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Giving a top tweak to unfettered hitting

india Updated: May 14, 2013 01:12 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times
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In a gripping match recently, Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir sent Yusuf Pathan to open against Chennai Super Kings at the Eden Gardens. It served two purposes – give Pathan a chance to exploit the fielding restrictions. Had he succeeded, it would have provided an explosive start.

When MS Dhoni's turn came, he promoted Ravichandran Ashwin to open. Ashwin's no mug with the bat. He has three first-class centuries and a Test hundred against West Indies.

A few days later, James Faulkner, a frontline fast bowler for Rajasthan Royals, was sent in at No 3. Neither Ashwin nor Faulkner succeeded, but a point was made - there's no end to pushing the limits, even in the shortest format.

Unorthodox pays
As Rahul Dravid showed in the match against Pune Warriors, orthodox shots too can make a great impact. But in an age when constant innovation has given us bold shots like the reverse sweep or walking across the stumps to scoop it over the 'keeper or fine-leg, there has been a clamour for novelty.

And nothing can surprise the opponent more than a re-jigged batting line-up where a lower order batsman comes in early. Parallels can be drawn to the phenomenon of pinch-hitting that emerged in the 90s. Mark Greatbatch was successfully converted into an attacking opener by New Zealand skipper Martin Crowe in the 1992 World Cup. But it was Romesh Kaluwitharana who refined the role with Sanath Jayasuriya in Sri Lanka's 1996 World Cup heist.

The idea of promoting non-specialists was, and still is, a defensive option in Tests where the nightwatchman helps calm nerves and a key batsman in fading light.

In one-day cricket, the tactics to launch an early attack, if it came off, put the bowlers off course.

Then the batsmen had 15 overs to exploit fielding restrictions. In T20, it's just six overs of Powerplay. Still those six overs are special.

And teams are now inclined to experiment. “Ashwin's role was to try and get us off to a quick start, look to take advantage of the first six overs and he had a licence to tee off,” CSK's Michael Hussey said.

Owais Shah, in whose place Faulkner batted at No 3, also admitted Royals were banking on the fact that little was known about Faulkner's batting.

The tactic of opening the bowling with a spinner is established. A similar batting strategy is yet to go viral. One blitz of an innings could change that.