When you bowl as inconsistently as the Indians did at However good a drainage system a ground may have, it has to first stop raining for a game to resume. But once the rain came down on Monday night at the Centurion, it never eased up for the match to resume. The shared points with Australia mean that India must first bank on Pakistan to beat the Aussies by a big margin and then they must literally blast the West Indies out. A tall order indeed!
What I liked about the Indian approach on Monday was the inclusion of the fifth bowler. That gives a team the opportunity to attack but did they attack enough is something I am not convinced about. The Indians should have put a lot more pressure. After all, in must-win games, chances have to be taken.
In fact, the Indians did take a risk by employing spin during the bowling powerplay and it did pay off as a wicket fell. Captains usually hesitate to use a spinner during the powerplay, so this was a welcome change.
As far as powerplays go, I am disappointed at the manner in which the batting powerplay has been taken by most teams. On Monday, the Australians were spot on. Michael Hussey, seeing that rain was due anytime, opted for the powerplay and made good use of the same with Cameron White for company. Otherwise, most batting teams have been waiting for the last 10 overs — even five — before taking the powerplay. I don't understand the logic there. Simply taking it because it's available is not done; it has to be used strategically. For example, should two spinners be doing well, the use of the powerplay by the batsmen in the middle may force the bowling captain to bring on his pacers, thus spoiling the rhythm of the bowlers. Basically two set batsmen — the operative word here is batsman as there is no point in waiting for the tail — must take it. Take the Sri Lanka vs New Zealand match. Jayawardene took it with Kulasekara for company, which could have defeated the purpose. Why wait for that long, especially as all are aware how a powerplay enhances the scoring, and which is why proper batsmen need to have a go at it.
Even against Kulasekara, the bowlers, by sheer force of habit, were forced to alter their normal length — the length that had got rid of the Lankan top-order — and try and send down yorkers only. Some of them were duly converted to half-volleys and dispatched.
Even in the India-Pakistan game, the Indians should have taken it the moment Yusuf Pathan walked in, if not earlier. By the time they opted for it, it was too late.
In fact, such delayed powerplays are defeating the purpose behind the move to bring in a third set of field restrictions. The ICC, having realised that spectator interest between the 15th and 40th overs was dwindling, brought in the batting powerplay. Perhaps they must now think of enforcing it before the end of the 40th over — that is make a ruling that it cannot be taken later than the 36th over in a 50-over game. In any case, the last 10 overs are always exciting.
Another thing that has happened because of the 20 overs of powerplay is that 300-plus totals have become the norm even on tracks that are not completely flat.
Here, what a side chasing must understand is that a minimum of 15-20 runs are due to the extra powerplay, which is almost a given to them too, and so they must think they are chasing only around 280 and thus put less pressure on themselves.