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India, finally, gets the T20 thought process right


India’s T20 teams have approached the game conservatively over the years, particularly with their batting.

The safety-first approach of keeping wickets for the last five-to-seven overs of a 20-over innings cost them aplenty over the past decade, like in the 2016 WT20 semifinals: the conservative start with Ajinkya Rahane’s 40 off 35 balls cost India a precious 15-to-20 extra runs.

A scoreline of 192/2 in 20 overs, though a great outcome, shows that the batting unit did not use their resources fully. The big score proved inadequate against the marauding West Indies.

After denying themselves for so many years, India conceded that batting power play restrictions need to be used to score quick runs.

For folks who watched Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Sourav Ganguly go after the bowlers in the first 15 overs of an ODI, the approach of the Indian white-ball teams to play conservatively in the first power play was inexplicable.

This approach stemmed from the belief that one of the top three should bat right to the end of the innings. India now understands that T20 is not a 400m race but a 4 x 100m relay dash. Indian batters have understood that their strike rate is more critical than their averages.

What is the Indian blueprint for T20 batting?

Indian batters will bat aggressively during every over of the innings. They have designated hitters for different sections of the innings so that each batter can maximise their scoring opportunities. In other words, the team would aim for a score of 200 for 8 rather than 180 for 2 in 20 overs.

The top three will no longer be the anchors looking to bat through the innings. Instead, they are now the designated hitters during the first power play.

Rishabh Pant, the designated hitter in the first six overs, can hit boundaries freely. With a spread-out field in the middle overs, Pant, who is a boundary hitter, has often struggled to push the scoring rate. The move to the top of the order gives a new lease of life to Rishabh’s T20 career.

Rohit Sharma can score quick runs during any phase of the innings. Rohit’s approach in the first two T20s against England has shown that he is happy making a rapid-fire 30 off 15 rather than aiming to make 100 off 70 balls.

In this new set-up, Virat Kohli finds himself woefully out of touch. That across-the-line shot that Virat played to get out in the second T20 shows that he needs some time off to prepare his game plan.

One is also unsure if he has the game to adjust to the new strike rate-based batting approach than the erstwhile average-based approach. In the current form and mental make-up, Virat does not seem to fit this Indian T20 team.

Virat Kohli.

(Photo by Surjeet Yadav/Getty Images)

The batters 4, 5 and 6 are the designated hitters for the overs 7 to 15.

The current lot of Surya Kumar Yadav, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja are ideally suited for this role. They play spin bowling exceptionally well and can keep the momentum going from the power play hitters. If KL Rahul must come back into the team, he has to play in this part of the innings.

Dinesh Karthik is the designated finisher for overs 16 to 20.

At least in IPL, Karthik has shown that he can be a brilliant finisher scoring at rates higher than 200. He did show glimpses of good form in the home T20 games for India. India will look to batters 7 and 8 to provide the finishing touches to the innings.

As we saw in the second T20 at Edgbaston, when the team lost quick wickets, the batters adjusted their game plan for a short while before returning to their designated roles.

The above blueprint provides clear roles and responsibilities for each position. Rather than trying to fit a player to a position, the coaches can look for batters suited for each position. Additionally, the batters outside the playing XI can design their batting style according to the role they can play.

What is the blueprint for T20 bowling?

India’s second problem in earlier T20 games was their inability to pick wickets in the bowling power play.

Swing bowlers to lead the bowling power play

The bugbear of T20 hitters is swing. T20 pitches typically lack grass, so seam movement is out of the game. So, India has looked to Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh, who can swing the new ball, to lead the bowling power play.

The swing bowlers have delivered key wickets during the power play, denying opponents any momentum. In addition, the Indian captain now has the option to keep Jasprit Bumrah for the last 10 overs of the innings.

Jasprit Bumrah celebrates a wicket

(Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

A good turner of the ball for the middle overs

Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal, during their ‘KulCha’ phase of 2018-19, showed the value of wicket-taking spin bowlers to stop batters in the middle overs. Even though the KulCha phase has ended, Chahal has continued his excellent work for the team.

India will look to develop Kuldeep and other spinners to provide backup for Chahal.

All-rounders to share the bowling during the middle overs

India’s new game plan for the middle overs revolves around having high-quality all-rounders like Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. As this species is highly endangered in the Indian set-up, India’s success depends on these two vital cogs remaining soundly in place.

A good bowling allrounder, like Harshal Patel, completes the bowling unit.

What can go wrong?

As the seam bowling and batting all-rounder, Hardik Pandya is the most crucial cog in India’s plans for the T20 World Cup in Australia. If Pandya’s injury troubles resurface, his absence will push India to the back foot, and the team will have to compromise on their approach.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s effectiveness during the power play is highly dependent on the swing. If Kumar cannot swing, his medium pace at 125kmph will be cannon fodder for the opponents.

From the batting point of view, India’s lower order (8,9,10,11) are inadequate batters. Teams following a high-risk batting approach depend on their lower order to provide a cushion if the top order fails. India does not have that luxury.

In conclusion, the new approach for India is the right one to give the team a chance to win the T20 World title. As with any strategy, there are downsides to it for which the team must keep ready a mitigation plan.

The summer of 2022 is heating up with Bazball and Jamball.





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