'A good T20 bowler consistently makes batsmen take risks'

Shane Bond on how fast bowlers can outsmart batsmen in T20s if they trust their variations and take their time plotting their moves

Lasith Malinga doesn't hold his emotions back after dismissing Deepak Hooda, Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians, IPL 2015, Ahmedabad, April 14, 2015

"There are not many bowlers like Lasith Malinga who can bowl six out of six yorkers"  •  BCCI

What are the building blocks of a good fast bowler in T20?
For any bowler, just being able to execute his skills and team game plan under pressure does not probably change much from the other formats. Obviously in T20 cricket every ball is so important, so the ability to think clearly under pressure is a huge one. I would always love to see extreme pace, but in the T20 format the most successful bowlers have been spin bowlers across the board, so the ability to turn the ball is obviously important. Extreme pace has its place, but it is not very easy to come out and bowl in the late 140s.
How do you find the right balance between going full throttle and being defensive? There are different things you can do to make it difficult for a batsman. Essentially you have to sum up and know what the conditions are because every match you play is different. You have to get this fine line to balance between playing to your strengths and understanding the conditions. From a quick bowler's point of view, he has to be able to bowl a bouncer, a slower ball, yorker, all those slower bouncers. You need to have that skill set and then it is just a matter of understanding when to apply that skill set or what to bowl in a particular situation, on a particular pitch.
How does one effectively use the bouncer, considering you only have one available every over?
You've got to use it proactively. You only have one, but that does not eliminate your ability to bowl the ball short. I don't like to see bouncers being used after the bowler has been hit. It is effective against new players who come to the wicket. They might try to play the hook shot and you can try to create the pressure.
"Sometimes bowlers fail to understand that we as bowlers control the team part of the game"
What about yorkers?
If you miss the yorker, in terms of length, say, if it turns out to be a half-volley, it can end up going for a four or a six. We all know how good Mali [Lasith Malinga] is. He will hit five out of six, six out of six, yorkers. Now if you do that, it is very, very difficult to score off, but there are not too many other bowlers in the world who can do that. So you've got to understand that you have other balls you are going to have to deliver, where you have to set fields that create a little doubt in the batsman's mind and are a little unpredictable, so that if you do bowl a yorker and miss it, that rather than going for six it could go for a single. So the challenge for bowlers these days is understanding they have got to have the courage to either bowl length or short at the back end of the innings on some wickets as opposed to default mode, which for a long time has been just to bowl full.
You are seeing a shift in bowling because often length balls can be harder to hit than yorkers if you miss. Batsmen just sit up these days as they hit the full balls straight over the bowler's head or you get a number of players who will play behind the wicket with paddles and flicks. The batting side of things has developed massively in the last five years and bowlers need to come up with tactics to counter that.
One strategy Dale Steyn says teams have started using is placing a leg slip and pitching stump yorkers. It is somewhat of a risk, but can it be a useful tactic?
As a bowler you have to be prepared to gamble a little bit. Batsmen predict a lot about the lengths the bowler is going to bowl, and as a bowler you can use your field to sort of telegraph what you are going to bowl and do something completely opposite to try and put the batsman off. So if you can create some doubt in the batsman's mind then you are likely to have a little more success. I think there are times you can telegraph things depending on the situation of the game, but it is very difficult to do that with the way the batsmen play these days; if they know exactly where you are going to bowl then they can put themselves in the position, and if you miss slightly then you are in big trouble. So what Dale said is absolutely right: cast a doubt in the batsman's mind and then have the guts to come up with a delivery the batsman is not expecting.
What is the challenge of bowling on slower surfaces especially towards the second half of the IPL, when pitches become slow?
You've still got to understand where the batsman is trying to score. So you've got probably seven to eight top batsmen in each team who all hit the ball in different zones, or like to play in a certain way. You just have to know exactly what these batsmen are trying to do, where they want to hit you, and make life as difficult as you can for them to hit that boundary in particular; bowl a line and length and ask them to do something outside their game plan. And if you are good enough to do that and they still hit you, then that's okay. That to me is the formula in T20 cricket: to search information about each player, and you try and lower the odds in your favour. Great players will still have their day where they are too good for you.
Whether it's Kieron Pollard or Glenn Maxwell or AB de Villiers, it doesn't matter sometimes where you bowl, they are going to hit you. But you still can lower the odds in your favour and give yourself the best chance and not get knocked off your game plan through great shots. Bowlers get knocked off their game plan, and then all can go downhill after that, so it is important to have a simple but clear game plan and ask the batsman to be good enough to beat you - not just once but probably a couple of times before you change the game plan.
What is a good game plan in the Powerplay?
You've just got to ask the batsmen to hit good balls. There would be subtle differences in line for each batsman, but if you bowl good balls generally around the top of the off stump without giving too much width, then the batsmen will have to do something. They have to charge, they have to take a risk, and if you can do that consistently, then you are going to be a decent T20 bowler.
"I don't like to see bouncers being used after the bowler has been hit. It is effective against new players who come to the wicket, who might try to play the hook"
Shaun Pollock's line - "a dot ball is gold dust" - still holds true, right?
It does. As a fielding team you've still got to be willing to have those men inside the circle. If you go for a boundary an over and five singles, you are going at nine; the opposition is getting runs without taking any pressure. So as a fielding team, you need to have guys stopping the singles, particularly in the middle overs. You have got to squeeze new batsmen to create pressure, because one or two good overs with the ball can change the whole tide of the game. You can have poor overs but then you can come back and change the course of the game through one good over. You need to have the mentality that regardless of what happened before, you have to keep coming in, trying to execute the plan and keep that aggressive mindset.
Mental strength is another key element. How do you stay calm, especially in the final five overs when the power hitters usually dominate?
You have to understand yourself as a bowler when you are starting to feel that pressure, and then you must have that routine that gets you back to thinking clearly, even if it means slowing the game down considerably. Sometimes bowlers fail to understand that they control the team part of the game. Often when things aren't going well, the game changes and you get in a rush and all of a sudden you are under huge pressure. Otherwise you can take your time, slow the game down, just take that moment to think clearly and figure out what the batsman is probably trying to do, and then you adjust your field. It is as simple as that: when you're under pressure as a bowler, the emotions can start taking over and you start bowling short. The overs 16-19 are the ones that can kill you in T20 cricket.
Most bowlers will have a default mode they'd like to go to when they are under pressure, bowl certain balls which may not be required at the time. A lot of bowlers, especially inexperienced bowlers, will just stick to one ball or plan which does not necessarily suit a certain pitch and a certain opposition.
Does an incident come to your mind when you overreacted?
I had someone like Daniel Vettori standing at mid-off a number of times and he would call it the "glaze" - where you'd get a glazed look in your eyes and you go quiet. He would come up to me and say, "You have the glaze on and you need to snap out of it." I think your team-mates and captain around you who notice that play an important role in keeping a bowler focused. I think there is a big difference between someone coming up to a bowler and saying, "Hey mate just take your time", to five guys running over telling you where to bowl. I think the latter is not going to help the bowler.
Who are the best fast bowlers you have seen in T20 cricket?
There is no doubt that Lasith Malinga is right up there. He is probably the best recognised one. Having played against Mali a lot, we always knew that if we had to get ten runs off the last over when he was bowling, it would be a challenge. Against most bowlers around the world you would back yourself to get those ten runs. Dale Steyn is a great bowler across all formats in terms of his skills and experience.
There is concern about Malinga's consistency. Do you agree?
I don't think so. He has come back pretty fast from ankle surgery. So it is just going to take some time. In terms of pace, he has done a hell of a job to be where he is. It would be interesting to see how he goes over the next 12 months when he gets confidence in his ankle. He is not an old man by any stretch of imagination.
How did you pull off that master stroke against Chris Gayle to bowl slow in the match against Royal Challengers Bangalore?
We had the advantage of batting first on that surface. Their most successful bowler was David Wiese, who just took the pace off the ball, and it was difficult to bat against him. So we felt that if we tried to mirror what he did, it might make life difficult at the top, particularly against Chris. Mali has a great slower ball and he executed them very successfully in the first six overs. It did not quite reach the level at the back end of the innings, but it certainly worked and probably was the difference in the match in those first six overs.
There is this perception about what guys like Malinga and Zaheer Khan, who are 30-plus, offer to T20 teams. You performed a similar role at Kolkata Knight Riders. What exactly can these older guys offer?
You need to have that level of experience where you have calmness under pressure. Mali brings his thoughts to the table, his experience, gives confidence to the youngsters. They can help me in my role as a bowling coach because they all offer a different perspective. They set an example for the rest of the group to follow in terms of the way they train. The way Mali goes about his business to get himself fit for matches is a very good example for the younger guys. It is a game where you are always under pressure, and that is the difference, probably, between experienced bowlers and youngsters. The experienced bowlers will know what to do, they know the fields they can set and bowl to and they just get on and do it. That takes pressure off the rest of the group. Take Malinga, who has been with one franchise for the whole time. He knows the players, he knows the way they bowl, and then he can offer his advice in terms of field settings and such stuff. When you are under pressure and under the pump you need that clarity from your senior bowlers.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo