Basil Thampi: High on promise, low on numbers
Basil Thampi's story in IPL 2017 is interesting because numbers don't back him but his potential surely does.
Delhi Daredevils vs Gujarat Lions, 10th May 2017, Green Park, Kanpur.
40th over of the match. Delhi needed nine runs to win from six balls. At both ends of the wicket were two youngsters, both incredibly talented and full of promise. But after the end of this over, only one of these two would emerge as a hero.
With the ball in hand was Basil Thampi, right-arm pace bowler from Kerala, who rose from the ranks to spearhead Gujarat Lions’ bowling attack. Two overs back, he kept his team alive in the game by conceding only eight runs in his over when the equation was 25 from 18 balls.
At the batting crease was 22 years old Shreyas Iyer, one of India’s sparkling young batsmen. Courtesy of his masterclass innings he had so far single-handedly steered his team in this chase of 196 and now was batting on 96 with a personal milestone within reach.
On the first ball, Thampi prevented Iyer from going for the big shot by bowling on his pads. Iyer managed to scrabble for two runs.
The next ball was even better, a low full toss outside off stump and tailing back in. A perfect reverse swinging yorker which was enough to beat Iyer and it crashed into his stumps. Iyer had lost his chance to emerge as the hero.
Two balls, only two runs were given and Iyer was dismissed as well. Thampi had excelled in the most difficult part. Now all he had to do was to just hang in there doing what he had done so far, bowl according to the situation.
Only four balls separated the Gujarat bowler from becoming a hero. And then Amit Mishra happened. With two successive unconventional shots, he produced two boundaries and took Delhi home. Thampi was marooned while Iyer became the hero.
This match pretty well sums up ‘The Basil Thampi story’ in IPL 2017. He is surely one of the finds of this IPL and has proved his calibre in the bowling department, but those who have seen him bowl will surely say that he deserves more success than what he has reaped so far and has much more to offer.
One of the contenders for the coveted ‘Emerging player’ awards in IPL for this year, Basil Thampi has received plenty of accolades for his performance in this season and has also been regarded highly by commentators and other cricket experts.
However, statistics paint a different story. Among the bowlers who have bowled more than 15 overs in this season for Gujarat Lions, this right-hand pace bowler has the second highest economy (9.49) and is just behind James Faulkner (9.79).
Also, among bowlers who have taken more than 10 wickets in this IPL, Thampi has the worst strike rate (38.54) and his average of 24.3 is the second highest.
Statistics also point out that three of the five most expensive bowling spells delivered by Gujarat bowlers this year are bowled by Thampi. However, statistics don’t reveal the fact that out of the 11 wickets he has taken, six are top four batsmen.
The lone Lion roaring?
Thampi’s average of 24.3 means he doesn’t pick a wicket in every match even if he completes his quota of four overs. His economy rate of 9.49 means he would end up conceding 38 runs in those four overs.
So, why would a team include a bowler in the team who spends close to ten runs per over and even then has no guarantee of landing up in the wickets column?
The answer lies in the troubles faced by Gujarat Lions. Injury and unavailability ruled out some of their key overseas bowlers like Dwayne Bravo from this year’s IPL while Dhawal Kulkarni, their star bowler from 2016, was completely out of form in 2017.
Add to it the lack of other bowling options in the squad and you have an IPL franchise that is desperately looking for a player who can bowl fours overs in every match.
So, for such a terrible bowling unit, Basil Thampi proved to be the best bet and hence they persisted with him. During this IPL, most often it was said that Thampi was the lone Lion to roar from Gujarat team but the truth is, Gujarat hardly had any lions in their pace bowling department at the first place (except for Andrew Tye).
What the future holds
Whatever the outcome may have been, this year will be remembered as the breakthrough season for the Kerala speedster. Even after he leaked runs, what people will remember is the way he bowled during the death overs and his ability to bowl yorkers at will.
He troubled some of the best strikers in cricket like MS Dhoni, Chris Gayle and Hashim Amla with his bowling and this was his biggest gain. One thing is for sure, this Kerala bowler has serious potential.
His bowling action is clean, he gets in rhythm quickly and his release is effective too. Plus, as he displayed on numerous occasions in the death overs, he can get his yorkers right and has developed skills of reverse swing as well.
During this one month, this pace bowler has worked exponentially hard to survive at this big stage and to some extent has done well. But as it happened in the match against Delhi, there are numerous small things which he has to learn to excel at this level.
Otherwise, in every game, he will come across an Amit Mishra who will ruin all his hard work in no time.