The popular perception is that T20 is a young man’s game, and while there might be a fair amount of truth to it, there have been enough indications that there is a role for experience, and that the so-called golden oldies too have a massive part to play.
The way I look at it is that within every franchise, there is a three-tiered structure in place. The first tier consists of the very experienced players, some of whom have retired and a few of whom are in the final stages of their international careers. This group will include the likes of Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Muttiah Muralitharan, Adam Gilchrist, David Hussey, Mike Hussey, Rahul Dravid, Brad Hodge and Brett Lee.
The second group is the semi-seniors, the Dhonis, Kohlis, Karthiks, Rohit Sharmas, Yuvrajs and Rainas. Then, there is the third band, fresh-faced newcomers who are just breaking into cricket of a higher grade — Manpreet Juneja, Jasprit Bumrah, Manan Vohra, Mayank Agarwal, Hanuma Vihari.
And, of course, there is the special category of players who are experienced enough to be in the first group, but who are sort of floaters in the second group as well — Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and, needless to mention, Chris Gayle. These are the impact players, men who can win matches single-handedly, time after time.
The way I see it is that the onus is on the second group to deliver the goods consistently, with help from the first and the occasional contribution from the third bunch. It will be unrealistic to expect the youngsters to deliver in every match, or even in every second game.
We might see a brilliant performance from a newcomer perhaps every fifth match or so, which is not a bad ratio given that many of them are still finding their feet in an environment they have never encountered in their cricketing lives.
The second group provides the thrust and emphasis. They are the ones who carry the maximum pressure of expectations because while they are experienced enough to have grasped the nuances of T20, they aren’t old enough to be constrained by their own experiences growing up in the pre-T20 era. They are the engine room of the team, the fulcrum around which fortunes revolve, and that has again been established this season with Kohli, Karthik, Rohit, Dhoni and Jadeja all making their presence felt.
While the real force might come from the second batch, it’s the first set that gives direction and stability. You can afford to play them in the side, no matter what the situation. Their performance might not always be telling, but their mere presence and composure they bring with them will make a massive difference. They also are founts of calmness under pressure and in tight situations, their ability to remain focused and keep the bunch together is a virtue that can never be exaggerated.
Kallis, Gayle and de Villiers find themselves in unique territory. They are a class unto themselves, and they have the expertise to keep delivering more often than not.
It is impossible for them to perform game after game, but given their skills and aptitude, they will succeed more often than they will fail, which is an asset every team will be desperate to possess.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore can count themselves fortunate that they have not one, but two such assets to fall back on.
The writer is former India pacer