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IPL 2022 – Stories | Indian Premier League

Lockie Ferguson may be the world’s fastest bowler, but he’s about more than raw speed

Lockie Ferguson IPL 2022
Aadya Sharma by Aadya Sharma
@Aadya_Wisden 5 minute read

Aadya Sharma speaks to Lockie Ferguson, Gujarat Titans’ prime overseas quick who has bowled the fastest delivery in the IPL this year. A deeper look into his numbers reveals that he isn’t all about speed.

There’s a sense of polarity when it comes to the quicks. The real quicks. When on song, they’re the game’s most unmissable sight, with a contorted batter or a splattered set of stumps impossible to take your eyes off. When they’re off-colour and getting clanked to all corners, it becomes a difficult watch; suddenly, pace – their greatest strength – is a source of distress. And if they break down and fall, it becomes even more painful.

Lockie Ferguson doesn’t want to slow down. Not for now, at least. The 30-year-old’s entry into international cricket came late – he was 25 on debut – but there have been enough flashes of brute speed to keep us wanting more. At the 2019 World Cup, pace met nous as he soared to second-place in the wicket-taking charts.

Has he ever considered slowing down to avoid the injuries that are a fast bowler’s lot? “I think I might not get picked if I start bowling slow,” chuckles Ferguson, speaking to Wisden India during the 2022 IPL. “I’ve loved bowling quick. And I’ve built my game around that. So if I was to change that, then my game-plan and my skill-set might have to change with that, too. While I’m still relatively fit and playing, I want to keep doing it as long as I can. Perhaps in a few years’ time, ask me that question again.”

Ferguson stretches the limit of speed guns wherever he goes, crossing 150kph with ridiculous regularity. According to CricViz, among all T20 quicks (min. 600 balls), Ferguson’s average speed – 140.3kph – is the third-fastest ever, behind only Shaun Tait and Billy Stanlake. Those eye-catching numbers used to be of great interest to him.  “I remember being young – my first game against Australia – all the readings would come up on the big scoreboard. That was pretty special at that time. Young in my career, it was something I focused a lot on.”

He’s less bothered about the speed-gun digits nowadays, and it’s worth reiterating something: Ferguson isn’t all about speed. He understands that, after bowling a series of thunderbolts, a sudden drop in pace can be even more treacherous. Ask Jos Buttler – the star of this year’s IPL – whose stumps were rattled by a stunning in-dipping 126kph yorker a couple of weeks ago.

With all this in mind, it’s a surprise that Ferguson has never played more than eight games in an IPL season, a figure he’s set to surpass this year. At Kolkata Knight Riders – where he was from 2019 to 2021 – Ferguson remained in the shadow of Pat Cummins. But the IPL’s expansion to ten teams has opened up new opportunities at Gujarat Titans.

It’s another step in the right direction for Ferguson, a chance to properly showcase his skills outside the Powerplay, where he does the bulk of his work. According to CricViz, since the start of 2017, Ferguson’s dot-ball percentage from overs 7-15 – at 42.4 per cent – is the third-highest among seamers in T20 cricket, bettered only by Jofra Archer and Jasprit Bumrah (min. 60 overs). In a Titans side with plenty of bowling firepower, he’s taken nine wickets at an average of 31.66, those numbers dampened by his most recent outing: he took 0-52 against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Wednesday. Bowling quick can bring extreme results, in both directions. But, as Ferguson puts it, it isn’t just about winning and losing, “it’s actually about the stories and memories that you have along the journey”.

“It’s nice to have people like Rashid [Khan], and Mo [Shami] bowl from the other end. They’re going to have to attack us at some stage. When guys are looking to hit, then the slower ball becomes more dangerous at that stage.”

He thrives in the middle for New Zealand too, where captain Kane Williamson happily gives him a free hand to experiment.

“He gives pretty good freedom,” Ferguson says. “He’s been very kind to me through my career, and some of my more crazy ideas. In the World Cup a few years back, we trialled [going] around the wicket a bit more. He’s open to new ideas, which is great. And when he throws me the ball, he tends to ask what my thoughts are and then go from there.”

The T20 World Cup last year should have been an ideal platform for Ferguson to lay out his array of change-ups on the UAE’s dry and slow pitches. But a calf tear ruled him out of the tournament, with the announcement coming less than an hour before the Black Caps’ opening match.

“Sometimes you think you’re doing everything you possibly can off the park to stay fit, but injuries do happen. It’s the nature of pushing your body to the very limit. I was gutted to miss out on a World Cup, particularly the night before. And I knew we had such a good side for that World Cup. But having said that, to sit on the sidelines and watch how the boys played, it was pretty special as well.”

The image of a full-tilt Lockie Ferguson, jet-black shoes, menacing ‘stache, and that whiplash action is something to behold in itself. But there’s more to appreciate than just that. Ferguson is a canny, variation-laden operator, who can still maintain breakneck pace when required. He’s bowling with fire in the IPL and, should fitness allow it, he could be one of the stars of the T20 World Cup in Australia, the place where it all started for him, later this year.

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