'A dot ball is like gold'
Shaun Pollock has been world cricket's lean, mean bowling machine for over a decade now. Among the fastest to begin with, the Pollock of today is slower, and shrewder - the elder statesman of pace bowling. South Africa have picked him, one of the oldest warhorses on the international circuit, for the World Twenty20, a tournament that, by every reckoning, will be all about exuberant youth. But Pollock still may have a few tricks up his sleeve. In this exclusive to Cricinfo, he talks about how bowlers can keep batsmen in check, even in a format as skewed towards the latter as Twenty20.
How difficult is it to generate a dot-ball in Twenty20?
Shaun Pollock A dot ball in Twenty20 is like gold. It's very much anything goes - anything that you can do to try and restrict the batsman and not allow him to score freely is the goal.
The advent of Twenty20 cricket has made bowlers think about their game plans and come up with new possible ways to try and dominate the batsman. I try to get the batsman to hit to the fielders, but it is not easy being a bowler.
Isn't it a challenge mentally, facing the onslaught of the batsmen?
SP Definitely. But the bowler doesn't need to get too upset if a batsman gets hold of him. You can only do so much. In Twenty20, the batsmen are looking to express themselves more than in the other forms of the game. From time to time they are going to get it right and life's going to be difficult as a bowler.
But is there any room at all for the bowler to express himself?
SP Yes, sure. You've got the opportunity to make a difference, and if you find that the things you try work, you're going to have a big impact on the game. I still think you should pick your specialist bowlers to do the job, even though it is only four overs. You really have to get going from ball one. There's no time to get into a spell. It is basically 24 balls you get, and if you are on top of your skills you can play a big part.
Do you then straightaway go on the attack or go defensive?
SP That all depends on how the game goes. Sometimes in Twenty20 you can have a few wickets down quickly, and then you can look to attack. Then there are times when the opposition gets a rollicking start and you look to defend. You've got to think on your feet.
With the Powerplays playing an important role, what sort of approach do you need to adopt in the first six overs?
SP The task is to keep the score to the minimum during the Powerplay. It may seem like just a short part of the game but Twenty20 cricket is like a sprint, so if teams get off to a good start that sets them up for big scores. So the Powerplay overs become very important.
What do you reckon the conditions in South Africa will be like? Will bowlers get any help?
SP There'll be a bit of assistance for the bowlers - compared to wickets in England and India - with a little bit of bounce, so there might be some assistance for the new ball.
Can batsmen adapt to Twenty20, or is it only for specialists?
SP You can definitely adapt. It's still very important to have someone who assumes the sheet-anchor role and allows the other batsmen to express themselves around him, because when two new batters come to the wicket it's never easy to keep the momentum going. One person is scoring at a good rate, but you need someone who can spend a bit of time out there. That's where the specialist batters will come into play. As for the shot-making, I feel the ones that you play day in and day out on the cricket circuit are the most profitable for run-scoring. I don't think you have to come up with innovative shots. You just need the batters to play with freedom, keeping wickets in hand.
Nagraj Gollapudi is assistant editor of Cricinfo Magazine