In the first half of Indian Premier League 2021, Delhi Capitals’ Avesh Khan was the second-highest wicket-taker. More impressive than his 14 wickets, though, was his economy-rate of 7.70 after playing eight games. Among the top 15 fast bowlers in the wicket-takers’ list, his economy-rate was the lowest.
He played just a single game in IPL 2020 and not many expected him to have the kind of impact he did in this year’s edition of the T20 competition. But the 24-year-old, who is yet to play for the senior Indian team, was perhaps the find of the season thanks to his remarkable consistency.
Delhi had a potent pace bowling duo in Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje last year but the South African players weren’t available for the start of IPL 2021. That opened up a slot for Avesh and he grabbed his opportunity with both hands.
He displayed a rare sense of calmness each time he got the ball and emerged as the go-to bowler for skipper Rishabh Pant as the Capitals made their way to the top of the points table. The thing that stood out about his bowling was his execution in pressure situations. He was used with the new ball as well as at the death and he looked in control no matter the opponent.
The right-arm pacer represented his state Madhya Pradesh in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in January but missed the Vijay Hazare Trophy thereafter because he was picked as a net bowler during the home Tests against England.
Now, after his exploits in IPL 2021, Avesh has been selected as a standby player for the upcoming tour of England and he is determined to go from strength to strength.
Here are excerpts from Scroll.in’s interview with Avesh:
What was the biggest takeaway for you from your time in the nets with the Indian team?
I have mostly spent time with the Indian team during Tests series, so I got to learn a lot from Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. They are very focused during practice and try to get into a specific mindset ahead of matches. So there were many little things I picked up from the way they went about their business.
You looked in great rhythm right from the start of IPL 2021 and didn’t let up as the tournament progressed. How did you prepare for the tournament?
I was with the Indian team in Chennai during the Test series against England. I bowled a lot in the nets at that time and had found a good rhythm. Another thing I did then was to hire a personal nutritionist. That new diet helped me lose about six kgs and I felt more energetic on the field. As an athlete, you have to keep working on every aspect that could help you on the field, I just kept chipping away. Heading into the IPL, I worked hard on my fitness and gained a lot of strength. All this work ensured I was ready to go once the tournament began.
I even got fortunate at that time as Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje weren’t available at the start and Ishant bhai had a niggle. They told me a week before our first game that I was going to start. So I was prepared both physically and mentally.
You were asked to bowl at crucial moments in each game but your calmness stood out. How did you manage that?
My focus is always on one ball at a time. I try not paying attention to whether it’s the first or last ball of the over. You get 24 balls to bowl at best, and as our coach Ricky Ponting used to say, we must look at each of those balls as 24 different contests. So each time I stood at the top of my mark, I was sure of my field and my plan. There were no doubts or weak moments. Each ball is a separate battle and I have to win it. I never thought about getting hit for a six, my focus was solely on execution. I knew if I execute my plan, the batsman won’t be able to hit me.
We often see bowlers hesitate in attempting a yorker despite it being one of the toughest balls to hit. Perhaps they aren’t confident of executing it. But that didn’t seem to be the case with you…
The yorker is a ball I’m always confident of landing. I have played a lot of tennis ball cricket and in that, the only ball that can save you is the yorker. So I back myself to get it right. I keep a close eye on the batsman’s foot movement and direct the yorker accordingly.
How did Ricky Ponting help improve your performance?
He told me to not waste the opportunity I was given. Before and after every game, he would sit with me and discuss plans and ways to improve. He wanted me to simply focus on the next game and not look at the tournament as a whole. The shorter my goals were, the more likely I was to achieve them. He encouraged me to back my strengths and follow my instincts.
Is there any specific area of your game you think you need to improve on?
Things are going well at the moment but there’s always scope for improvement. You can never be perfect but what you can do is keep honing your skills and try to execute your plans during practice. And that’s exactly what I intend to focus on. At the moment, though, I’m not playing any cricket. Just working on my fitness and spending time with family. The BCCI has asked us to not step outside. The England tour is going to be long so I’m enjoying this time with my parents.
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