Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer could stand up and be counted in any era of cricket: Brian Lara
It took some time, but the man with the highest score in Test history now swears by the shortest format. Brian Lara loves calling the IPL every evening from the Star Sports Select dugout studios in Mumbai, doing demos and analytics. Dissecting fielding moves from Deano demo-zone named after late Dean Jones, and making big runs and wicket over predictions. It also gives him an escape from his life in the bio-bubble, at a luxury hotel in the city.
In this interview, Lara talks about the aspects of T20 cricket that has caught his fancy; while he remains worried that ramp shots and reverse slogs will hamper the techniques of young players aspiring to play all formats of the game, Lara also believes that the best modern-day players, like KL Rahul, will always find a balance.
Power-hitting plays such a big role now in T20 cricket. Kieron Pollard, Andre Russel and Hardik Pandya can all hit a marginally off-target yorker out of the ground. How do they get under the ball with such regularity?
A. These guys do a lot of power-hitting in practice. A full session of it. There was no such practice 30 years ago. Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd or Gus Logie, none of them would practice power-hitting. But now, Pollard, or even Sunil Narine will spend a certain amount of time power-hitting. They lose 15-20 cricket balls on the road; the ball is never to be seen again.
It’s not surprising, with the bats so good. The minute you can hit a six over 100-110 metres, from that day onwards you are going to be confident that you can clear every single boundary. I remember when I hit my first six in international cricket, I then learned how to hit a six. You never lose that confidence. When you look at Pollard, the guy at the boundary makes no sense to him. As long as he middles the ball, he knows the guys in the deep are not in play.
ALSO WATCH | ‘Bumrah and Archer would stand out in any era’: Brian Lara
Then there are those bowlers who manage to stem the flow of runs amid the carnage. Like Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer...
I can only say this: Bumrah and Archer could stand up and be counted in any era of cricket. Whether they were playing in the 2000s, 90s, 80s or even the 70s, they would be up there. And I am not belittling anyone from the past. But these two would be in the echelons of fast bowling in any era I have watched, played in, or am still watching.
That’s high praise. Would you have liked the prospect of facing Bumrah in your prime?
I think I would’ve preferred facing Kapil Dev, Javagal Srinath and Manoj Prabhakar rather than Bumrah (laughs). But yes, the challenge would have been exceptional. You know, back in my day you had someone like Makhaya Ntini, who had a similar sort of angle to his delivery. So, there can be some comparisons to people I played against. I know I would not have backed away.
Back to batting, not everyone is a power-hitter. There are many all-format batsmen who continue to explore different ways to get their best output in T20s.
The only negative (to T20 batting) is that there is not a lot of reliance on technique in the shorter format. So, with a wonderful player like Shubman Gill I am seeing some technical flaws coming in. I think it’s the natural progression of wanting to spank the ball. But then, a batsman like KL Rahul has kept his technique, and you can’t tell if he is playing a T20 or ODI or a Test match when he is batting. He is so well polished.
Virat Kohli makes the same point when he says that he bats in a certain way in T20 cricket, because he is an all-format batsman and can’t let it affect his game.
He is right. Viral Kohli plays, and is successful, across all formats. You look at some guys who are playing in IPL, they haven’t played the longer format and their game is based around T20. But Virat cannot afford to change his style. He has a style, and he has to enhance it. He just knows in some games he has to score quicker than in others.
So that’s my small worry. I know there is Ranji Trophy and 4-day cricket, but just don’t lose the fundamentals of the game. I remember when I started, I played 3 and 4-day games much more. And the one thing that helped me was I had played 25 ODIs before I played my first Test. Before that, I didn’t know how to hit a six! But by the time I got through 5-10 ODIs, I knew I had to learn to hit sixes, to find gaps, to score quickly. That transferred into my Test cricket, and made me a more aggressive Test cricketer, more exciting to watch. So, my foundation from 3-day-cricket and experience from ODI cricket was used to further my Test cricket, which was the right way of doing it.
That’ll be my advice to these wonderful young batsmen: Keep the foundation of your game and good technique, even if they are playing T20 in the biggest league in the world.
Bowlers too need to make similar adjustments. Bumrah and Mohammed Shami will soon have to switch to the red Kookaburra ball and try and get wickets in Australia.
It’s similar. Why Bumrah and Shami are so successful is because they bowl Test match lengths in T20s. You don’t see them overdoing the slower balls. They look to hit the seam, hit the stumps. Or they try to get the edge of the bat, bowl sharp and short balls and get batsmen in trouble. So, switching to Test cricket against Australia will be a very easy task for them.
We know that you have been impressed with some young Indian talent. Let’s start with your thoughts on Sanju Samson.
I love Sanju’s ability, but I’m not sure I love the way he bats all the time. He has got tremendous ability, tremendous timing. He is an unbelievable player in terms of what his potential and range is, and the heights he can reach.
Your thoughts on Suryakumar Yadav’s potential?
Suryakumar Yadav has become one of my favourites. If your best player is not an opener, he has to bat at No.3. He can repair the damage if Mumbai lose an early wicket and continue the onslaught if he has to. I have enjoyed watching him play in this IPL.
Finally, your say on this season’s debutant, Devdutt Padikkal.
Padikkal has a lot of potential. I would like to see him change a few things though. Ultimately when I judge a batsman, I don’t want to see him play only the IPL or T20s, I want to see him play Test cricket as well. Padikkal will have to work a lot on his technique to survive in Test cricket. When there are three slips and a gully, and when there’s a man waiting for the hook shot. Maybe he has it. Maybe he is only playing his T20 version of the game and has a game for the longer version as well.
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