The Ish factor

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Siddhartha Vaidyanathan on the bowler of the tournament so far

Ten games into the second edition of the GT20 league and it’s hard to say who has been the most effective batsman. It has rained fours and sixes at the CAA Centre – and at no time was the onslaught as fierce as when Chris Gayle made an unbeaten 122 for Vancouver Knights – but the riches have been spread around.

There is little doubt about the most effective bowler, though. And it’s a legspinner who has been running rings around batting line-ups, and heading the charts in almost every bowling category.

Ladies and gentlemen: put your hands together for New Zealand legspinner Ish Sodhi.

Flight, turn, drift, change of pace: he has had the ball on a string through his spells in three games. There was a five-wicket haul to start with, and five more wickets in the next two games.

Batsmen have been beaten by flight, by spin, by bounce, and by variations. He has utilized the breeze, as well as the bounce he has been able to extract from his great height, and kept the batsmen guessing throughout. In a tournament were 203 sixes – and a gazillion fours – have been struck in ten games, he has gone at an economy rate of just over 5 an over.

A few things we learnt about Ish this week:

  • He didn’t know much about Brampton until he hopped on the plane and googled the area. Only to see that it had one of the biggest populations of Punjabis outside Punjab.

 

  • He played his first game on two hours’ sleep. “I guess it simplifies things,” he said at the end of it, after picking up the Man-of-the-Match award. “You are quite tired and you’re trying to focus on getting as much energy as you possibly can. It can aid you as well.”

 

  • He bowled into the wind in the first game, knowing that the leg-side boundary was the shorter of the two. “The idea was to get the ball away from the batsmen as far as I could. And I tried and keep the length back as well. Because often in T20, even when you’re a little bit full, batsmen hit the ball over your head for six. So you try to keep things simple.”

 

  • The first batsman he dismissed in this tournament – Anton Devcich – was a “big influence” on his career. “Divi was a senior player when I came into the Northern Districts set-up and we were always competitive at the nets. It was nice to get one over someone whom I see as a really big influence.” His excitement was apparent when he got the law decision: he rushed towards his captain, Colin Munro to celebrate the moment.

  • In his second game, Ish undid three batsmen with his extra bounce – Faf du Plessis and Ben Cutting falling to what looked like innocuous long hops but were actually balls that kicked up. Du Plessis got a top edge to short third man, and Cutting got a top-edge to deep midwicket. In Ish’s next over, Jimmy Neesham tried to cut a short one, which was thrown up outside off. And another top edge popped up to the bucket hands of Shahid Afridi at short third man.

 

  • Ish and his captain at Brampton Wolves, Colin Munro, go back a long way. “I’ve seen Ish as a 13-year-old prodigy legspinner coming through the age-groups,” said Munro. “I’ve seen him at my club. And since then he’s got better and better. I think he’s one of the best legspinners in the world and I don’t think he gets that much credit for it.”

 

  • Munro says he doesn’t have to do much to get the best out of Ish. “It’s great for me to captain him because I believe in him so much,” he said at the end of the game today. “I say, ‘Ish, I want you to bowl your best ball, your best legspinner is better than anyone else’s in the world. Go out there and do your thing.”

Ish played only one game at the World Cup – against Australia at Lord’s. Still, he watched from the dressing-room as his team-mates took part in one of the most gripping matches in ODI history. Was it easy for him to come over to Canada so soon after such a big hearbreak?

“After the World Cup, it was quite draining actually,” he says. “It took me about a week or so to get over the disappointment. It was such a surreal battle to be part of in the World Cup final. So to come here and play this tournament is a really good distraction. It helps me take my mind off whatever happened. It gives me a fresh challenge.”

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