Shining brightly amongst the stars

Cricket

Shining brightly amongst the stars

It’s not easy to outshine batsmen in Twenty20 format, and more so when you have someone as marauding as Chris Gayle in your ranks. With over 400 runs in the tournament since his late acquisition, the left-handed West Indian obviously has been the force behind Royal Challengers Bangalore’s stunning resurgence in IPL IV but Sreenath Arvind has been quietly stealing some of the spotlight with a series of eye-catching spells under pressure.

Following up his impressive performances against Kings XI Punjab and Kochi Tuskers Kerala, the left-arm seamer produced an excellent piece of pace bowling against Rajasthan Royals on Wednesday last that earned him the maiden IPL man of the match award despite Gayle scoring an unbeaten 70 with a wicket to boot. Having gone for plenty in the first two overs, the 27-year-old came back in style to deliver twin blows by scalping Shane Watson and Rahul Dravid in a single over, a set-back Royals could never really recover from.

Dismissing Dravid, Arvind admits, was a very proud moment. “I don’t need to explain what a class act he is and to dismiss him was very satisfying. It was the first time that I got him out, so it was a very special moment for me,” he adds. Even Dravid, under whom Arvind flourished as a bowler, would have been proud of the way his junior State-mate has climbed up the ladder of success in a relatively short span of time since his Ranji debut in 2009.   

Beginning his career as a support cast to R Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun, Arvind has developed into a quality bowler himself with a knack to prise out wickets at crucial times. It was Arvind that Vinay looked at to break partnerships in the Ranji season just gone by and the lanky bowler, more often than not, obliged his skipper.  A tally of 26 wickets, the highest among the trio of Karnataka pacemen this Ranji edition, drives home the fact that the soft-spoken bowler has grown into an equally important member of the triumvirate from being a mere complimentary addition to the group not too long ago.   

With 14 wickets from eight matches, Arvind is the joint third-highest wicket-taker in the ongoing IPL but he has played the least number of matches among all those bowlers with as many wickets. Also he is the only Indian paceman, apart from Mumbai Indians’ Munaf Patel (17 from 11), in the list of top three bowlers this season.

“There’s no such thing called knack,” replies Arvind when asked if he has developed a unique skill to take wickets. “It’s just the good cricket that we are playing right now. To produce a good bowl you need to have a good mindset. As a team we are doing well which obviously rubs on you to do well. For me the seniors have been very helpful and I have been working hard on my bowling as well. That’s the main thing,” he states.

Ability to understand his limitations, RCB bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad points out, is Arvind’s biggest asset. “He is a very smart bowler and understands what his limitations are. By limitations I mean the pace. He bowls in 130s, which is not bad at all, but on flat tracks you need much more than that. On helpful wickets, he can be quite handy but in IPL you hardly find bowler-friendly pitches. In that sense what he has done so far is fantastic,” he reasons.

After a sluggish start to his IPL campaign, Arvind appears to have got the measure of things. Having bowled mostly to domestic Indian cricketers all through his career, it was a different ball-game for the left-arm quick in the T20 league where he has had to bowl to quality international batsmen on unhelpful tracks.

“Mindset has to be different while bowling in a T20 game,” remarks Arvind. “In a four-day match you have time to be patient and time to work on batsman’s patience. You don’t mind getting hit for a couple of overs, but in T20 every ball counts. You have to be right on the money every time you run into bowl,” he explains.

Prasad feels Arvind has benefitted from almost three years’ of experience in domestic cricket. “My role is to motivate and give him some technical inputs but his ability to quickly adapt to conditions is wonderful. When he was getting hit against Royals, I just told him to change his length (from full-length to back of a length delivery) during strategy time-out and he got it right immediately,” Prasad observes.

With the likes of Zaheer Khan and the now injured Daniel Vettori having had to carry the bulk of expectations, Arvind maintains he has enjoyed bowling with ‘less load’ on him.

“With senior internationals around, I have had the luxury of bowling without putting myself under undue pressure and I am glad it’s really paying off,” he notes. It won’t be too long, however, for the team management and the fans alike to expect more from the paceman if he continues his good work.

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