T20 is entertainment

  Twenty-20, or T20 as it is called in cricket lingo, started off mesmerizing the whole world after the IPL season and definitely is meeting its objective of more inclusion from all rungs of the society.  It is equivalent of baseball played in USA from a time format perspective and started getting more followers in women (wives, daughters, mothers) and many 9 to 5 professionals who started unwinding over a T20 game in the evening, either at home or in the stadium.  I have been following this game for the past 10 years or so, and am a self-professed addict and I would like share what I experience – great cricket players may concur with some but not with all, but thought I would express what I have observed till date:

  • T20 is all about entertainment.  It is more batters friendly and bowlers unfriendly. People have come to see lots of sixes and fours, and this is what they enjoy and this is what they usually get.   Spectators come to see certain players and to support their team and have fun.
  • T20 game is mostly a factor of the pitch on that day, the weather conditions (rain or heat), Dew factor, size of the ground, and above all, how the player feels about himself on that particular outing.
  • T20 is about being a Glenn McGrath type of bowler.   Bowling a tight line and length and not wavering is critical. If you are able to do this consistently, the batters get annoyed and start committing unforced errors. A pacer with more yorkers, especially during the death overs, is the one that wins the battle (Ex. Malinga).
  • T20 has made fielding gain importance in all three formats now. The amount of runs saved by good fielding can be anywhere between 5 and 20 and this can make a difference between a win and a loss. Amazing catches and run outs do happen in T20, and they are worth to watch and do make a big difference in momentum of the game.  An agile fielding unit is an asset to any team.
  • SPIN saw a resurgence in all formats with T20.  There were several Doubting Thomases’ that thought spin would be useless in T20 format but everyone has got this wrong.   In fact, more times you see pacers getting hit than spinners in T20 and it is not unusual nowadays to see spin opening the attack in both the limited overs format
  • Again, AGE is not a factor in T20 surprisingly.  You can see lots of late thirties players playing some great cricket and enjoying their T20 game, even after their retirement from the other two formats.
  • A low scoring game that is usually run-a-ball or lesser can turn out to be pretty exciting as I have observed the chase to be tough as well. It was a low-scoring game for a reason and most likely the conditions are good for bowling.  The pitch is offering some bounce or swing or is madly spinning.
  • At the same time, a huge scoring game of 200+ runs can also be tricky.  Again, the chasing team usually comes close and many a times even win. The turning point in chasing a huge total was that epic 430 run chase by South Africa against Australia in a 50 over match that turned the tables in both the limited over formats.  The logic is simple – if the team batting first hits 200+, so can the team batting second.  The pitch is all batting friendly and nothing at all for the bowlers.  Most of these high scoring matches happen at smaller grounds.
  • During the Powerplay overs – the first six, if the team managed to hit fifty for the loss of no or one wicket (at 8 runs an over), they are placed well to hit a decent score to defend or chase– usually in the 170-190 range.  During these 6 overs, the conditions are totally batters friendly and rarely bowling friendly unless the pitch is doing something for them. A 170 plus score is usually a respectable score to defend under any condition.
  • During the middle overs of 7 to 14, if the team averages 6+ runs, and they have not lost more than couple of wickets, again, they are placed for a respectful score of 170 to 180 runs. The bowlers need to do their best in these overs to contain the batters and not allow them to settle.
  • If the team has managed to score 100 for the loss of 2 or 3 wickets in 13 overs, they are usually placed to hit 160 to 180 runs overall.   What the team hits in the first 12 overs for the loss of 2 or 3 wickets, it is safe to say they can hit the same score in the last 8 overs provided they don’t lose too many wickets.
  • It is not the death overs of 19th or 20th over that gets smashed around, but rather the overs 16 to 18.  So, one need to use their best bowlers for these three overs.  These three overs usually is the difference between win and loss. If you need to hit 27 runs or so in the last three overs or 18 runs in the last two overs or 10 runs in the last over, it is usually the chaser’s advantage as they can achieve it if they are even down 5 or 6 wickets. The tail (position 9 to 11) can wag and give support if needed.
  • A team with batting strength till position 9 can have a great outing almost always.
  • The so called finishers do have the ability to hit 10 to 12 runs an over on an average during the last five overs.  More the merrier. These are usually the batters who come between positions 5 and 7.
  • If the game becomes one sided at any given point, the spectators both at home and in the stadium do not show that much interest. It is important though in T20 to come close to any score while chasing and never give up the fight – winning and losing is secondary.  This is still obviously seen if any test team plays a minnow or an associated team, although I see lots of improvement in many of these teams in the past 3-4 years.
  • As in all formats, as long as you hold on to wickets, you can hit a respectable score.  Wickets are key, and if they keep falling at regular intervals, then only a sub-par score is in the offing.
  • Finally , it is not about prior statistics or records – one any given day, provided both teams have a good strength and no injuries to main players, any of the top 8 test playing teams can win over the other team in a T20. It is more predictable in Tests and limited overs but not in T20 which makes it more exciting.   If it is a rain affected match with shorter overs to play than 20, definitely it is anybody’s game.

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