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Sohail Tanvir reveals his trade secrets

Lions pacer unveils the mystery behind his bowling action, talks of IPL 2008 and Warne

“I won’t say that I’m only a T20 cricketer,” Sohail Tanvir says with a sheepish smile. “That’s what people say about me.” But there’s no denying the fact that 20-over cricket is where this fast bowler form Pakistan has made the biggest name for himself.

It all started in 2008 when Shane Warne unearthed a freak talent who bowled Rajasthan Royals to the inaugural IPL title. Since then, with his wrong-footed action and ability to swing the ball, Tanvir has become a favourite for teams in Twenty20 leagues around the world.

Besides playing for his country, Tanvir has plied his trade for teams belonging to four other countries – India (RR), Australia (South Australia), Sri Lanka (Sylhet Royals in SLPL) and currently South Africa’s Highveld Lions in CLT20, 2012.

In an honest and insightful chat with clt20.com, the left-arm seamer opened up about the origin of his action and how big a role it has played in making him the bowler that he is. Tanvir also spoke about 2008 IPL being the watershed moment of his career and rated Shane Warne as the best captain he has played under.

Life on the road

Sometimes, it gets hectic to keep travelling to play for different teams in different parts of the world. But you get used to it after a while. There are so many T20 leagues going around in the world, especially after the IPL. It’s good for some of us because we get to play more cricket. From a financial point of view, the players are getting more money. T20 has attracted more people to cricket. I’m certainly enjoying this life. And T20 cricket is not easy; it requires a lot of skill. Especially when you’re in the team as a professional, there’s so much responsibility on you and the team is depending on you. My role keeps changing and when I play for different teams, and as a professional I have to adjust to those roles and respond quickly.

Tape it up in T20s

I can swing the new ball in any condition or surface. In the death overs, my slower ones and yorkers make me lethal. As a kid I played a lot of tape-ball cricket and I learnt all these variations there. That experience has helped me a lot especially in T20s. These variations make me lethal.

The freak action

When I first saw myself on TV, I was surprised. Before that I didn’t know my action was this strange. I was actually laughing at myself. So, I can imagine what people think about my action when they see me bowl. It is something that has come naturally to me. It’s not possible for anyone to develop that kind of action. I’ve been to so many countries and I have seen a few bowlers with my action. But it is something that cannot be taught. In fact, no coach would want his ward to develop such an action. It’s very hard to learn and also very dangerous in terms of injuries. When, as a bowler, you’re not looking at the batsman, it is very difficult.

The trade secret

Honestly, most of variations come because of my action. With my action it’s hard to pick my slower one. I get swing because of that action. If you take my action away from me, I think I’d be a very average bowler. Also, it’s not easy for a coach to change it; you can only fine-tune it a bit. I don’t remember any coach asking me to change my action.

When a star was born

IPL 2008 made me a star. I started my international career with the 2007 World Twenty20 and did well there. But it was because of the IPL that people started recognising me. It was the first season and everybody was excited about it. The standard of cricket was high. I was just a kid, in terms of experience and ending the tournament as the highest wicket-taker was a big achievement for me. IPL made me famous and as a cricketer gave me a lot of confidence. That performance helped me become a better bowler in international cricket as well.

Warnie, the wizard

I have played under so many captains now, for Pakistan and in various T20 leagues. Every captain has his own way of using his bowlers and batsmen. For me, Shane Warne was the best. He utilised me very well. He knew my strengths, at what stage I can bowl well and where I can be lethal. So, it’s fair to say that Warne used me best as a bowler.

Malinga, the fellow maverick

He, like me, has an uncommon action and that’s what makes him so lethal. I think his slower one is very difficult to pick and he gets most of his wickets with that delivery. Currently, Malinga is the best bowler in T20 cricket and his action has a lot to do with that. When someone is swinging the ball and bowling yorkers at 90mhp with a slinging action, it’s really hard to play him. I’ve faced him many times and he has always troubled me.

A duet with Dirk

At the Lions, I pair up with Dirk Nannes, who is a very good bowler and I’m really enjoying playing with him. It’s such a relief when you have an experienced guy like him as your bowling partner. He’s someone who knows how to bowl in T20s and that makes things easy for me. If I’m bowling with a junior bowler, there’s a lot of pressure and responsibility on me. But bowling with a senior bowler like Nannes, it gives me that cushion to be more aggressive because I know that even if I go for runs, he will come from the other end and cover up for my expensive over. We also talk a lot to each other, before and during the match. If he gets into trouble, he comes to me and asks me what to do. If I feel under pressure against a certain batsman, I seek his advice. I feel very relaxed bowling with him.

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