May 28, 2008

Five finds

A look at five of the biggest revelations in the IPL
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Shaun Marsh: you'll be seeing him around © Getty Images
 

Shaun Marsh has been the most consistent batsman in the tournament; he keeps scoring runs and batting for long periods of time. There is no element of slogging in his game. He hits the ball on its merit and he hits it in areas of his strength.

I am a great believer in keeping one's shape. It's when one loses his shape that he starts slogging. Take Rohit Sharma, for example. He plays genuine cricketing shots, and Marshy is much the same, just a lot more consistent. Every single ball that is bowled at him, he treats with respect, but not too much - just enough, and then he starts to dominate the attack.

His technique is simple and that is his greatest advantage. There is very little that can go wrong with his cricket. He plays straight, to his strengths, and is a quick learner. Having grown up at the WACA, he plays the short ball well, and at the same time it is obvious that he is not uncomfortable against spin. Also, he has got shots all around the wicket.

When he came here, no one really know what to expect of Marshy. He knew he might not even get a game. But when Simon Katich went away, he grabbed the opportunity immediately.

Talking to him, one realises how difficult it is for him to get into the Australian side. But that hasn't disheartened him, it has just made him hungrier. It's easy for guys like him, who have scored a lot of runs at domestic level, to think, "I'm not getting a look-in" and get disheartened, but he keeps working hard, and performing.

That temperament, combined with his obvious talent and technique, will take him far. I think he is going to join the Australian side in the West Indies for the one-dayers. I have a strong feeling that we are going to see a lot of him in international cricket in the coming years.

Luke Pomersbach can be very destructive, and takes pressure off the other batsmen by hitting crucial boundaries almost at will. In the game against Delhi he went out in a pressure situation, and won us the game in partnership with Mahela Jayawardene. There he backed his natural instinct to hit the ball, and matched it with the intelligence to rotate the strike and make sure he didn't get out. He picked the right opportunities to hit and picked the right bowlers - Virender Sehwag and Amit Mishra - to play his favourite shots off.

Pomers is in many ways similar to Marshy, especially when it comes to their circumstances, but different in the sense that he is physically stronger and looks to hit the ball a lot harder than Marshy. He has a solid and simple technical base, and he builds his shots on that. He is strong on the short ball, loves it coming on to the bat, and is relishing this tournament because he has big-match temperament. He has the hunger, and has been waiting in the wings for longer than Marshy.

Marshy is perhaps a more complete player at this time, when it comes to pace and spin and match awareness, but Pomers is not far behind. He is extremely valuable to a side because he can hit boundaries whenever he wants, and against any bowler. That he has averaged about 62 for Western Australia in the first-class season marks him as a genuine batsman suited for the longer version of the game. There's no doubt he is a player for Australia in the future.


Shane Watson is fitter, hungrier, and out to prove a point © Getty Images
 

Shane Watson has been touted as the next big allrounder for Australia for a long time now but hasn't been a huge success so far. A lot had to do with his dubious fitness when he was in the Australian team. Now that he has put the fitness problems behind him, the change is there for all to see. He has worked harder in the gym and has hopefully got over most of his injuries. That makes a world of difference to one's confidence: when you can perform without the fear of getting injured you can do a lot more. Watson is fitter, he is hungry to get back into the Australian side, and he now has the confidence to do it.

He knows exactly what he can do on the field and what he cannot. He is a solid batsman who can bat anywhere in the order; he uses his batting skills intelligently, picking his areas and the bowlers he wants to hit. Also, he has the ability of batting for long periods of time, at least by Twenty20 standards. You cannot underestimate that attribute. When a guy like him, who has almost all the shots in the book, who is good against pace and changes of pace, bats long, it helps your side a lot.

Watson's bowling is quite impressive, with changes of pace and lots of variety. He is not afraid of trying things he knows he can do. If he wants to bounce he will bounce, if he works out a player is weak on something, he will attack him there. Also, he has the control to bowl to set fields. His last over in his last match may have gone for 25 runs, but that happens to most good bowlers in Twenty20. He is definitely a player on the rise, and is developing every time he goes out to play a game.

Yusuf Pathan as a batsman has been a huge plus for Rajasthan. I have seen him come in to bat in difficult situations and easy ones, but the great thing is he has no fear - he is confident enough to play his game at all times.

He is comfortable against both pace and spin, and even against the short ball. He is so quick in picking up line and length that he can exploit the pace of the bowler and use it to his advantage. I have seen him play the most amazing shots over midwicket, straight, and over cover. Like Watson, he is a versatile batsman. Like Watson, he has the ability to bat at any position, and come in and convert most situations into winning ones for his team.

Yusuf comes from a cricketing family. Irfan, his brother, plays for our side. Both of them are immensely talented: Irfan is the more polished player with the huge advantage of being a fantastic bowler, but Yusuf is from the new breed of batsmen who can come in and change the situation with clean power-hitting. He has a quick eye, and while he may not be as technically capable as the more accomplished batsmen, he is solid enough and confident enough to exploit fully what he has. He can clear the boundary at will, the intelligence to keep rotating the strike, and incredible confidence - which shows in the way he carries himself on the field - that helps him overcome his technical shortcomings.


Chawla: 'one of the toughest cricketers I have met' © AFP
 

Piyush Chawla has been outstanding. He has easily been the big success story in the spin department. He has shown that it's not all about swing and pace; it's also about old-fashioned techniques of spin - flight, changes in trajectory, the googly, the slider, and the big legbreak. Even the smaller boundaries have played into his hands; batsmen are trying to do too much with him and getting out.

Piyush's greatest attribute is not his obvious ability as a legspinner but his character. Mentally he is one of the toughest cricketers I have met: he has a big heart when it comes to working and performing. After the first two games, where he went for 46 runs in three overs, any other legspinner would have thrown in the towel. But he has come back so strongly, winning us matches with his bowling and batting. He seems to enjoy himself every time he goes out, even if he is hit for 20 runs in an over. That is very rare to see in a young bowler, and I have been most impressed with him of all the bowlers in the IPL.

Piyush combines his bowling with useful batting, which goes further to display his character. He won us a game by scoring 20 off one Ishant Sharma over, and one against the Deccan Chargers by hitting a six off Scott Styris and then a boundary off RP Singh.

He does have the stock legbreak, but most of the wickets in the tournament are not conducive to turn. He has had to rely on variations to keep the batsman guessing as to what he is going to do. He has a deceptive googly and slider, and a couple of other variations he is not afraid to try. He has done very well with what he has, and as time goes by he should bowl the legbreak more, turn it big and control the turn. He has a strong future, and I see a lot of good things for him not just in Twenty20 but in one-dayers and Tests too.