Playing for Khulna Tigers in the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20, Dhaka Tribune got hold of Mohammad Amir for a conversation to find out his thought process on white-ball cricket
Pakistan left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir has been all over the news recently for his surprising call to retire from Test cricket. He had his reasons; to concentrate on limited-over cricket. Playing for Khulna Tigers in the Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League Twenty20, Dhaka Tribune got hold of Amir for a conversation to find out his thought process on white-ball cricket. At the end, the 27-year old pacer pointed out the need of a culture to have pacers in the pipeline. Here are the excerpts:
Enjoying the special edition of the BPL?
It has been good so far. Whenever it is BPL and when I come here, it feels like the second home. The Bangladeshi people really support Pakistani players a lot and it’s interesting. It’s challenging, for the tough cricket here in BPL, both for the batsmen and the bowlers. Every cricketer enjoys such cricket and for me so far so good.
Are you surprised to see such high-scoring matches?
To be honest, not here in Chittagong as everyone has the mindset that you are going to have high-scoring games here. It’s a pure T20 cricket pitch and it’s fascinating for a bowler to bowl in tough conditions. When it’s tough conditions then the skill of the bowler is tested, and I think it’s a perfect T20 pitch here. Even in Dhaka, there were some good scores and I think there will be more tight games, which is good for the local players to get used to pressure conditions.
As a bowler, how do you tackle such batting-friendly pitches?
Being a bowler I will simplify my plans in such situations. You have to know your strengths in tensed situations. For example, if I am bowling at the death overs then I need to know the condition and demand of the wicket. If I think I will be able to bowl two or three yorkers then I have to stick to that plan. When you stick to your strengths it releases a lot of pressure.
Do you feel unlucky as a bowler playing on such pitches?
Not in T20s as people come to watch this format for the sixes and fours and if you have noticed T20 cricket, crowd all over the world, they don’t come to see dismissals, rather sixes and fours, to enjoy and entertain, and I think it’s fair. As a bowler I really enjoy to play the batters game, which T20 cricket is considered to be, you can bowl well in seaming conditions, but how you deal in such conditions tests the mental toughness of a bowler.
Suppose when you get struck for two-three sixes in an over, what goes on in your mind at that time?
In T20s the first ball and the last ball of the over is very important, as it (decides) the momentum of the innings. If you get struck for two-three fours in the over it is important to finish that over well as a bowler in the last two deliveries. If you don’t finish the over well then the next bowler from the other (end) will also be under pressure. Until the bowler does not know his strengths, it is tough for him to finish that over well, and it can be a slower ball or yorker or a bouncer, depending on that bowler’s strengths.
Have you ever felt helpless and don’t know what to do after being smashed heavily in a game?
Sometimes it happens under pressure. Mostly 99% of the time I do my planning, and what to do in the next over when the other bowler is bowling in the middle. But if you think what to do at the middle of an over then it will put you under tremendous pressure. But when I am not bowling, I try to think what I can do during that period. Ultimately, I know when I will have the ball in my hand, in the next over I know what I am going to do and it actually releases the pressure.
You had started as a young express bowler and now vastly experienced. What is the difference of your mindset when you bowled then and now?
When I started in 2009 cricket was different. The game was slow compared to now and the conditions used to suit the bowlers. But now it is mostly batting-friendly. Cricket is tough for a bowler now. I think as a bowler (one) has to learn new things to survive. Variations with white ball are important. You cannot depend on only one of your stock deliveries. Cricket, especially in one-day now, has two balls being used in a game. The balls do not get old and makes things easy for the batsmen. The ball doesn’t reverse, the slow ball doesn’t grip. So you need to have variation if you are a bowler, cricket is tough with the white ball now.
When did you realize that variation is important?
It was when I made my comeback, in 2016 because by that time the franchise T20 leagues had become popular. The games are high-scoring now. So I had thought on my return that I have to learn new things. It can be a slower, a wide yorker or a slow bouncer. If you are predictable as a bowler in current cricket, then you are giving away 10 to 12 runs in an over. You will only be safe if you have variation. Like Wasim bhai [Wasim Akram] says, he is still learning cricket. You need to learn new skills regularly if you want to sustain for long in cricket.
Have you noticed the young local pacers in BPL?
Yes. There is one bowler Ebadat [Hossain] playing for Sylhet [Thunder]. Then we have Shahidul [Islam] playing for our team [Khulna], he is a very skillful bowler. He bowls at hard length, and then slower. Then there is Mehedi [Hasan] Rana, he looked very good last night [Wednesday].
How do you groom these young pacers?
Their routine is very important. As an athlete they need to look into their training system, their food system, their work load. The player first of all needs to take care of himself because no one else knows of his body (better) than him. The player should understand the work load. If the load is low then he should work on taking it high, and if he is facing injuries then he should work on that. In international team you have people to guide you but when you are on your own, you need to maintain the routine. You do not stay with the international team the whole time so it becomes your responsibility to ensure a proper routine to prolong the career.
It is often said in Bangladesh that the culture to produce fast bowlers for longer version has not developed. Why do you think is that?
I was discussing this with someone while ago and I was told that ball doesn’t go above your knee from the first day of four-day cricket in Bangladesh. That means the fast bowler is not bowling that much. Unless the fast bowler is not used to bowling for long in a game he will not get the fitness, he will not develop pace. The wicket needs to be supporting to the pacers and also ensure that the batsmen enjoy playing. In Pakistan, the domestic wickets (had) changes recently. Before it used to be either batting or a bowling wicket but now they are keeping it mix. They have made the wickets a bit batting-friendly and have given kookaburra ball to the bowlers. That way the bowlers need to give effort. The wickets do not start breaking from day one. The matches have more than 500 runs being scored, the bowlers have to bowl long spells. Unless the bowlers are bowling long spells their nature will not develop. The wickets should be that a pacer can bowl 12 to 14 overs a day. Here I am told spinners come into attack from the fifth over, now if you are not making your pacers bowl, then how are you going to develop them.