T20 is clearly a new format and the strategies and theories that apply to other forms of the game don’t really belong here. In other words, there are no experts. With the IPL well underway the initial set of matches has shown a number of trends. The jury is still out on whether these trends signify long term patterns, but here are a few observations on what seems to work/not work in this new form of cricket.
Prolonged Stay At The Wicket Without A Healthy Run-rate Doesn’t Help
In 50 over ODIs, staying at the wicket almost always helps because acceleration at the end is possible for several reasons – the field team tires out, the batsmen are well set and seeing the ball well, the mindset is to contain runs rather than to take wickets etc. In T20 on the other hand, staying at the wicket in the hope that a burst at the end would be possible almost never works. This is especially true when batting second. Staying at the crease builds the pressure until sooner or later the batsmen launches one into orbit only to be caught on the boundary. Rahul Dravid’s innings against Delhi and Saurav Ganguly’s innings against Punjab, both being perfect examples of this failed strategy. Sustained consistent scoring is the order of the hour for T20. From the batting teams perspective any thing less than 7 runs in any over at any stage is bad.
Big Hitters Are Key
This might seem obvious. But the true impact of big hitting in T20 hadn’t been fully recognized until the IPL got underway. Matthew Hayden, MS Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Andrew Symonds, Mark Boucher, Adam Gilchrist, Virender Sehwag are examples of explosive hitters who had impressive success. Clearly, T20 is the format most suited to big hitters. A quick 20 runs in a handful of deliveries can make all the difference. A big-hitter is a better bet than a stylish technically sound batsmen, all else being equal. Bangalore is struggling because it has no big hitters (barring Taylor and Boucher). Besides, abandoning ones natural style and adjusting to T20 is next to impossible .
Its Best to Lead With Your Best Strikers
The initial 10 overs (when the field restrictions are in place in the first 6) is the best time to launch the best stroke players. No team has batted at a slow run-rate in the first 10 overs and made a big score by making up for it in the second half. Based on the ODI legacy several teams have opened with Dravid, Jaffer, Ganguly, VVS and others and have met with little success. On the other hand Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, McCullum have at least one explosive match winning innings each all of which started right at top of the innings. In T20 there is no such thing as “later”. Its all about how much one can score now. Saving your best strikers for the end is unlikely to help. Even if they succeed it could end up as too little too late. Abhishek Nayar batting so low in the order might be one reason the Mumbai team has been struggling so badly. Likewise, Bangalore has three huge overheads upfront in the batting order in Rahul Dravid, Wasim Jaffer and Jacque Kallis while Mark Boucher comes in often too late.
Spinners Can More Than Survive
Shane Warne’s has shown that a clever spinner can be a force in T20. Anil Kumble too did the same in his only outing. Muralitharan has put up a decent show as well. Piyush Chawla has shown shades of brilliance too. The more junior spinners have had limited success.
Without a doubt, experience counts when it comes to bowling in T20. The best bowling performances have come from the likes of McGrath, Warne, Murali Karthik and Jayasuriya. In a batsmen dominated game, bowlers can count, provided they have the experience to bowl with guile and control.
Experience and Traditional Good Batting Technique Doesn’t Really Help
Classical test players like Rahul Dravid, Jacque Kallis and Wasim Jaffer have no role in this form of the game. Likewise, Saurav Ganguly and VVS also fall into this category (not to mention their lack of agility as fielders). The short duration of these matches means that batsmen have to strike the ball from the get-go. There is no room to settle down. Observe how Matthew Hayden handled Pollock while Rahul Dravid almost gave him two maidens in a row. The ability to strike the ball fearlessly in the most unconventional ways and run hurriedly between wickets counts far more than traditional technique. In fact, traditional good technique almost always comes in the way of innovative stroke play. Not playing Misbah (who is known for his fighting spirit and creative stroke play) in the Bangalore team is a terrible mistake.
Cheer-leaders Just Don’t Fit In
Scantily clad women dancing to local filmy numbers simply doesn’t fit in to the T20. In fact, it makes a further mockery of an already highly packaged event. Delhi has already dumped this needless distraction. It won’t be in the least bit surprising of the other teams followed suit before the IPL winds to an end. I am surprised that women’s groups in India haven’t protested as yet.