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HindustanTimes Wed,20 Aug 2014
Batting and captaincy can help India buck the trend
Ian Chappell, Hindustan Times
April 06, 2014
First Published: 00:07 IST(6/4/2014)
Last Updated: 00:10 IST(6/4/2014)
MS Dhoni (R) greets Virat Kohli (L) after India won the ICC World Twenty20 match against South Africa at the Sher-e-Bangla National Cricket Stadium in Dhaka. (AFP Photo)

If indeed it's true that third time is lucky then Sri Lanka are due to win the World T20 final. In fact, there's a good case for arguing that Sri Lanka have been the best side over the five World T20 editions played so far. They've made four semi-finals, equal best with Pakistan, and this is their third final, more than any other side. However, they haven't yet won a final and India will be desperate to make sure that remains the case.

India are currently one for one in finals, and what a win it was in South Africa! Not only did it bring great joy to the people of India but it changed the course of cricket history. That thrilling win over Pakistan electrified a nation that was ambivalent when it came to T20 cricket. This change of heart ensured the enormous success of the first IPL season.

Game changer
The wealth and publicity that the IPL has brought the players has totally altered the balance of power in the game and resulted in an explosion of T20 leagues. These sweeping changes were like a tornado when compared with the simple rain squall that hit the One-Day game following India's unexpected World Cup win in 1983.

In somewhat of a surprise in a format dominated by power hitting, three sub-continent teams have been the most successful. Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India have led the way in World T20s and whilst the last two [in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh] have been played in familiar surroundings, these teams have also excelled in conditions as varied as South Africa, the West Indies and the UK.

Another major surprise has been the success of spinners. The demise of the spinner was widely predicted when T20 first became popular but it seems that reports of their extinction have been exaggerated. Why are spinners having such great success, not only in Bangladesh but also in other major T20 tournaments?

It could be because spinners are more accustomed to employing outfielders to buy wickets via catches in the deep trap. In other words, a spinner is still thinking about taking wickets even when the field is spread, while in that mode, the faster bowlers tend to think more about containment.

Easy for captains
For captains, it's probably easier to predict where a spin bowler is going to be lofted by batsmen. And it's also more difficult for batsmen to detect line and length from a spinner's field placings while a faster bowler tends to tip his hand with the precise placement of his men.

This is particularly so with death bowling. The current fad is to bowl wide of off-stump and full in length, but this should be re-visited as there's nothing like a delivery aimed at the stumps to make a batsman feel restricted.

Sunday's final promises to be competitive. Both teams have good spinners. Sri Lanka have the advantage in pace bowling with Nuwan Kulasekara dangerous early and Lasith Malinga capable of halting an opponent's late thrust.

India hold the advantage in batting with their strong and versatile line-up and captaincy. The trump cards are Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni.

As if to underline the highly unpredictable nature of T20 cricket, each tournament so far has crowned a different winner. India will be hoping to become the first repeat winner, and this is the most likely result -- unless there really is such a thing as ‘third time lucky'.


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