India seamer Harshal Patel is not worried that batters have started anticipating his variations. In the first T20I, Rassie van der Dussen had smashed Harshal for three sixes and a four in an over to turn the game around. After the match, van der Dussen had said that post the first two sixes, he knew Harshal would turn to his slower balls.
“People have been trying to anticipate for the past two years,” Harshal said on the eve of the fourth T20I against South Africa. “To be very honest, with every bowler, the longer they play, the more the opposition will realise what their strengths are, what the patterns are, and try to adapt to it. But as a bowler, my job is to stay one step ahead of batters.
“At the end of the day, you can have 15 different plans, but on a particular day, in a pressure situation, if you don’t go out and execute with confidence, everything doesn’t really fall in place. So my focus has always been on how to read the game better in that particular moment and how to execute the best possible delivery at that point in time.”
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Harshal is currently the joint-leading wicket-taker in the series, with six scalps in three games. In the third T20I, the Visakhapatnam pitch was on the slower side, which suited Harshal’s style of bowling, and he duly picked up 4 for 25 in 3.1 overs.
“Although there was not a lot of variable bounce or lateral movement from the pitch, it was definitely slow,” he said. “So that allowed us to bowl hard length and slower balls into the pitch. It was difficult to clear the boundary from those lengths.
“I would certainly prefer playing on slower pitches because it allows you a bit of fighting chance. If you consistently keep playing on pitches like Delhi, it can hamper your confidence a little bit. We also have world-class spinners in the team, who can bowl well on any pitch, but it does bring them a little more into the game when we have slightly slower pitches and slightly bigger ground dimensions.”
From head coach Rahul Dravid to stand-in captain Rishabh Pant, everyone has spoken about how the team has been building towards the T20 World Cup, to be held in Australia in October-November. Harshal said while that is true, they are also focused on winning this series.
“To be honest, you cannot play your cricket thinking too much about the future or past. Like everyone has said before as well, the World Cup is at the back of our minds and we are trying to work towards that goal. But at the same time, we are 2-1 behind in the series, so the focus is on how to win the next two games. After that, we are going to Ireland, so things will move towards that direction but at this point, our focus is on how to win this series.”