Gqeberha — A lot of work has gone into making Anrich Nortje the full package that we see in the Indian Premier League says former provincial coach, Piet Botha.
Time and again, Nortje has proved his quality as an all-format fast bowler.
Rarely injured, Nortje always delivers fast and does so accurately.
Mostly, fast bowlers have the ability to bowl fast from a very young age and in Nortje’s case, it was not different according to Botha, the now Proteas Test team’s bowling coach.
Botha worked with Nortje at Eastern Province cricket, right after Nortje finished matric, back when he had his sights set on breaking into franchise cricket.
At the time, Nortje had already made a name for himself as one for the future because of his natural ability to bowl fast.
“Some people just have that natural ability to bowl at a good pace, Anrich was one of those guys,” said Botha.
“It’s something that you’re born with. Not everybody has the physical attributes to do it. Anrich could certainly do it.”
What struck Botha the most about the young Nortje was his never die attitude.
The relentlessness the world witnesses frequently, especially in Test cricket, where Nortje just keeps running in even when things are not going well for the team, is something that he always embodied.
“On top of that he had a great attitude in terms of his bowling. He could handle things when it didn’t go his way. He didn’t get down on himself, he’d just come in harder and harder. That struck me and that’s how I remember his days in an EP shirt.
“Today, he’s doing wonderfully well in terms of his consistency, he’s bowling at high speeds all the time. Even in Test matches, he bowls at high speeds with an old ball and that’s what you want from your fast bowler.”
Pace alone does not work very well at the highest level, especially in the age of the Indian Premier League, where the margin for error is almost zero.
Bothasaid that Nortje had a lot to learn to become the full package that the world watches with excitement in the ongoing IPL where he is able to accurately bowl 145kph yorkers with ease.
Nortje needed to tighten up his technique to make him efficient, to allow him to have a long and injury free career.
“From there it was about fine tuning a few things to make sure that he could improve his pace and stay at his pace for a long period of time.
“To do that you have to be efficient in what you do, you can’t just do it with brute force, you have to do it with a method.
“We did a lot of technical work over a three-year period trying to make him more efficient because I remember the one thing he had in the beginning was a bent front leg and when you have that everything else starts to collapse, you start pushing the ball a bit more.
“As soon as he got that right, his speeds increased a little bit.”
Bowling fast is very taxing on the body and needs a fast bowler to live a balanced life, to live the life of a professional.
Nortje understood this concept from a young age and it has played a big role in elevating him to the top and keeping him there.
“He understood from the beginning what professionalism is about. That made my job a lot easy because for some bowlers you have to drill those type of things as well to make them understand what it takes to be a fast bowler who wants to bowl for 10 years.
“He was one of those guys who grasped it and now it's working out really well for him.”