McGrath the inspiration behind Jarvis’ simple mechanics

1:37 AM ETMohammad IsamBangladesh correspondent, ESPNcricinfo CloseFollow on TwitterFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprint

Kyle Jarvis running in to bowl is a pleasant sight, especially if the view is from mid-on. There’s a slight angle to his sprint and as he gathers himself near the crease, it is a simple load-up, pivot and release. One fluid motion. He works on batsmen by bowling tight lines and lengths. It is no mystery that he is a handful in favourable conditions, but as has been evidenced on Zimbabwe’s tour of Bangladesh, he can adapt quickly to slow and flat pitches too.

The simplicity of his method is reminiscent of someone who inspired Jarvis when he was growing up.

“Growing up, Glenn McGrath was always my hero,” Jarvis tells ESPNcricinfo. “I have developed this action over the years. I have always tried to mimic and follow everything in the way he went about his game, and the lines and lengths he bowled. He was definitely an inspiration growing up.”

In Bangladesh’s first innings in Sylhet, Jarvis out-thought two in-form batsmen. Liton Das drove him through the covers for four but one ball later, he was coaxed into pushing at one that deviated sharply off the seam from the same channel as the previous ball, only to shave the outside edge this time. Later, a well-set Mushfiqur Rahim struck Jarvis’ first ball after tea through point for four. Next ball, Jarvis got one to move away ever so slightly once again, inducing an edge from Mushfiqur and giving wicketkeeper Regis Chakabva another catch.

In the second innings too, his nagging spells proved pivotal. He bowled tightly on the third evening to a cautious opening pair of Liton and Imrul Kayes, before exhibiting the same control on the fourth morning, for which he was rewarded with the wicket of Mominul Haque.

After angling one across that was left alone and beating him comprehensively the next ball, Jarvis angled another one across, generating extra bounce this time, which led to the left-hander losing control off his backfoot push and dragging it back on to his stumps.

Having started his international career in 2009 as a tearaway fast bowler, Jarvis is a changed bowler now, relying less on pace and more on guile, primarily aiming to hit a length from where the ball is likely to clip the top of off-stump. Of course, the length can vary according to the batsman’s strengths and the nature of the pitch.

“I am not the quickest in the world. I work around the 130kph mark. You have to be pretty strong to bowl consistently over 140kph. Only a few people in the world can do that without getting injured,” he says. “Lines and lengths don’t change to good batters. Top of off is a good ball to anyone in the world. I know where their strong areas are and I will try to keep the ball away from that.

“When I was younger, I was excited at bowling quick and seeing [batsmen] jump around. I tried to bowl fast. I wasn’t that consistent. Now I am a little bit slower but a lot more controlled. I found I have had a lot more success in bowling in better areas than when I ran in and bowled as fast as I could. It is a lot more satisfying to see the batter walk off the field after you’ve got him out.”

The county stint which he took up at the expense of representing Zimbabwe between 2013 and 2017 was particularly helpful. He took 62 and 51 wickets in the 2015 and 2016 seasons respectively, and finished with 36 wickets at 22.33 last year, his best bowling average in his years playing in the County Championship.

“I learned a whole lot about my game playing four years of county cricket. I am a much better player now than I was when I left Zimbabwe cricket. I am a lot more consistent. I know my body now,” he says.

Since his return to the fold of Zimbabwe last year, Jarvis has been particularly impressive against Bangladesh, both in the ODI tri-series in January earlier this year and on the current tour. While Zimbabwe were beaten comprehensively in the ODIs, his 4 for 37 in the first ODI in Mirpur nearly derailed Bangladesh, before Imrul Kayes took charge in the last 10 overs, arguably changing the course of the series.

Jarvis says that bowling within the stumps has been essential to succeeding in Bangladesh, where there isn’t much help in terms of lateral movement. “Bangladesh is not renowned for being seamer friendly so I try to keep it as simple as possible. You have to bowl the width of the stumps, otherwise it becomes very easy for the batter. I was very happy with the way I went in the ODIs. I was glad to put in a few performances there.”

The pace bowling world these days is full of yorkers, bouncers, slower bouncers, cutters and more. But for Jarvis, the tried and tested method works best. If you threaten the top of off stump at a fair clip with a bit of movement, few batsmen can get away. And Jarvis is patient enough to reap the rewards of a solidly consistent strategy and execution.