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Force over grace: Why Team India should fear T-20 cricket

India’s hockey team was reduced to playing a catching up game once astro-turf was introduced. Is history going to repeat itself?

columns Updated: Apr 19, 2016 11:02 IST
Pradeep Magazine
T20 cricket
Virat Kohli (L) is all stroke play and sweet timing, skills in sharp contrast to the brute force needed in T20. (Vipin Kumar/ HT file photo)

The theory I am going to present here is not going to paint the future of India’s T-20 cricket in laudatory terms. On the contrary, I fear that the advent of T-20 cricket and the primacy it places on brute power more than sweet timing, could well spell doom for India’s prospects in this format. It could well be the astro-turf moment for Indian cricket.

In hockey, India, the artful dodgers, the skillful dribblers of the ball, were reduced to playing a catching up game once astro-turf was introduced. This comparison with the Indian cricket team may not be fair, as India have never dominated the cricket world, like it once did in the hockey field, but has been introduced for its shock value so that the point I am making has an immediate impact.

The reasoning I present here has nothing to do with any criticism of the Indian Premier League, nor of the format itself.

Just make a random survey of the best T-20 players of the world and of batsmen who may not have made huge runs but impacted the results: the images that surface would be of men with rippling muscles, broad shoulders, and big frames with the power to pulp the ball into smithereens or to send it soaring into the orbit. The Chris Gayles, Darren Sammys, Charles Brathwaites, MS Dhonis, David Warners, Shane Watsons, David Millers far outnumber the Virat Kohlis, AB de Villiers, Joe Roots of the T-20 world.

Where does West Indies get its strength from? Not just from Gayle at the top, but the unending number of late order and even the tail which is populated with massive hitters of such brute power that no chase, howsoever impossible it may appear, is beyond them.

Most teams with lesser abilities have players at the top and more importantly in the lower order, who can take the game away from you in a matter of just a few balls with the power and force of their hitting that has more to do with their strength than skill and timing alone.

A Kohli can compensate for his lack of big-hitting with great timing, ability to pierce the gaps in the field at will, aided by a resorvoir of speed and stamina which would do a sprinter proud. But not everyone is blessed with a combination of these skills.

The Indian team has always relied on batsmen with subtle skills of perfect timing and wristy stroke-play and not on players who have the training and build of a boxer. It lacks players and all-rounders who can transform the game, especially in the end overs where a few massive hits in one over can turn the game upside down.

It might be very difficult for India to find these ‘range-hitters’, given that an average Indian player is neither big built, nor does he rely on brute force to strike the ball as is evident from the ongoing IPL which showcases the best India has to offer. Unless things change in future, a probability given that this format is still evolving, there is a reason to fear that India could be muscled out in T-20 cricket.

(The views expressed are personal. The author tweets as @pradeepmagazine)