Against MI, he banged one in short to Hardik, knowing the batter will go hard. Hardik was caught in the deep. A large part of Deshpande’s understanding of T20 cricket is down to his work with Bravo and Simons.

Simons says what they like to educate the bowlers with is ‘to be smart which battles to choose and when to absorb pressure’.

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