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Dimitri Mascarenhas: 'Keep it simple, bowl our best balls for as long as we can'

London Spirit's bowling coach on pushing for the knockouts, future ambitions and doing it for Warne

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Nathan Ellis has been a key part of London Spirit's success  •  ECB/Getty Images

Nathan Ellis has been a key part of London Spirit's success  •  ECB/Getty Images

London Spirit won the wooden spoon in the inaugural men's Hundred but heading into the final round of group games, they are joint-top and will seal their place in the knockout stages if they beat Birmingham Phoenix at Lord's on Tuesday night.
Spirit have been the best bowling team in terms of economy rate, and only Manchester Originals have taken more wickets than them. Dimitri Mascarenhas, their bowling coach, talked to ESPNcricinfo about the secrets to their success.
How would you evaluate your bowlers' performance this season?
We've got some good ones, haven't we? They've performed really well. They do their own scouting and we come up with plans for each batter, but at the end of the day, we try and keep it simple: we bowl our best balls for as long as we can, and that has been working. We can still get a lot better at the death - I don't think our death bowling has been great - but we've performed consistently up front.
There is a Hampshire flavour to your squad - and your bowling attack in particular. Is it fair to attribute that to the fact you've been involved?
I think it's a little bit of a coincidence. Being a Hampshire person, I probably know those bowlers a bit better than other guys around the country. That's helped with securing them. We brought Chris Wood back and had retained Brad Wheal and Mason Crane. We targeted Liam Dawson in the draft as well because we know how well he's been bowling at all stages of the game. Those guys won the Vitality Blast this year as well, so they came in with a lot of confidence.
Nathan Ellis was part of their Blast-winning team as well. He's only taken five wickets but has been the tightest regular death bowler in the competition.
He's had a little taste now of international cricket and you can see that in the way that he prepares. He's a tough trainer: he works really hard and is always looking to get better. He's got a really good white-ball skillset. He nails his yorkers as good as anyone, and he's got a really gun slower ball.
What have you made of Jordan Thompson? He's the joint-highest wicket-taker in the competition.
I've been very impressed. I hadn't seen a lot of him, other than in the Big Bash last year where he had a pretty tough time of it. It's good to see him getting some rewards. He's worked really hard on his death bowling where it's always tough, so hopefully he can play a big part in the final stages.
What has your role been as bowling coach?
I do a fair bit of scouting myself, look at all the footage and come up with ideas. But at the end of the day, it's up to them; I'm just a sounding board. If they need anything, I'm there to offer any help I can. Sometimes they take that information, sometimes they don't, but what can you do? They're the ones out there, and they've been brilliant. My philosophy is to keep it as simple as possible.
Do you have any other coaching roles lined up?
I've had a taste of international cricket with New Zealand but I'd love to do a bit more franchise stuff over the next little while. It was good to play in the IPL during my career and it'd be nice to get back there at some stage. That'd be awesome. I was at Melbourne Renegades for three years and have had stints over here with Middlesex and Essex, which I loved, but I'm not doing much else at the minute.
How have you enjoyed working with Eoin Morgan, your captain? Has he changed much since his international retirement?
You don't see a noticeable difference but it's been nice to see him go out there and get some runs. All the lads are loving his captaincy style, especially the bowlers. He gives them a lot of rope to do what they want to do. You know how Morgs likes to work: very relaxed, go about your business and play some positive, aggressive cricket, and have some fun.
You were close friends with Shane Warne, who coached Spirit last season but passed away earlier this year. Can you tell us about your relationship with him?
I'd known him for 20-odd years and we became really close, pretty much from the start. We had a lot of common interests: golf, poker… I spent a lot of time with his family as well, so I'm really close to all his kids. They've all been over here at some stage over the last three weeks. Warnie was an absolute legend. Everyone misses him dearly.
Has he been discussed much throughout the Hundred?
Not a lot, to be honest. Darren Berry, who was very close with Warnie as well, is over here from Victoria [working as an assistant coach] and we mentioned it at the start. He played a huge part in setting up this team and the lads know that. He's still here with us.
How would it feel to go on and win the tournament for him?
We've got to try and make the finals first. His eldest daughter, Brooke, will be here tomorrow night. It'll be nice to have her in the stands watching for what is a crunch, knockout game for us: we could finish top if we win; if we lose, we could be out. Warnie was desperate to come back and make amends for last year but I think we've done him proud so far: one more big game to go.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98