Shane Bond urges Mumbai Indians pacers to 'adapt quickly'

Mumbai Indians bowling coach wants his team to exploit KL Rahul's middle-overs sluggishness

Shashank Kishore
Shashank Kishore
Glenn Maxwell takes evasive action against a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer, Mumbai Indians v Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2017, Indore, April 20, 2017

Glenn Maxwell takes evasive action against a Jasprit Bumrah bouncer  •  BCCI

Fast bowlers need to show adaptability - quickly - in the face of changing surfaces in the UAE as IPL 2020 progresses, according to Shane Bond, the Mumbai Indians bowling coach, who has been spending a lot of time with his bowling group as the team looks to rebound after two losses in their first three matches.
"We have to adapt as quickly as we possibly can," Bond said ahead of Thursday's clash against Kings XI Punjab. "We have a simple theory: we try to bowl seven metres as a fast-bowling group, five metres as a spin-bowling group [from the batsman]. We practise those lengths consistently. Regardless of the pitch and conditions, if you are in those areas, you are in the right slots."
Bond insisted yorkers may not always be the most effective delivery in a given match situation. With the Mumbai Indians having played two games in Abu Dhabi, he feels short deliveries into the pitch, especially at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, which has bigger boundaries, could prove equally effective. In their previous game, Jasprit Bumrah went searching for yorkers at the death but missed his lengths and was dispatched for 14 runs off three balls by AB de Villiers. However, he was able to find the perfect length in the Super Over. When he later switched over to a short ball, de Villiers managed to find a top-edge that flew to the boundary to effectively seal the game.
"It comes down to if you have to change your pace, go wide or straighter, depending on the pitch and conditions, the boundaries," Bond explained. "So we talk about them. I think the yorker is one of the many balls fast bowlers have in their armory. Abu Dhabi has got big square boundaries and the pitches are on the slower side. So you could argue that a length ball or a slower bouncer is harder to hit for six rather than perhaps taking pitch out of play, miss your yorker and get hit back over your head.
"It's definitely not a ball that's been just ruled out for us. I think you saw Bumrah bowl that at AB de Villiers but missed it and got hit for a couple of sixes. But he went back to it in the Super Over and executed it brilliantly. Look, it's a tough ball to hit under pressure and also, if you miss that ball, the likelihood that it's going get hit for a boundary back over your head goes higher."
Mumbai are big on match-ups. They meticulously look at past records, which batsman has fared well or has struggled against what kind of bowling. As he spoke of their plans for Thursday, Bond touched upon KL Rahul's form and his past record - he scored 100 off 64 balls when the two sides met in Mumbai last year.
We know he's a dynamic player who scores all around the ground. We also know that he takes his time generally through the middle overs, so that's perhaps an opportunity if he gets that far to create that pressure on him
Bond on KL Rahul
"From our point of view, we have a whole range of different balls. We look at the batsmen and analyse where they score at the back of the game, what are their preferred zones," Bond said. "And we try to make it as hard as we possibly can with an element of unpredictability, so that the batsman isn't quite sure what length or line the bowler is bowling and has a field that gives the bowler options to bowl two or three different balls."
Bond stopped short of revealing Mumbai's plans for their upcoming game, but identified shortcomings in the opposition line-up they could look to exploit. One such weakness is Rahul's tendency to slow down against spin once he settles down.
Among all the batsmen to have scored 100 or more runs against spin after the powerplay since IPL 2019, Rahul is the slowest to find the fence and has lowest boundary percentage of 35.30. In the record-breaking thriller between the Kings XI and the Rajasthan Royals, Rahul nearly batted through but his sluggishness against spin and in the middle overs was only covered up by Mayank Agarwal's aggression as the latter brought up his maiden IPL century.
"He has got runs against us in the last few games against us as well," Bond acknowledged. "We know he's a dynamic player who scores all around the ground. We also know that he takes his time generally through the middle overs, so that's perhaps an opportunity if he gets that far to create that pressure on him and the batsmen around him. We will have specific ideas about how we're going to get him out.
"In the end, we can't allow him to score in areas where he's very strong. He scores well over extra cover, the pick-up over fine leg. We have a quality bowling unit, so we just have to put as much pressure on him and Mayank who have been the two key batters for Kings XI. If we can get those boys out early and put pressure on the middle order early, hopefully we can restrict them or stop them from scoring the runs we can get on the board."

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo