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Shirin Sadikot in Johannesburg

Bowlers must embrace T20 to succeed: Thomas

Experienced Titans pacer believes clear mindset, simplicity are keys to T20 bowling

That Twenty20 is a batsman’s game is one of the most overused clichés in the short history of this format. Bowlers have tried to gain ground by manufacturing different deliveries like the slower one, the wide and low full-toss, slow bouncer and cutter. But the willow-wielders have responded with switch-hits, scoops, sweeps and its numerous variants (for the complete list contact Eoin Morgan), the upper-cut, etc. After all the innovations from both sides, the contest is still tilted in favour of the batsmen.

What does a bowler do in this case? Well, in the words of one of world’s most experienced T20 bowlers, “It’s a format that you should embrace as a bowler. Bowlers should think of themselves as party spoilers. People pay money to come and see batsmen score 50 off 20 balls and we’re just here to spoil their party.”

Alfonso Thomas’s 148 T20 matches (coming into CLT20 2012) have come all around the world, playing for more than five teams, in at least four countries. For most of his teams, Thomas is generally handed the ball during crucial moments of the innings like powerplays and death overs. With such wide variety of experience under his belt, the 35-year-old former Proteas T20 international does know a thing or two about bowling in the shortest format.

Thomas is currently gearing up to play his third CLT20, this time with his South African home team, the Titans – he played in the 2009 and 2011 editions with Somerset. We, at clt20.com, caught up with him and picked his brains about what the best way for bowlers is in this format. This is what we got.

This will be your third time in the CLT20. What do you make of this tournament?

It’s a fantastic platform for guys like me – at the age of 35 I’m not going to play international cricket again. This is my international cricket. The youngsters get to learn what it takes to get to the top.

How important is it to have experienced guys in the T20 format?

This year I’m with the Titans who play their first CLT20 competition, while it is my third time. I think this will help them as I more or less know what the tournament is all about and I can prepare the guys for it. I do think experience has a big role to play in this format.

Often you’re asked to bowl in powerplays or death overs. Do you bowl to pick wickets or stem the flow of runs?

You obviously try to take wickets. But it’s more about having a clear mindset. At times you have various options as a bowler and so it is important to have a clear plan when you’re at the top of your run-up. Try not to over think and keep it simple. If you look at the ICC World Twenty20 just gone by, the guys tried to be a bit funky at times. You didn’t see many yorkers being bowled. For me, that is one of my strong points and I like to stick to it.

How does a bowler maintain his confidence in a format that is so harsh on him?

If, as a bowler, you’re going to think it is harsh, you will go for runs. It’s a format that you’ve got to embrace as a bowler. Yes, your skill gets tested a lot in this format but if you embrace it and take up the challenge, you’ll do well. Bowlers should think of themselves as party spoilers. People pay money to come and see batsmen score 50 off 20 balls and we’re just here to spoil the party.

How tough is it to make a comeback after going for runs in the first over or two?

You shouldn’t think of it as making a comeback. Once you bowl a ball, whether it is good or bad, you have to let go of it. It’s important to stay in the ‘now’ and not get too far ahead of yourself. We’ve seen that this game can change in a space of six balls.

To what extent do the bowling plans change according to the conditions and wickets?

It changes from country to country. If you’re in India, you have to think a lot more as a bowler. This time, in South Africa, it’s just the start of the domestic season and so the wickets will be fresh, which the bowlers can try and capitalise on.

When a bowler is used to toiling on unresponsive pitches, does it, at times, get tough for him to capitalise on helpful wickets?

It does but that’s why you have practice sessions to hone your skills and get used to the conditions. I don’t think in this day and age it is a big adjustment to make. Guys like me play all over the world and we should know the conditions by now. I’ve played here for many years and as a bowler I’m much happier that the CLT20 is in South Africa and not in India.

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