A Roller Coaster Ride For Teams In The T20 WC 2024 (IANS Column)

Yajurvindra Singh

By: Yajurvindra Singh

Email: sunnybilkha@hotmail.com

June 14th 2024:

The European Cricket League: The wickets and weather have created a roller coaster ride for several of the teams in the T20 World Cup for them to qualify for the next league stage, “The Super 8”.

The wickets and weather have created a roller coaster ride for several of the teams in the T20 World Cup for them to qualify for the next league stage, “The Super 8”.

The playing conditions have been challenging, especially, the wicket in New York and surprisingly at a few of the venues in the West Indies. The T20 format has always been known to favour the batter. The rules and regulations are framed for that purpose through field restrictions during power plays.

The attraction for the spectators and viewers revolved around the mighty hits of sixes and fours, all to break away from the mundane and conventional form that Test cricket brought to the table.

The T20 format is the young child of the game, one where the players, coaches, analysts and cricket intellectuals try hard to understand and get a grip of the game. The 2 decades of playing it around the world through International and franchise-based matches did give one the impression that players have finally understood the best way to approach it.

Unfortunately, that is not to be in the 1st league phase of the T20 World Cup this year. The variable spongy bounce and uncertain pace of the dropped pitches, along with the slow sandy and larger outfields have brought the bowlers to the fore. Batters, one can say at this initial stage, have been battered by the bowlers. Survival at the wicket has become a batsman’s nightmare, each one uncertain about what shot to play.

One can understand the mental dilemma that a batter is going through as the strokes that one felt comfortable and confident to execute are now difficult to play. On the spot innovation and adaptation have become the mantra and even the best in the business like Virat Kohli, Babar Azam and Kane Williamson have failed to overcome it.

The pace bowlers are having a field day for a change and once more are in the limelight more than the batter is. The fast pace and volume of runs that one witnessed in the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year was what one felt would be the flow of things to emerge in the T20 World Cup.

The awesome 360-degree shot-making and the effortless hits into the stand were what would emerge. One felt sorry for the non-Test playing nations to be pitted against the mighty cricket sides that they were to encounter. The statistical analysts and connoisseurs of the game of cricket were all set to witness and write down a plethora of records, after all 50 per cent of the teams were just minnows of the cricketing world.

The uncertain conditions have brought a different charm to the World Cup. The gap and balance between the bigger cricket-playing nations and the smaller ones may have narrowed through the 20 overs contest, however, it further narrowed because of the unfamiliar and tricky conditions.

The United States of America’s cricket team has been a revelation to the cricket world. Being one of the host countries and one who may not have even qualified for the 20-nation invited list, has shown the uncertainty and beauty that makes cricket a truly enjoyable sport.

The US team infused the right tonic of things to come when they magnificently chased a total of 194 runs to beat Canada in the very 1st match of the tournament. Thereafter, they beat Pakistan to create a major upset and this resulted in a curious interest of the sport in their backyard.

Cricket made an initial dent into the minds of the financial powerhouse of the world. A perfect 10, to get people interested in the sport there especially before the Los Angeles Olympics to be held in 2028.

One never thought that an India versus US cricket match would have spice attached to it. The USA team had India in a spot of bother. It was the lack of experience and exposure of the US side that finally got India over the line. The 2 top batsmen of the Indian side, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma became mere spectators in the run chase having failed with the bat. The dreaded Jasprit Bumrah came through wicketless. A crucial dropped catch of Suryakumar Yadav and a 5-run penalty was what brought life into a nervous Indian side to finally win.

The US side deserves to qualify for the Super8 league stage and if they do so, it will be a great boost to all the smaller nations playing the game around the world.

Cricket was introduced by the British. The sport was initially played by them in the Empire that they ruled which was gradually emulated by the locals. These are the nations that have over time taken the sport to what it is today.

The European Cricket League has 36 or more countries playing the sport in a very competitive way.

Each one, like the US side, has players from cricket-playing nations many of them skillful to play the shorter format of the game internationally. Cricket is gradually spreading its wings around the world.

The US team will be a good example of cricket expanding into the far corners of the globe. Afghanistan have already made its mark and the way they are progressing could make them into a dangerous side for one to encounter. Scotland is another nation which could qualify for the Super 8 as well.

The last league stage would most likely be without New Zealand, Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan. This looks quite astonishing and unbelievable. However, it shows that cricket is transforming into a universal sport. A fantastic and pleasing sign for the game.

India have laboured into the final 8. From the top cricket-playing sides Australia have looked to be the best. South Africa and the West Indies have survived like India through sheer luck and grit.

The wickets and weather in the West Indies have shown that the calypso beat and swing is more for the bowlers than the batters. India’s hopes are on one man, the magical Jasprit Bumrah. He is the weapon that India needs to open the bowling with and India needs to keep the opponents guessing as to when his last 2 overs spell will be.

Predictability, is never a powerful weapon. Rohit Sharma and Rahul Dravid need to think out of the box or else they will not be able to encounter the roller coaster ride that this T20 World Cup in unleashing.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former India cricketer. The views expressed are personal.)

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