Akash Madhwal – From Tennis-Ball Yorkers to IPL Star Turn

Via: iplt20.com

In the second over of Lucknow Super Giants’ innings, Prerak Mankad, their all-rounder, made some room while facing Akash Madhwal. The obvious idea was to make use of the width and crack one through the line over covers or extra-cover. The reality turned out to be something else. He could only slice the ball to the fielder at deep backward point. For a moment or two, you wondered why Mankad lost the shape of his shot? 

The next frame or replays solved the puzzle surrounding the dismissal. Madhwal perhaps cocked the wrist, with the ball and palm presented to the batter. It moved a little later, and the end result was Mankad being done in by that hint of movement. As it is said in cricketing jargon, the bowler wasn’t sending an early telegram to the batter.

Some overs later, when Madhwal was reintroduced into the attack, he once again showcased his ability and made a crucial incision by removing Nicholas Pooran. From round the wicket, and slightly wide of the crease, he pitched the ball up, with it straightening enough on the angle to catch the edge. The line was near-perfect and the length too was on the money. We were witnessing Test-match skills and adroitness in a fast-paced format. 

Madhwal is also skiddy through the air, which perhaps was tailor-made for the conditions on display in Chennai. In the Eliminator game, the ball was certainly skidding through a bit, with the bounce being on the lower side. “The wicket at Chepauk was good,” Madhwal told the Mumbai Indians’ website after the game. “As you saw, the ball was not gripping but skidding. I am a swing/sling bowler, and I pitched my deliveries, aiming for wickets.”

When Madhwal ran through the cream of Lucknow’s batting unit, a few notes could be penned on his bowling on a piece of paper – the bowler has the required conventional skill-sets – seam and new-ball swing.

He has a few other potent arrows up his sleeve. In the game against Punjab Kings, he was up against one of the most destructive hitters in world cricket, Liam Livingstone, batting alongside the dangerous, Jitesh Sharma. Incidentally, Livingstone had already clubbed Jofra Archer, his England teammate, for three sixes in the previous over. So, the pressure was definitely on the inexperienced Madhwal, and how well he responded to the crisis situation.

Madhwal kept it simple: The line was outside off, and the plan was to land some wide yorkers. Yes, it is practically improbable to bowl six yorkers in a row. But the crux of Madhwal’s last over was that even when he couldn’t nail the yorker, he didn’t waver from his strategy of bowling away from the batters’ hitting zone. Punjab could collect only nine runs, and ultimately, Mumbai emerged victorious with seven balls to spare. 

Even in Mumbai’s final game of the league phase, against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Rohit Sharma backed his inexperienced bowler to make a difference. And Madhwal didn’t disappoint his captain. This time around, he also found swing with the old ball as he rattled the timber twice to dislodge Heinrich Klaasen and Harry Brook.

Also Read: How the IPL’s Big Tent Gave us Akash Madhwal and More

In the modern-day cricketing landscape, the yorker is arguably the most difficult weapon to execute for a pace bowler. After all, the batters stay deeper in the crease and use well-pressed bats in order to club powerful blows. 360-degree-batting has also added to a pace bowler’s woes as he or she has to watch the feet of the batter for as long as possible. But Madhwal seems to be quite confident at cracking the code to bowl yorkers. Or, rather, he seems to have the ‘feel’ to attempt the toe-crusher.

The foundation stone for Madhwal’s confidence is tennis-ball cricket. Around four or five years ago, he was plying his trade with a tennis ball in Uttarakhand and also western Uttar Pradesh. And in tennis-ball cricket, yorker is easily the single-most effective weapon. Just do a small Google search, with the keywords – tennis ball and yorkers. And you would end up exploring thousands of drills on how to bowl a yorker. 

 “Through the tennis ball, I have only learnt how to bowl yorkers and I use that in my bowling today,” he said. “There is only one way of evading those deliveries. If the bowling lengths are pitched a bit high or low, it would gift away boundary fours or sixes. Thus, I needed to bowl strong yorkers in tennis cricket and that is what I do today with a proper cricket ball.”

More importantly, Madhwal has stepped up to become Mumbai’s arrowhead in the death overs, at a time when they can’t avail the services of either Jasprit Bumrah or Archer due to the pace duo suffering injuries. “He (Akash) was part of the team last year as a support bowler, and once Jofra [Archer] was gone, I knew he had skills and the character to do the job for us,” said Rohit at his post-match media interaction. 

Madhwal bowls at brisk pace, and seems to know what to do with the new and old ball. Perhaps, as he is an engineer, he picked up the nuances and science behind swing bowling quickly. The Mumbai camp, for one, would be hoping that the engineer-turned-slog-overs-specialist can spearhead the attack a couple more times, and help them add one more trophy to a cabinet that is already filled with them.

Also Read: Like CSK, Mumbai Indians Showcase the Winning Mentality

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