Cricket
Mohammad Isam, ESPN 8d

'The last six months have been among the most enjoyable times of my career'

Cricket

In what he is calling a new chapter in his cricket career, fast bowler Kyle Abbott is slowly getting the hang of being international cricketer of a different kind - one who plays in different countries but not for an international team. He has had a great county season and now is on the road, having been snapped up by Khulna Titans for the 2017 BPL season. Here he speaks about his time with Hampshire, why fast bowling excites him, and how he changes his strategy for different conditions and formats.

What was it like to have taken 60 wickets in the 2017 county season for Hampshire?
It was great. I have had a bit of experience in county cricket over the last couple of years, but to be settled and contribute for Hampshire was great. It is nice to get started with a few wickets and maybe it is a sign of things to come in the next couple of years.

How do you adjust to the varying nature of English conditions?
I think the great thing about English cricket is that conditions vary through the summer. April-May is very bowler-friendly; it is almost half-volley length. As the summer goes on, it gets a bit easier for batsmen. But then other things come into play, like reverse swing, and when the summer gets dry you have to adjust your length.

Obviously staying injury free is important.
It is quite tough. It is a long season with 14 four-day games, and we ended up playing 16 T20s through that too. The club is good with keeping me fresh. I have also got to the age where I know my body. I know when to rest and when to train. It comes with a bit of experience.

How do you prepare for something as long as a county season?
The only way to get fit for a county season, especially for a bowler, is to bowl. For me, it is probably three weeks to a month. I will be slowly building up. It all depends on what I will do in January and February. If I am playing cricket somewhere else in the world, I will keep ticking over. The higher your workload is going into a season, I believe, the easier it gets.

How different is the intensity between county cricket and the international game?
You are never going to replicate international cricket anywhere, unless you are playing it. At the end of the day I have realised over the last six-eight months that I just want to enjoy my cricket, no matter where I am playing and what stage it is. I have enjoyed my last six months as much as I have ever enjoyed my cricket in the last nine-ten years. It has been really good for me; nice and refreshing.

Going back all the way to the start of your career: why did you take up fast bowling?
I have asked myself that a few times over the last couple of years. I think it is something that came naturally to me, to be honest. Actually growing up I was bit more of a batsman, which has slowly started to come out a bit again in the county set-up.

What excites you about fast bowling?
I suppose it is getting wickets. The excitement of, really, beating a batsman with a good ball that's moving around with a bit of pace. Working over a batsman, really figuring him out. The joy of taking a wicket is right up there.

How do you manage yourself now that you are in demand in T20 leagues?
It is obviously a lot easier to maintain yourself and stay fresh because of the workload.

I enjoy these tournaments a lot because you interact with so many different people. The amount of different nationalities you get in a team, from English, West Indians, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, and the amount of things you learn from these T20 teams is the big thing for me. It is the part that I enjoy the most.

Why did you choose to come to the BPL?
They chose me. It was an opportunity that came up a few months ago. All I want to do is play cricket and do my job. If I get an opportunity, I am going to take it. I am really grateful to get a gig with Titans. It is a great set-up from the management to the coaches Mahela [Jayawardene] and Alfonso [Thomas]. Everything runs smoothly here, which makes it even more enjoyable.

You'd obviously be focusing a lot on bowling fuller lengths in these tournaments.
I do work quite a bit on yorkers and death bowling. I think it is being used a lot more in T20s now, even in the Powerplays - yorkers and slower balls. The batsmen are getting quite far ahead of the game now. But it also depends on what surface you get. We saw in Sylhet that the pitch played a lot different in the day compared to the night. Your skills are having to be adapted on the same day.

You took a seven-wicket haul on your Test debut. Must have been a memorable day.
To be honest all I can remember is that both my older brothers and my dad and mum were there to witness [my debut Test]. It was something special.

Is there something you miss about in international cricket?
You are never going to replicate the intensity of playing for your country anywhere. But I enjoyed my time there. It is a new chapter now and I have got new and exciting things to look forward to.

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