Speed has a new name: Anrich Nortje

Written by Vishal Menon
| New Delhi |

October 29, 2020 10:02:40 pm

Anrich Nortje has to this point picked 15 wickets in 11 matches. (Source: IPL)

It’s 2018 and Prasanna Agoram, South Africa’s efficiency analyst, is intently monitoring Hashim Amla’s set off actions on the nets. Moments later, a comparatively unknown web bowler catches his eye. Robustly constructed, with blonde hair and debonair attractiveness, he’s producing uncooked tempo and getting disconcerting bounce, a lot to Amla’s discomfiture.

“Who was that bowler who was troubling you at the nets today? Prasanna would later ask Amla. “That’s Anrich Nortje,” was the reply.

Prasanna had heard that identify earlier than, of a younger quick bowler from the Eastern Cape who was blowing away batsmen with tempo at first-class stage, however this was the primary time he had seen Nortje bowl. “This guy is no net bowler. He is good enough to play for South Africa,” he instructed himself.

He would instantly name up Linda Zondi, the then chairman of selectors to inform: “We have found Dale Steyn’s replacement. This guy has the potential to break the 100-mph mark set by Shoaib Akhtar. Please get him in the team.” Prasanna tells The Indian Express, what impressed him again then. “The way Nortje was troubling Amla that day, hurrying him up with pace and hitting his rib-cage, I realised his potential.”

READ | At 156.22 kmph, Anrich Nortje breaks IPL speed barrier

The following 12 months on the Manzi Super League, South Africa’s home T20 event, Nortje introduced himself to the world when he hustled up AB de Villiers. Facing speeds of constantly within the late 140kmph mark, the talisman batsman didn’t enterprise on to the entrance foot, preferring to hold again. “Anrich Nortje was a peripheral name who operated in first-class cricket. His reputation enhanced after that spell to AB,” notes Cape Town-based journalist Khalid Mohidin.

From troubling Amla and de Villiers, Nortje is now busy terrorising batsmen on this IPL. He lately clocked the quickest supply within the historical past of the IPL, a 156.2 screamer to Jos Buttler. With 15 scalps from 11 video games, he’s at present eighth within the listing of the very best wicket-takers.

Prasanna isn’t stunned to see Nortje succeed within the IPL. “He has all the ingredients to become a world-class fast bowler. He has a smooth action and lovely load-up to the crease. It’s bad luck that he missed out of the 2019 World Cup with a thumb injury because he would have relished bowling in England.”

Early affect

Nortje grew up in Uitenhage — an industrial city located 40km north of Port Elizabeth, recognized for the Volkswagen manufacturing unit — the most important vehicle hub in Africa.

Growing up in a middle-class family, he hardly confirmed any fascination for automobiles and was consumed by sport, notably cricket and rugby. Brandwag High School, from the place he graduated, was recognized for producing worldwide rugby gamers however watching a sure Dale Steyn on tv strengthened Nortje’s resolve to grow to be a quick bowler. When he performed for U-18 group of Eastern Province, he met Piet Botha, a former quick bowler-turned coach, who was instrumental in honing his abilities and sprucing the tough edges.

“The thing that struck me about him was the pace he could generate. I mean, he really stood out amongst others. He was also very competitive on the field. However, he had a stress fracture that made me realise that there are a few issues that need to be sorted. There are certain biomechanics that you have to follow if you want to achieve your full potential as a fast bowler,” Botha explains.

The total work took three years and helped him go from quick to precise speeds and introduced different abilities which have helped him leapfrog in his profession.

“First, his feet alignment at the time of delivery was not proper, which was causing his action to collapse. We worked on getting a braced front leg because that powers your hips and shoulders and gives the desired momentum and the ability to increase the pace. Second, his upper body needed to be more upright and forward,” he provides.


The work performed with Botha turned him into a bowler who may hit the 150kmph mark with ease however frustratingly, he additionally earned the status of being a scattergun. Last 12 months’s Test sequence in India was an instance of his profligate methods.

“That tour was tough because the margins are so small. Thank God I made my Test debut in India and not in England because I learnt a lot by bowling on those pitches,” Nortje tells Mohidin’s YouTube channel ‘Cricket Fanatics.’

Eye for element

Prasanna believes Nortje has a cut up persona. “Off the field, he is very quiet. On it, he transforms into an aggressive fast bowler. It’s almost as if he has two distinct personalities.” He endearingly calls Nortje a ‘scud’, named after the well-known missile, owing to his horrifying tempo. “He keeps picking my brains. As an analyst, I prepare documents about team strategies, and amongst all the players, it’s Nortje who is the first to get his hands on them. He would be reading them on the bus as well.”

R Ashwin narrates an attention-grabbing anecdote from this IPL. “He (Nortje) is a simpleton and different from a lot of other South Africans that I have interacted with. After one particular game, guys were talking about Louis Vitton, Burberry and other brands. Anrich, who was holding a drink, got up and said, ‘this is not a table that I need to be a part of because I know nothing about it,’” Ashwin stated on his YouTube channel.

Later on, in that present, when Ashwin asks how a lot of a simpleton he actually is, Nortje comes up with this loaded response: “Very simple. Anything I do, with cricket as well, the best ball is top of off.” It’s a mantra that has served Nortje effectively, on and off the sphere.


How did Nortje go from quick to precise?

The bent entrance leg

Until three years in the past, he bowled with a bent entrance leg on the touchdown crease, which dissipated his vitality. When his entrance leg landed within the bowling crease instantly after the leap and simply earlier than launch, his knee would bend a lot. It was remnants from a recreation as a schoolboy cricketer. He had tried a back-of-hand slower ball in that match and ended up with a braced (straight) entrance leg and ache shot up from hips to the higher physique and gave him a scare. He continued with the bent entrance leg till he began to work with a coach Piet Botha.

What does braced (straight) entrance leg do?

A braced entrance leg transfers the momentum from the run-up to the bowling motion. It helps align the physique simply earlier than launch in order that it’s completely balanced to let rip the ball. In technical jargon, the reactionary floor forces kick in after the braced leg, and these forces switch from legs to hips, from hips to shoulder and from shoulder to the entrance arm to the ball.

The bent entrance leg touchdown doesn’t essentially all the time hinder tempo however it might want each different aspect within the motion to work completely to compensate. The younger Nortje was himself quick and the likes of Malcolm Marshall and Shaun Pollock had barely bent entrance legs.

What else did the braced entrance leg provide Nortje?

It not solely helped him go from quick to precise but it surely additionally gave him higher management and selection over different deliveries. Where beforehand he would predominantly tilt the ball in, this helped him swing the ball away from a right-hand batsman with none change in his motion.

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