Image courtesy of Cricinfo
Just watched the last half of India’s batting in the Ind NZ T20 encounter.
Was amazed by how the Kiwis were able to choke off the strong Indian batting line-up with what is a relatively ordinary bowling attack.
A lot of folks criticize the Indian batsmen for lack of performance in crucial matches. Fact is, a lot of these batsmen have amazing skills. The primary reason these folks fail in matches against the top teams is that they lack the tactical nous. They often show a sad indifference towards the mood of the game (read my earlier post here to understand what I am talking about). A lot of these batsmen often fail to read the texture of the game.
The Kiwis realized very early in the game that they were not going to stop India with their attack. The next best way was to choke of those runs.
Twenty20 is all about the big hits.Batsmen are forever looking for that four or six that will give them salvation. But the bread-and-butter for a batsman in this format are the two’s.
With fielding captains posting sweepers on the offside (deep cover, deep third man, long off) and employing slow, back-of-the-length bowlers, batsmen have been going lustily at the ball, attempting to generate their own pace, trying to beat the field. The sweepers mean the fours are cut-off. That leaves two options for the batsmen: run hard and convert one’s to two’s and two’s to three’s; or try and go over the boundary.
The display from the Kiwis today was a masterclass on how to exploit these choices that the batsmen make. The following was more or less the field that Daniel Vettori set for most of his slow bowlers today:
(pardon my drawing skills !)
This is a slow bowler bowling to a right-hander. Typical, slow, off-stump, back-of-length stuff. What does the batsman do with this offering ? Go hard at it, that’s what. The only open area in the deep is third man and fine-leg. Without the bowler providing pace on the ball, the batsmen have to resort to sweeps and reverse-sweeps to exploit these gaps; low-percentage shots, again.
Now, the Kiwis have an advantage in this game. They have brilliant outfielders. These guys anticipate well, cover ground fast, slide and make a clean stop, and make a fast, accurate, flat throw; all this in a jiffy.
Result ? What would normally have been a two, is now just a lousy single.
Now, the batsman is in a fix. Run-a-ball is not going to take them anywhere. So, they need to go for the six, go over those out-fielders. Hitting the six on the offside with no pace on the ball is tough. The only option left is to drag the ball from off towards deep-mid-wicket.
Good chance that it will be mistimed or simply a top-edge, no ?
Strangely, Shane Bond is a huge misfit in this Kiwi strategy. He bowls fast, and often provides width to the batsmen. I personally think he is highly over-rated.
I was disappointed that India lost. More than that, however, I was disappointed that these folks were not able to counter the strategy from the Kiwis. Hitting the ball harder or running faster between the wickets is not the solution. You have to play to your strengths, and, more importantly, make the opposition change their strategy.
The Indians could have tried chipping the ball, or hitting it a little slower to make the out-fielders run in and hence give them the time to run two’s. (you can slide sideways and throw without getting off-balance. You cannot slide forward; there is a good chance that you have to throw off-balance when you are running in).