Wednesday, 10 October 2012

T20...A Specialist's game?

Recently concluded was the 4th edition of the T20 World Cup, but a lot has changed since the inaugural tournament in 2007. Back then, T20 was a relatively new format with most teams not really sure of what to expect. With India winning the 1st edition, it led to the creation of the IPL and with that the number of T20 matches being played has spiraled up. With 5 years of serious international T20 being played, it probably is a good time to analyze how the game has evolved, and see which players have had more impact than others.

With the advent of the IPL, there have been a lot of players who have made their name in domestic T20 games and have been fast tracked into their national sides. Keiron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Warner are some of the names which come into one’s mind immediately. They have performed exceptionally well in domestic leagues around the world, but let’s just have a look at who are the players who are the most successful at the international level.
Player Name Innings Runs Average Strike Rate
ML Hayden (Aus) 9 308 51.33 143.92
A Symonds (Aus) 11 337 48.14 169.34
CH Gayle (WI) 28 976 39.04 148.32
V Kohli (India) 14 463 38.58 129.32
MEK Hussey (Aus) 30 721 37.94 136.29
KP Pietersen (Eng) 36 1176 37.93 141.51
Misbah-ul-Haq (Pak) 34 788 37.52 110.2
BB McCullum (NZ) 53 1655 36.77 135.65
EJG Morgan (Eng) 30 758 36.09 131.59
JH Kallis (SA) 23 666 35.05 119.35
Table Showing List of Batsmen with highest averages in International T20 with minimum runs 300
Player Name Matches Wickets Economy Rate Strike Rate
DL Vettori (NZ) 33 37 5.61 20.7
BAW Mendis (SL) 26 51 5.85 11.6
Saeed Ajmal (Pak) 48 69 6.13 15.4
Shahid Afridi (Pak) 56 62 6.22 20.4
DW Steyn (SA) 28 37 6.36 16.2
GP Swann (Eng) 39 51 6.36 15.8
Harbhajan Singh (India) 25 22 6.36 24.5
J Botha (SA) 40 37 6.37 20.9
NL McCullum (NZ) 39 40 6.47 16.2
Abdur Razzak (Ban) 23 35 6.69 15.2
Table Showing List of Bowlers with Best economy rates (Minimum wickets taken 20)
One look at this list and you can realize that hardly any of the T20 specialists have topped the charts in either bowling or batting. The trend continues in this World Cup too. The leading run scorers and wicket takers apart from Luke Wright and Balaji are regular fixtures in the Test sides as well.  Having said this, we will have a look at the overall career stats of popular T20 players. By popular I mean players who have earned a place in their respective national sides through performances in domestic T20 games.
Player Name Innings Runs Average Strike Rate
Luke Wright 32 568 19.58 135.88
Keiron Pollard 26 409 18.68 146.07
Imran Nazir 24 500 21.73 135.13
Craig Kieswetter 25 526 21.91 111.91
Richard Levi 11 231 25.66 155.02

Looking at these stats, one can infer that they haven’t really been consistent. They have had their impact matches for which they have been brought in for, but largely they haven’t been able to put up a series of good scores.  I just had a glance at their first class performances and it’s nothing to write home about.

Maybe it has got to do something with their not so consistent performances in T20 as well. At the international level, they will find bowlers of the highest caliber and if they haven’t mastered the art of playing the long innings, they might be found wanting. There might be just 20 overs, it may not look like it’s a lot, but when you have quality bowlers at the top, sometimes it’s best to weather off the storm and capitalize in the end. It is best illustrated in the Super 8 group match between Australia and South Africa. Shane Watson saw off the initial testing overs of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and then went absolutely berserk.

Before T20 became popular there were a lot of players who were termed as ODI specialists such as Michael Bevan, Andrew Symonds, Ajay Jadeja, Nathan Bracken, etc. Having said so most of these successful players were always good at first class level and at a minimum were always under review for Test selections. Pollard, Levi, Kieswetter definitely do not belong to this category.

One might argue, after seeing Pollard’s knock against Australia in the semi-finals showing that he has the X-factor in him to win games. I don’t question his ability which is obvious to see, but does he have the temperament to play a long innings in T20? In the semis there were only 2-3 overs left when he came out to bat, he had only one way to bat at that stage, but if there comes a point where he comes in to bat as early as 6th or 7th over, will he be able to adjust accordingly?

Looking at the top bowlers in T20, other than Afridi, all are regulars in the Test team. It shows once again if you have learnt to get wickets in first class cricket, the chances of performing in the shortest format of the game also hold true.  Cricket is a simple game, and its best to keep it that way. Probably someone like Jade Dernbach should realize this, for all his variations he has got; he hasn’t been able to hit consistent lengths regularly which has resulted in not so satisfactory performances.

David Warner leads the next generation of cricketers who have started of playing T20 matches before first class games. He has been reasonably successful so far, though his weakness against spinners has been well documented. It will be interesting to see how the young brigade performs in the long run. Ravichandran Ashwin of India, probably their only specialist T20 bowler, rose to stardom after some stellar performances in the IPL. But one must not forget that he was a steady performer in first class cricket before making his name in the glitz and glamour of IPL.

Few years ago, it was said that if you are good enough to play Test cricket, you definitely can play T20. It looked like a joke then; but then looking at the way the game has progressed it is very much the reality. Exciting times ahead - it would be interesting to see if this trend continues.

Rohit Ramachandran PoduvalAbout Rohit Ramachandran Poduval
A Classical Leg Spinner, Writer and Software Engineer. Please feel free to add my to your circles. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook


mohan said...

I think a good test batsman can be a good t20 batsman but he need not necessarily be considered so by the public.For example,Kallis is a very good t20 player with an average of above 35 but his strike rate is measly compared to t20 specialists.The public perception abt a good t20 player is someone who can play big shots-by big shots i mean sixes only.Kallis n Sachin both have an average above 35 in T20's but they score most of their runs through fours rather than sixes and at lesser SR's than some t20 specialists n in layman's perception they r not considered great T20 players.So,the truth is most of the best t20 batsman r the best test players but they may not be considered so in a layman's view.

rohitrp2003 said...

Absolutely. Sometimes the public tends to get carried away with the big shots. A fine line must be made to identify which player can be given a long run just because he has the x-factor

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