Junior Dala shows glimpses of potential on senior debut

Something different. That's what coaches want from their Twenty20 bowlers. On first look, Junior Dala is something different. Unlike the perception, he doesn't bowl off the wrong foot. He just takes off on his right foot in his pre-delivery stride and lands on the right foot again. Two straight right foots, and he then bowls off the right - as in, correct - foot. Three days after his selection to South Africa's T20 squad had left his mother in tears, Dala nearly began off the wrong foot, failing to appeal for catches off both of India's marauding openers.

South Africa reviewed Rohit Sharma's not-out call, but Shikhar Dhawan was reprieved. There was nothing wrong-footed about the bowling that brought about these appeals. Dala was asked to bowl short and into the body of the batsmen. It was a loud afternoon with a jam-packed Wanderers sent into raptures by a quick Indian start. Rohit tried to make room and cut to the vacant third-man region, and top-edged Dala through to the keeper. Dhawan gloved one down the leg side.

"I watched the highlights," Dala ruefully said. "The way Shikhar played that pull shot, my sight was blinded. So when the umpire called it wide, I sort of went with it. I couldn't see the ball from where I delivered. In hindsight, had I appealed it would have been a different story, they would have been 40 or 50 for three and under a lot of pressure.

"A lot of adrenaline. It was very noisy. I didn't hear that [Rohit nick]. Thankfully Klassy [Heinrich Klaasen] behind the stumps was alert to that."

AT Titans, where Dala plays his domestic cricket, coach Mark Boucher and team-mate Albie Morkel have always encouraged him to bowl for wickets and not mind the economy rate as long as he takes two wickets on an average in every List A game. His List A strike rate of under 30 suggests he does take two per game on an average.

In his debut T20 international, Dala nearly took three, but the problem was the economy rate. The 47 that he conceded was the most by a South African on debut. It was not the ideal start, but he was possibly given too tall a task. "I was a bit nervous," Dala said. "Don't bowl in the Powerplay even for Titans. So to open the bowling, glad I could control the ball. Maybe, adrenaline got too much. But overall, I could have done a bit better. Pleased that I got a few wickets also. So not too bad."

South Africa were guilty of not being fluid with their plans: they kept bowling short even as India kept getting runs off those balls despite losing two wickets in the Powerplay. "When you play T20 cricket, you have to assess the wicket early on," Dala said. "We sort of had a gameplan, and we all stuck to it. The Indians also saw us bowl. So in hindsight, they saw what we did and how the wicket was and could adjust. We backed our gameplan, whether it was wrong or right. It is something we truly believed in. If they were four down, we wouldn't have talked about it."

It is not an easy task to bowl to India's top three in the form they are in. It doesn't help to not have experienced heads around you: a league side has more experience in its ranks than this South Africa side. Then, through the limited-overs series, India's batsmen have not been under the pressure of runs the opposition might have scored, or the likelihood of it when India batted first.

So many injuries and so much workload for the ones not injured might have fast-tracked Dala's debut, but it has also left him with an unenviable task to perform. Among those tried during this testing period, Klaasen has put his hand up and should be able to stake a claim for a middle-order place even if Quinton de Kock is back as wicketkeeper and opener. If Dala can do something similar and win his side a match - they have won only one of seven limited-overs matches - that will be a start off the right foot.