Matches (19)
WI vs SA (1)
IPL (1)
ENG v PAK (W) (1)
County DIV1 (5)
County DIV2 (4)
CE Cup (4)
T20WC Warm-up (3)
Feature

Akash Madhwal, Mumbai Indians' yorker specialist in absence of big names

"I mainly practice yorkers", says Indian quick who's had to shoulder the responsibility of the end overs in Jasprit Bumrah and Jofra Archer's absence

Abhimanyu Bose
21-May-2023
It's the 19th over of the Sunrisers Hyderabad innings. Fifth ball. They are 186 for 3. The two previous overs have gone for six runs each, and Sunrisers, from looking good for 225-230, are now probably targeting 210 or thereabouts. On strike is Heinrich Klaasen, their best batter this season.
Akash Madhwal runs in and bowls a seam-up delivery that moves in ever so slightly after pitching and cleans up Klaasen, who was looking to heave it across the line.
Harry Brook is next in and he is welcomed with a searing yorker. He tries to get his bat down but is too late; the ball goes through his legs and crashes into the stumps.
Madhwal, striking with his last two balls, finishes with 4 for 37.
Wickets, yes, but a bit more too. Something a little difficult to classify. The delivery before he knocked Klaasen over, Madhwal had bowled a wide yorker that was squeezed out for a single but called a no-ball. For the free-hit delivery, Madhwal nearly nailed the yorker again but not quite; his 135kph low full-toss, on the fifth-stump line, was still good enough for Markram to only dispatch to the off side for a single.
It's this ability, to bowl yorkers with quite some efficiency, that has made Madhwal Mumbai Indians' go-to bowler at the death this season, a season when they haven't had Jasprit Bumrah around at all and Jofra Archer available only for a while - and far from at his best - meaning the bowling has been their weaker suit by a distance.
"I was just thinking about the execution. What I was doing in the nets, I just tried to execute that," Madhwal said during the mid-innings break. "My communication with bhaiya [Rohit Sharma] was also great, he was giving me a lot of confidence."
"I mainly practice yorkers. Even in domestic cricket, I practice a lot for yorkers for the death overs."
But that penultimate over, in which he conceded just six runs, was not all Madhwal did to hurt SRH's chances on the day.
Earlier in the script, he saw off openers Vivrant Sharma and Mayank Agarwal with a couple of short balls. While Vivrant miscued a pull to deep midwicket, Agarwal's attempted pull was edged to Ishan Kishan behind the stumps.
Agarwal and Vivrant had put on a 140-run opening stand in 13.5 overs to set Sunrisers up for a really big total, but Madhwal's wickets meant he and Chris Jordan could put the squeeze on them in the death overs and restrict them to exactly 200.
"We were 173 for 3 in 17 [Sunrisers were 174 for 2]. You will think that in the next 18 balls, on that track, you will get 40-50 runs," Sunrisers head coach Brian Lara said in the press conference after the match. "I think 220, not sure [even] that would have been enough, but it would have looked a lot better for us.
"He [Madhwal] bowled well. Knocked over Klaasen and not many people were able to do it without being damaged first. But he was able to knock over our in-form player.
"I think we were thinking in excess of 215 at that stage, but they pulled it back."
Cameron Green, whose first T20 century later on meant Mumbai Indians made short work of the target, said Madhwal had "completely changed the line-up" for Mumbai.
"As soon as he has come into the team, he has changed our whole line-up basically," Green said after the game. "I think with the role he is able to play, especially at the back-end, can help guys like myself and Jase [Jason Behrendorff], take overs off us [at the end] and we can bowl a little more through the powerplay. We can kind of mix and match different people to bowl at different times with how good he has been in the back end."
"His addition has been incredible. He's got a really good head on him. He is so calm out there. Looks like he's made for it. He's been awesome."
Madhwal has now played six games in the IPL and his four-wicket haul in Sunday's must-win game for his team helped him double his wickets tally in the competition.
Next year, Mumbai will hope that both Bumrah and Archer will be fit, and what their return would mean for Madhwal remains to be seen. But as an Indian quick bowler who can help shut innings out, he can provide Mumbai with a lot of flexibility in picking their team.

Abhimanyu Bose is a sub-editor with ESPNcricinfo