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A T20 template worth the risk | Cricket

As Rahul Dravid had pointed out during this World Cup, there is no one way to play T20 cricket. Each team has come up with the template they feel most comfortable with, taking into account the skills, strengths, pool and reputations to maintain. But as England now has an enviable legacy in white-ball cricket – finalists in the T20 World Cup 2016, winners of the ODI World Cup 2019, semi-finalists in the T20 World Cup 2021 and winner of this edition – their case must might be treated. for study in how to succeed in this format.

New Zealand could have been next to England if they weren’t able to find another gear in those crucial moments. But Asian teams like India and Pakistan have bigger issues to address, starting with the mentality. A good example is how Pakistan captain Babar Azam responded to a question about whether the top and middle batting order should be revised. “We have lost. That’s why you think we should change. But it’s too early,’ Azam said.

This reluctance to change has been a frustrating iteration for Asian teams, mostly because they don’t want to name the big names who don’t score consistently. But England has been pragmatic about it. Joe Root, their top Test batsman, last played a T20I in 2019. James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the most prolific fast bowling pair, can only play Tests. That’s how it is. And it also produces results.

It brings us to the most basic question: where do you draw the line between skill and method? The selection goes a long way in sorting this problem. And the West Indies were ironically the first team to get it right when they put together a team of freelancers and T20 specialists. Take the 2016 T20 World Cup final, for example, where Chris Gayle was the anchor cum enforcer in a line-up that also included Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Lendl Simmons, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Daren Sammy, Carlos Brathwaite, Denesh Ramdin, Samuel Badree, and Suliemann Benn.

Samuels was the only regular Test batsman at the time. Spinners Badree and Benn were horses for courses on a slow and low Eden Gardens track; Charles and Simmons were the only real hitters, but in Bravo, Russell, Sammy, Brathwaite and even Samuels West Indies had five real all-rounders. The long and short of that strategy is that they put seven bowlers and nine (including Ramdin) hitters in an eleven.

Given that Chris Jordan can bat, and he comes in at number 10, England resemble that West Indies team in terms of skill and strength. But the main difference is the method. Their white ball supremacy depends on matchups and data-based analysis, which is why they don’t hang onto personal landmarks. Emotion and ego play no part in this format. Adil Rashid didn’t take stacks of wickets and they’re fine as long as he brings home an economy of 6.12, with at least one left during the Powerplay. Also on point were Sam Curran (6.52 econ) and Ben Stokes (6.79 econ) who opened the bowling in both the semi-final and final. Between these three England have bowled 63 overs under seven runs per over. And in this format, the bowling economy outweighs wickets every day.

“As good as Stokes were, the strength of this England team is how many people contribute. That’s why they are a great team,” Sammy told the ICC in an interview after England’s victory. “Sam Curran has the ability to give the opponent the to shut up and take important wickets in the middle overs. Every time they look like they are building a partnership he comes on and takes some quick wickets. Credit must also go to Chris Jordan who came in for the big games and took important wickets.”

Performances can only start if the intention is good. And England had to go through many lows to reach this high point. This summer was a chastisement as they lost in the West Indies, India and South Africa. But England refused to take their eyes off the big picture.

“I think maybe the result was just as frustrating as the summer, I think I actually learned a lot in that period with the benefit of having a few months after that to think about things I probably would have done differently or what certain situations arose and how they made me feel and how I reacted to them,” Buttler said.

Go back to what India was doing all along. There was no real experimentation with the top three, just a wild guessing game involving Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik, while Suryakumar Yadav and Hardik Pandya held the bat at various times. Of course, the injuries to Jasprit Bumrah and Ravindra Jadeja were setbacks that India could not have foreseen, but backup planning was also poor. Batters like Virat Kohli can never be taken for granted, proved once again in the Pakistan game. England too have similar anchors in Stokes and Ali who can also play the big shots. But the rest – except Buttler to some extent – don’t believe in hanging out. Even if that occasionally leads to a collapse, England can handle it as long as the bigger tangible victories come their way.

So let’s go back to the mindset part of this conundrum. Hosting the biggest franchise competition, India boasts an enviable talent pool alongside the usual stars. There are some of the ball’s cleanest strikers and bowlers who know nothing but to hit the block hole. If India is not averse to taking those risks, they too could become what England is today.

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