Lockie Ferguson's On A Journey To A 'Puppy' Fast-bowling-nemesis > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more

Cricket news - Lockie Ferguson's journey from a 'young pup' to fast-bowling nemesis

Having overcome career-threatening injuries, Ferguson feels he's come a long way as a fast bowler

Opportunity is a word that stimulates hope, given its ability to open a small window to success. For Lockie Ferguson, the moment of opportunity came during a keenly-contested Test match between New Zealand and England at the Basin Reserve in March 2008.

Ferguson wasn't playing, of course - he was only 16. Instead, on the sidelines, he was one of 600 youngsters taking part in a fast bowling competition. The field had a handful of New Zealand cricketers - Jimmy Neesham, Ferguson and Ben Wheeler. Eventually, Neesham won the competition by clocking 133 km/h, while Ferguson came second with a best of 132 km/h. Despite not winning the competition, Ferguson had made everyone sit up and take notice of his potential.

"I was the young pup and he had a year of growth on me, and probably still has a year of growth on me," laughs the fast bowler in a conversation with Cricbuzz. "But it was a great competition because I didn't realise how quick I could bowl and then you compare yourself to other kids of the same age."

Raw pace has subsequently become Ferguson's trade, but fast bowling can be a thankless job given the stress it puts on the body. When a pace bowler jumps and thuds his front foot onto the crease with a force of around 15 times the entire body weight, the knees and ankles have a lot to carry. It is called 'ground reaction forces'. Torn ligaments, dodgy ankles, sore back, shoulder problems - injuries are part and parcel of a fast bowler's career.

Ferguson has had his share of them, including a career-threatening foot injury during the 2012-13 domestic season. "Obviously, all young fast bowlers, particularly ones who try to bowl as quick as they can like I was, tend to come across a lot of injuries. I had a stress fracture when I was 18, had a couple of torn out legs and hamstring pulls. But one of the worst I guess was my foot injury when I burst my joint capsule on my small toe and tore off my soft tissue on my foot.

"With that kind of injury normally they don't operate, they just let it heal, but they wanted to operate to make sure that it was cleaned up and then I could hopefully get back playing. The surgeon was pretty unsure whether I would actually be able to play again. Anyway, six months later surgery went well and all the rehab went well, so I managed to work back slowly and it has been pretty good until now."

A full recovery has allowed Ferguson to rise to the top of his game and explore new realms. He made his ODI debut against Australia at the end of 2016 - a "bittersweet" start as he cleaned up David Warner but then failed to finish his overs due to cramp - and was surprisingly picked up in the IPL auction for the 2017 season. Ferguson's expectations for the auction were so low that he went to bed, only to be woken in the early hours by a phone call when a bid came in from the Stephen Fleming-led Pune franchise.

"To be fair, I hadn't played a lot of T20 cricket then, because I had been playing a lot of first-class, one-dayers and sort of happened to miss T20 games," says Ferguson. "I could bowl quick, and I had a back-of-the-hand slower ball. It was pretty amazing, you surround yourself with the greats of world cricket - Faf du Plessis, Ben Stokes - guys you're bumping shoulders with everyday. The cool thing was you start to realise they are just normal blokes like myself; they are just exceptional cricketers."

Ferguson did not have any takers in the 2018 auction but was picked up by one of the marquee franchises in the league, Kolkata Knight Riders, for the forthcoming season. "I guess Kolkata was one of the first teams a lot of Kiwis supported because of Baz (McCullum) and the big ton he scored. Of course, I'm so excited to be a part of the Kolkata family and they are exactly that - a family, in the sense they texted me to say how excited they are for me to be part of the team. When you get texts like that it feels great, because when you turn up you feel you're already part of the team."

The shortest format of the game can be gruelling on the bowlers, with batsmen taking more and more risks. A batsman can look at exploring 360 degrees of a cricket field with shots behind and in front of the wicket, demanding the bowler develops a string of variations. Ferguson, the tearaway, opines about the challenges a bowler faces in the T20 version of the game and also the weapons up his sleeve to outsmart his opponent.

"It becomes fun when you're training quite a lot and trying to make it different and interesting each time by working on different slower balls. I do back my back-of- the-hand slower ball, I guess because it can be tough to pick up due to my fast arm action. If I can create a bit of hesitation with the batters then that hesitation can create a dot ball or even a wicket.

"Particularly in T20s when guys are looking to hit sixes and fours, if you create a little bit of hesitation then you can buy yourself a bit of room for error. I worked on slower balls, back-of-the-hand big time and then quite a lot of work on the yorker as well. So those two weapons I will be trying out along with my standard bouncer. India is a good place to play T20 cricket. I've actually played a reasonable amount of cricket there over my short career and I'm looking forward to being there again."

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