The position offered to batsmen to excel at T20 cricket is slowly being threatened by bowlers. This is what’s happening at the T20 World Cup in India where the host nation is preparing spin-friendly pitches. India’s approach to the tournament has its pluses. The wicket helped them against Pakistan. However, it didn’t work against New Zealand.
India will call the shots in the World Cup given that they are the host and the clout they carry in the international cricket scene. But they should never forget that T20 cricket is about batsmen, fours and sixes. There is also the fact that there is too much cricket being played internationally. This is one reason why the cricket played at the T20 World Cup should be of quality.
Teams like Sri Lanka and Pakistan saw their batters being exposed when they couldn’t post scores beyond 122 and 118 against West Indies and India respectively. Bangladesh got 150 against Australia, but even that proved insufficient.
Batsmen like Virat Kholi, Chris Gayle and A.B. de Villiers have turned matches into exhibitions of batting marvels. Just the other day this writer read in an Indian newspaper where the question was posed as to who would top an aggregate of 400 runs among the following batsmen? This list goes: Kholi, Tamim Iqbal, Shoaib Malik, de Villiers, Gayle, David Warner, Joe Root and Colin Munro. The absence of anyone from the above list in the present T20 World Cup is sure to make a crowd jittery. This happened in the Sri Lanka-West Indies clash where a hamstring injury and tournament rules denied Gayle the opportunity to open the innings.
The crowd started booing. However, agitated moods simmered down thanks to Andre Fletcher showing amazing batting skills. This is the beauty of T20 cricket. It allows lesser known batters with potential to become match winners.
T20 cricket calls for the services of thinkers. India got its calculations wrong against New Zealand. Naming a team’s playing XI is so hard these days given that it’s difficult to predict what sort of a score is enough to defend. The best thing a team can do is get the bowling right.
India is never short of thinkers. This is a country that produced great politicians. A thinkers’ sport like Chess might not hog the limelight like cricket and rugby union. But right now it’s an Indian named Vishwanath Anand who has taken the 64-square board game by storm at the Candidates Chess Championships in Moscow. The Indian dismantled Levon Aronian (Armenia) and now shares the lead with Sergey Karjaker of Russia.
Coming back to the subject of batting, T20 organizers will do well if they allow the batters to entertain us. One Indian newspaper columnist has recently penned an interesting thought regarding T20 cricket. The columnist states that this form of cricket should be termed ‘sixes and fours’ that the word ‘T20’ might suggest for a moment that reference is made to a cough syrup.
Teams like Pakistan and Sri Lanka are vulnerable of not reaching the knockout stage. Both teams have lost crucial group stage matches. But New Zealand in comparison to them has forged ahead with smashing wins over India, Pakistan and Australia. Kiwi coach Mike Hesson has said that his team doesn’t think too far ahead of themselves. “Train well and prepare as best as we can,” is how Hesson spelt out his formula for success.
From a Sri Lankan perspective the team’s chances of remaining in the running hugely depends on passing Saturday’s match against England. Sri Lanka’s batsmen let them down in the team’s last match. England (5) is a better rated team when compared to the ‘Lions’ who are rated eighth in T20 cricket.
Sri Lanka needs to forget the Asia Cup in Bangladesh and apply themselves if they want to reach the knockout stages. It’s good to have a world class all-rounder like Mathews as captain. In the absence of stars like Sangakkara, Jayawardena and Malinga, Mathews will have to rise to the level of all-rounders in the likes of Ian Botham, Jaques Kallis, Kapil Dev, Imran Khan, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Flintoff, Carl Hooper and Shahid Afridi.
Sri Lanka badly needs a match-winning all-rounder unlike ever before!