Three minutes and 59.4 seconds before Roger Bannister’s fateful run one May morning in 1954, it was almost an established fact that humans couldn’t run a sub-four minute mile. However, as Bannister clearly illustrated, in sport, impossible is nothing.
Ahead of the 2011 World Cup, the 450-run barrier is a metaphorical sub-four minute mile for many of this generation’s T20-fuelled willow wielders. Will the mark fall on the batsman’s paradise that is the sub-continent?
All indications point to it happening in this edition. Tracks where the ball will sit up nicely, will benefit the batsman, as will the presence of three powerplays in which fielding restrictions will be on. However, the most important factor could be the rise of T20 cricket. Still in its formative stages when the last ODI World Cup was played, T20 cricket has carved an identity of its own. In doing so, it has also left an indelible mark in the way the ODI game is played.
The Pitch factor
Tracks in the sub-continent have generally aided strokeplayers, and PCA Stadium Mohali curator Daljit Singh feels it will be a good World Cup for batsmen. “Tracks at Nagpur, Gwalior, Chennai, Mohali and the Premadasa (in Colombo) will be good for batsmen,” he told HT. He also gave the thumbs up to the Wankhede, Eden Gardens and Feroze Shah Kotla. “ICC guidelines state that all pitches must be kept free for a month prior to the tournament. However, many stadiums had prior commitments. We could see some worn-out pitches in this edition. I expect three tracks, in Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata, which haven’t seen any action for months to play the truest.”
Former India opener Kris Srikkanth did not want to predict but was sure that batsmen will have a good time in the sub-continent. “The pitches will be conducive to strokeplay. Batsman can go for their shots,” he told HT.
Playing with power
Since the advent of the batting powerplay a common trend has been plundering runs in the five-over periods. When teams breach the 400-run mark, the batting powerplay has mostly been utilised between the 35th and 40th overs. Using it just before the last 10 overs, the traditional slog overs, provides the team with an ideal launch pad for the final push.
The T20 effect
With the growing popularity of T20 cricket, more batsmen are working on unconventional strokes, and the shortest format has given them a license to thrill. “The influence of T20s is starting to show, and batsmen now play with more freedom. With hitters, that’s the key — they have to be given the freedom to go for their shots,” Herschelle Gibbs told HT.
Gibbs, who struck a majestic 175 when South Africa chased down a record 434-run target, says to break the 450-run mark, the batsmen must go for their shots from the outset. “Getting a big score like that (438), you need to back yourself from the start. Luck plays a part, and if it’s your day, even mishits go over the boundary.”