South African off-spinner Johan Botha, who was a part of the Rajasthan Royals last year, feels Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane are the two players from the franchise who plays spin well.
Botha, who plays for Delhi Daredevils this season, said that spinners are always up against some good players in the Indian Premier League, ahead of the Delhi-Rajasthan clash at Feroz Shah Kotla on Saturday.
“Rahul is one of the excellent players, one of the greats of the game. He does play spin really well and that’s going to be a good contest on Saturday. Ajinkya [Rahane] was excellent last year, one of the players of the tournament,” Botha was quoted as saying by the official IPL website.
“Playing with Mahela [Jayawardene] we saw his class the other night while playing in Kolkata , everyone struggled on the pitch and he made it look easy so it is great to play with some world class players, but you are always going to come up against some good ones in the tournament.”
When asked who is the most challenging batsman he has encountered, he replied, “There are some good players of spin in the IPL. There are some great players like, Kumar Sangakkara, Gautam [Gambhir], Mahela and then some of the Indian guys. Sachin [Tendulkar] is there. That’s always a challenge. Then there is Yusuf Pathan , Kieron Pollard so that’s the guys that you put on bit more pressure but it is good to play against them and if you do well it is good and rewarding and nice.”
Mushtaq Ahmed joined the Delhi franchise as a bowling consultant. Botha said spending time with the Pakistani great has been good.
“Spending time with Mushy [Mushtaq Ahmed] has been very good. He is our spin bowling guy. We have just had chats. We don’t chat about new deliveries (or) new skills but he chats with us just to reassure us that what we are doing sometimes does work. Even though batsmen take you for runs sometimes, Mushy is calm about it. He says, as spinners you are going to go for runs somewhere along the line and so not to worry too much about that and keep bowling your best deliveries.”
The South African off-spinner feels the mixture of few experienced players and youngsters is a good combination for the team.
“We have a few really experienced guys and that is a good blend to have in the team. All the guys want to keep showing that they can perform and the young guys are keen to impress and do their bit, so I think it’s a really good mix. We only got a couple of guys in the middle – in their mid twenties. Over all it is a good blend for us. I think we just need to play a bit more together and get into it and I think if we can get one or two wins under the belt everyone will settle down and relax and we should be good from there.”
According to Botha, the key to success in the shortest format of the game is adapting to different conditions and to the game.
He said, “It is a couple of different things. You have to adapt to different conditions and adapt to the game and think on your feet. That’s always the key especially as a spinner. Batsmen do hit you but spinners have done well in the past in T20 cricket. I think it is always about trying to stay one step ahead of the opposition but you still have to be pretty good in your basics. You still have to land the ball in good areas and you hit some good cricket shots. So I think those are the things for me – try and stay one step ahead and still play good cricket shots or bowl good deliveries.”
Botha has led South Africa to many T20 victories in the past. He is a player with vast experience and plays a crucial role in the absence of Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen.
“This summer I played in Australia and I was captain then and I really enjoyed that. I have played a quite a bit if T20 cricket and if I can use that experience to help Mahela [Jayawardene] to help David [Warner] to help anyone in the team. If I am playing I will definitely help and even if I am not playing I will look to still add some value. It is a long tournament and obviously as an overseas player you are not guaranteed of playing every game and you want to contribute wherever you can. So if you have to sit out for a few games you can still make a contribution to the team and that’s important to keep helping the guys on the field,” he said.
On being asked how different the bowling conditions in the sub-continent are to that of South Africa and Australia, Botha said, “Players play spin a lot better here so I think that’s the big difference. In Australia and South Africa the ball bounces more and that probably helps you and if the batsmen try to take you on they are more likely to miss the middle of the bat. It doesn’t bounce so much in the sub-continent [so], you have to try and beat the batsmen in flight, try and spin the ball more. Those are the basics – less bounce but more spin, but guys also play it really well.”
Botha used to bowl pace during his early cricketing days. However, due to a back injury he had to shift from pace to spin and he believes it was one of the great things which happened to him.
“That was about eight years ago now. I have bowled spin for eight years. I had a back injury and sort of had to decide whether I was going to bowl medium pace and change my action or switch over to spin and at the time I was messing around the nets with spin bowling and a couple of guys, Mickey Arthur and Mark Boucher came to me and said, why don’t you just try bowling spin and if it doesn’t work always go back and I have never gone back so it’s been something great that happened to me. I think that if I was just a medium pacer I would probably just have played first-class cricket in South Africa. This has taken me all around the world and I have really enjoyed it.”
About his journey in the IPL, Botha said, “It is exciting! It is obviously a new team for me. I really enjoyed my four years with Rajasthan Royals and now I am with Delhi Daredevils, a team that has done really well in the past and IPL history and hopefully I can contribute for us to be in the play-offs again.”