New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson is so sensationally good at the moment that parallels with cricket’s greatest players are inevitable. In his short career so far, Jamieson has started well, got better in the middle, and by the end of the World Test Championship (WTC) final against India, produced performances that have left one wide-eyed just watching it, full of ridiculously good deliveries.
Jamieson’s swing bowler bucket list was greeted with a befitting set of circumstances in the WTC final last month. Southampton: Conditions ripe for swing? Check; Dukes ball? Check; Green outfield to retain shine? Check; Batsmen with lack of practice in the above conditions? Check; arguably one of the world’s best slip-catching cordon? Check. The result was a Player of the Match award for a seven-wicket match haul including a five-for in the first innings.
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With 48 wickets in just eight Tests at an astonishing average of 14.17, Jamieson has, for now, made the transition from domestic cricket to the international arena look seamless. The Auckland-born seamer rose to the national limelight during his time with Canterbury, where, in a Super Smash Twenty20 (T20) match against Auckland in January 2019, he took 6 for 7 for the then joint third-best innings haul by a bowler in all T20s.
He moved back to Auckland in 2019-20, where his performances in domestic cricket eventually caught the eye of the national selectors. Jamieson made his international debut in February 2020 against India and picked his first five-wicket haul in the following Test. He complements a New Zealand bowling attack which comprises left-arm pacer Trent Boult, right-arm seamer Tim Southee, and the aggressive left-arm quick Neil Wagner.
Fine-tuning the basics
Plenty has been said and written about Jamieson’s transition from batsman to bowler. But Heinrich Malan, Jamieson’s coach at Auckland and New Zealand A, says “we didn’t reinvent the wheel around his bowling. We ensured he connected his action a little better to get the most out of his physical attributes (something behind the ball/bounce) and then discussed how we can make his stock ball (out-swinger to right-handers) more effective. Hence we worked on the in-swinger, which now has become a real weapon.”
Virat Kohli was at the receiving end of Jamieson’s craft in both innings of the WTC final. Jamieson got Kohli in the first innings when a series of outswingers was followed by a nip-backer for an lbw decision. In the second, after beating Kohli with his mastery of orthodox outswing and inswing, Jamieson dangled one outside the off-stump, which Kohli edged behind to wicketkeeper B. J. Watling.
Kyle Jamieson successfully appeals for a leg-before-wicket dismissal of Virat Kohli during the third day of the World Test Championship final. Jamieson outsmarted Kohli in both innings of the contest. – GETTY IMAGES
“The ability to generate extra bounce is key,” says Malan. “To pull batters forward and then get the ball to bounce from that fuller length is what makes him dangerous and very effective. Add his ability to swing the ball both ways at a decent pace, and it’s a bit of a perfect storm scenario where it all comes together.”
From batsman to bowler
Jamieson started as a batsman. But upon his graduation to Under-19 cricket, the 6ft 8in cricketer was encouraged to take up bowling by Dayle Hadlee, the former New Zealand U-19 coach. Malan says while Jamieson was a late starter from a bowling perspective throughout his school career, he has always bowled since making his first-class debut [Canterbury vs Wellington at Christchurch – October 2014]. “He [Jamieson] also had some injury issues to overcome throughout the early part of his professional career, which is normal for a player who is over 2m tall. Especially when you throw the rigours of bowling 40-50 overs per week into that mix while your body is still trying to work out how it’s going to cope with that sort of stress and loading.”
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That after only eight appearances, Jamieson is an automatic pick in New Zealand’s Test team is a testament to a bowler who has used his height, movement, and accuracy as the miracle magic potion. “His ability to swing the ball consistently (both ways) and control his length is what makes him threatening. Understanding the need to adapt and keep evolving depending on conditions and opposition is a constant awareness and finding ways to ensure those skills are polished is a key driver!”
Jamieson was handsomely rewarded for his exploits when in February this year, he became the highest-paid New Zealander at an Indian Premier League auction after Mike Hesson’s Royal Challengers signed him up for ₹15 crore. The all-rounder made 59 runs and picked nine wickets in seven matches before the IPL was suspended after an increase in coronavirus cases among players.
Malan says workload management is the ‘next piece’ of Jamieson’s development. “It’s always going to be a challenge in the modern era with so much cricket on offer. He is continually getting a better understanding of what his mind and body can tolerate as he plays more cricket throughout the year. It is part of his next development as a consistent international cricketer.
“He has always been very open and pushing to find ways to get better… That’s probably his best attribute, to be honest. Looking at different players around the world and what’s made them successful, understanding what that looks like from his skills and attributes perspective, and then working tirelessly to explore if that could work for him or not.
“Another big attribute of his is the desire to get better. He comes to training every day with real purpose, energy, and intensity. This has become part of his preparation which has now become part of what and how he goes about his work consistently – whether it’s training or playing.”