Harshal Patel: “You either move on with the game or keep cribbing,” Bowlers’ predicament in the 2024 Indian Premier League

On Harshal Patel, former India head coach Ravi Shastri took aim at the bowlers on X a few weeks ago, telling them to put more emphasis on their “execution” and cease “whinging and mourning” at the huge scores in the Indian Premier League. Shastri made his remarks the day after the Punjab Kings defeated the record 262 runs needed with eight balls remaining. While Shashank Singh of Punjab hit the game-winning six, Harshal Patel was seated at the dugout, grinning in “disbelief.”

Harshal, 33, agrees with Shastri’s point of view.

“I realized where the game has gone during that match, and it wasn’t the first time this season that I had felt that way. Taking part in that mayhem is kind of fun. Before their game against the RCB, Harshal tells The Indian Express, “I know the bowlers are bearing the brunt of that madness – you either move on with the game or you keep cribbing.”

In the current edition, Harshal is ranked second in the purple cap list behind Jasprit Bumrah with 17 wickets at an economy rate of 9.78. Harshal disagrees with the claim that the “Impact Player” rule game has shifted more in favour of the batters, believing that power striking has increased and caught everyone off guard.

“IPL pitches have consistently been flat. There will still be more than 250 runs scored even if the impact rule is removed the following year because it has demonstrated the batting lineups that may be used from ball one. You’ll be alright most of the time because the pitches are so strong.

There’s probably never a boundary that is higher than 60–65 meters. In the IPL, the ball does not swing. The surface is not offering any support. The batting groups have simply adopted the mentality that, “We can go hard from ball one and keep going till the 120th ball and most of the time we’re going to be fine,” he explains.

New benchmark to assess bowler’s performance

Though Harshal agrees that it would be challenging for the bowlers to adjust to this erratic hitting, he also believes that the standard by which a bowler is judged needs to be revised.

It’s so difficult for me to forecast where it will go right now. even for myself. I attempt to force the batters to take the hardest shot possible. However, you can’t do it consistently since the game obviously has a lot of variables, and you have to consider whether or not that suits that specific delivery.It will be interesting to observe if bowling develops to reach a balance of sorts. I think this (batting) trend will continue in the game. The standard for an excellent performance needs to be reassessed for the bowlers.

Till 2022, giving away 30-35 runs in four overs and a couple of impactful wickets was considered a great performance, but that has to be reevaluated because if 250 runs are being scored in a game, then most of the runs are being scored either in the power play or at the death. So guys who bowl predominantly in the power play and at the death will have to have a different benchmark for their performance.

I’ve been trying to evaluate my performances first, whether I have executed what I wanted to execute and the second whether have I made an impact on the game by picking up wickets. Nowadays, you could bowl one over for 5 or 6 runs and the next over they’ll hit you for 25 and it’ll all even out; so taking wickets is the only way going forward,” says Harshal.

Power-hitting analogies with baseball

Harshal acknowledges that side-arm specialists have contributed to hitters’ increased power hitting ability.

The majority of the clubs’ hitters are hitting the ball so far out of the park that it has multiplied their ability to hit it off the ground. I am aware that many people constantly complaining about flat wickets, little fields, and non-swinging balls—all of which are acceptable. However, it takes a lot of skill for a batter to be able to hit 42 sixes in a 20-over game for both teams. The majority of our team’s hitters prefer to face side-arm slingers during practice sessions rather than bowlers. Their ability to consistently hit the ball has increased in terms of talent.

and gather lengths beforehand. Your confidence to do that in the game improves if you’re hitting, say, 70–80 balls for sixes every single day in the net, he says.

In response to the question of whether cricket is becoming more like baseball, he states: “Home runs are rare in baseball. Yes, I do get the similarity between batters putting themselves up to hit the ball as far as they possibly could from a technical standpoint. I think that’s the only resemblance between baseball and cricket.
Harshal Patel played three seasons and took 65 wickets in 43 games for Royal Challengers Bengaluru, however he was informed over the phone prior to the auction that the team would not be keeping him.

“To be honest it didn’t affect me that much because I know retentions and auctions are just beyond the cricket part. I thought I had 2 fantastic years for RCB. 2021 and 2022 were great, 2023 was an average year, where I bowled a lot of bad balls in every spell, which is something that I’ve worked on this year. I got a call from RCB’s director of cricket Mo Bobat. He said ‘I’ve got bad news for you that we are not going to retain you.’ And I said I don’t think it’s bad because I’ll still get a team to play for. I knew that for a fact,” Harshal recollects.

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