World T20: Turning pitches double-edged sword show India’s insecurity

  • Pradeep Magazine, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Mar 21, 2016 21:30 IST
Like he did in the Asia Cup match against Pakistan, Virat Kohli was the anchor for India’s win against the arch rivals during the World T20 match in Kolkata on Saturday. (AP)

A few random observations, even as India celebrates its ego satisfying victory over Pakistan and Virat Kohli’s herculean exploits that make him the navigator of India’s future in this World Twenty20.

What takes one’s breath away is not the amount of runs scored or not scored, but the brutal, ferocious and powerful striking of the ball that leaves the bowlers emasculated. The giant sized, muscular hulks, for whom the traditional term used is batsmen, are now uncontrollable in their appetite and ability to destroy the best bowling attacks in the world.

The methods used are conventional, unconventional, innovative, traditional and some of the strokes so inventive in conception and astonishingly daring in execution that it is hard to believe we are watching a game of cricket.

The South Africa-England match, in which more than 400 runs were scored, was a jaw-dropping, nerve shattering exercise in marvelling at what men with a thick, broad wooden instrument in their hands can do to propel a tiny round leather object into or over the ropes. The more correct description would be to smash the hapless leather into complete submission.

To sympathise with the poor, helpless bowler, reduced to a mere prop in this game of masculine pulverisation of the very concept of the subtle skills of the game, is not an option. Much like WG Grace told the umpire a century ago, something to the effect that people have come to watch him bat and not to be given out, today the audiences watch this T20 extravaganza not to see wickets fall, but to watch the ball fly in all directions. The appropriate name for this format of the game should be “sixes and fours” and not T20, which sounds more like the name of a cough syrup.

Even in this mayhem, where bowling skills get buried deeper in the flatness of the 22-yard strip, there are matches where the batsmen become clueless once the ball starts seaming, swinging or spinning.

Many of us find it a bit intriguing that India, home to wonderful strikers of the ball, have played so far on wickets which have denied the audiences the visceral pleasure of applauding big scores and massive hitting. The curtain-raiser to the tournament, instead of showcasing the wonderful striking abilities of the Indian batting, became a disappointing display of their lack of skill in countering the turning ball. The wicket, that was designed to help them win, instead turned against them.

At Kolkata, a similar result could have been repeated, had Pakistan not misread the wicket and instead of an all-pace diet, served India an extra helping of spin. Again the wicket went against the very grain of T20, and spun so viciously that even a die-hard Indian fan would have been left confounded.

Let us trust the exuberant striking skills of our batting order and provide them with strips which, instead of testing their technical skills, allow them a free expression of their expansive strokeplay. Playing around too much with strips to suit your strength is not only a sign of insecurity, it may also boomerang badly, as it did at Nagpur. This truncated format of the game leaves no time to correct your mistakes and the genius of Kohli may not always be there to perform a rescue act.

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