Nov 4th, 2022: The win against Pakistan in the very first match of the T20 World Cup 2022 has truly transformed the mental approach of the Indian side. The team looks mentally confident and strong, even though they did face a defeat against South Africa. But the way the Indian team fought to protect a low total of 133 runs in that match was heartening to see. They were like a unit who did not believe in losing, and this is why one feels that this World Cup is one in which India will be the team to beat.
The only glitch at present in the Indian armoury is the batting form of their captain, Rohit Sharma. The class player that he is, it is only time when he too will flourish. India have three of their four top-order batters amongst runs and that is a huge confidence-builder for them.
Virat Kohli is back in the limelight with three half-centuries under his belt. The most important part of his success is the controlling role that he can play in the build-up to the team’s total. He is now like a master conductor who can orchestrate the Indian batting innings.
Fortunately for India, the lead batting star in T20 cricket, is their versatile and innovative batter, Suryakumar Yadav. He looks like a player who has mastered the skills of T20 batting.
The Australian wickets and conditions seem to suit the Indian pace attack. Arshdeep Singh, the latest of the shining left-arm Indian seam bowler, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami along with Hardik Pandya are all bowling with pace and vigour. The spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel, are struggling to keep batters at bay. However, as the cold atmosphere and rain abates, the wickets will become drier.
This is when the spinners will come into play and this, one feels, would be at the business end of the tournament. The Indian team’s issue then will be to select the best option amongst them. The time has come for India to try out leg spinner Yuzvendra Chahal, who, one knows, is a canny bowler and one who has delivered in the past.
The biggest dilemma that India face is whether to continue with Dinesh Karthik or play the flamboyant Rishabh Pant. The latter has been a success story in India’s historical Test win, when they were in Australia two years ago. One would have expected him to be in the final line-up, especially as he seemed to relish the playing conditions Down Under.
The T20 World Cup 2022 has captured the impatient cricket followers like never before. The uncertainties, fluctuations of the outcome and close finishes that one has witnessed till now has made cricket viewing an exciting, enthralling and wonderful experience. The shortest format of the game of cricket has captured the hearts of the cricket lovers, and one is worried as to how it will impact Test and One-Day International matches in the future.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) has been identified as the second-most valuable sports property in the world. This does prove that it is the most commercially lucrative version of cricket. Finally, it is what the public wants to see that is important. Cricket without spectators for cricketers is uninspiring and the spectator ban during the Covid-19 pandemic truly amplified it. Players felt a hollow while playing, as most sportspersons need the roar of the crowd to get their adrenalin pumping.
Predicting a winner seems an impossible task as all the teams have had a loss at the league stage itself. The World Cup is turning out to be one in which the last-four teams may be decided on the net run-rate.
The beauty of T20 cricket is that the pace of acceleration and accumulation of runs has to be maintained even if a side has lost wickets. A few hefty blows for six, which seems so easily accomplished by even the unrecognised batsmen, and high-scoring overs can turn the tables of the game very quickly.
Fielding and especially catching seems to be an area which many sides have failed to do well in. The night sky and the pressure of the situation has made even the best of fielders falter. One has not seen much improvement in the area of fielding as one has witnessed in batting or bowling. Fielders are struggling to find the ideal place to stand in the deep, while fielding.
This is where technology, one feels, has not been fully utilised. One can measure speed, a throwing arm, flexibility, strength and movements of individuals through sensors and GPS attachments. Cricket players, like other sportspersons, have these gizmos on them and are monitored during practice. However, one does not seem to see any impact during a match.
The knowledge of the outfield, the slopes, contours, distances are all now known and well documented. Placing the right fielders in the ideal positions has become an important aspect that has been missed by most sides.
The contest in T20 matches between teams is getting to be closer and closer. Runs have become a precious commodity that requires one to save each one of them.
Fielding will be the differential factor between teams at the end. The one who realises the importance of understanding the cricket battlefield and placing players astutely on the field will come out the winner.
“A run saved is a run gained” and “Catches do win matches” are two appropriate phrases that will decide the outcome.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)