This T20 World Cup, adapt to the wind in the Windies | Crickit
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This T20 World Cup, adapt to the wind in the Windies

Jun 22, 2024 07:08 PM IST

Mastering the strong breeze in St Lucia could be crucial to India’s chances against Australia in the Super 8s next week

What are the odds of one zone emerging as the most productive area for all the top-scorers five matches in a row at a single venue? Almost nil. We are talking St Lucia, particularly the strong breeze that sweeps diagonally across the Daren Sammy National Stadium, north-east to south-west. That means whether he is left-handed or right, a batter will always fancy his chances to pull, flick, drive or cut at St Lucia and extract full value for shots while batting at the favourable end.

India's Virat Kohli, left, speaks to captain Rohit Sharma, right, during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and India(PTI)
India's Virat Kohli, left, speaks to captain Rohit Sharma, right, during the ICC Men's T20 World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and India(PTI)

Which is exactly what has been happening. First match, right-handed Scotsman Brandon McCullum scored 36 out of an impressive 60 between cover and point against the mighty Aussies. In reply, the left-handed Travis Head got four out of nine boundary hits from the cut shot. Nicholas Pooran — also left-handed — pulled 42 out of 98 runs between midwicket and square-leg in the Afghanistan match. Next game, Phil Salt scored 60 off 25 balls when the wind was behind him, almost carrying his hoicks further over the rope. The same happened on Friday with Quinton de Kock making the most of the area between cover and point against England.

This wind pattern has played a decisive part in all the games so far. You kind of expect it in the Caribbean, where the stadiums aren’t cavernous and the stands are low with plenty of grass banks, allowing the breeze to pick up and add a few clicks to the fast bowlers’ speed, carry highly struck balls further into the stands or just keep the ball in check if hit against it. Barbados can be windswept at times. At North Sound in Antigua, David Warner also tried to use the wind sweeping in from the north-eastern side to score 29 out of 53 from that zone between cover and point. But nowhere has it been as influential as Gros Islet.

It adds a unique dimension to the game, especially in the shortest version where batters tend to go for big hits more often, making it crucial that teams prepare for it. De Kock seemed to tick that box on Friday, when he used the breeze to flick Jofra Archer over long-leg before resorting to an upper-cut for four in an over that fetched 21 runs.

“Wind’s definitely a big factor, especially opening the batting when you’ve only got two guys out,” de Kock said. “You’ve got to use that wind as much as you can: don’t fight it, just try and use it. I think it’s going to be like that (for) the whole of the rest of the World Cup when wind definitely plays a big factor.”

Intelligent capitalisation of the wind has yielded match-altering results, like in the case of de Kock, Warner or Salt. But the margins can be fine too here. South Africa speedster Ottneil Baartman probably realised that when all his attempted five yorkers ended up as juicy full tosses for Liam Livingstone and Harry Brook as they took 21 runs off that over to spice up the contest. In the end though, it was the breeze that knocked the wind out of England’s sails when Brook miscued Anrich Nortje first ball of the last over. Stationed at mid-on, Aiden Markram had to backpedal to take a brilliant catch. De Kock later said the wind was actually carrying it away from him. “I don’t think the TV does it justice,” he said. “There was a massive left-to-right wind from my direction, maybe like 40-50kph.It’s not that the ball’s just getting pushed, but also getting moved that way and he actually turned on the inside, so the ball’s always moving towards the boundary.”

The skipper caught it but that’s partly because South Africans are so good at fielding. Come Monday though, India could well be tested on similar lines. Which could be crucial because they don’t play much in the Caribbean like the English or the South Africans. Warner, for example, has spent part of his franchise career at the Caribbean Premier League’s St Lucia Stars so definitely has a better idea about the wind and how to work around it.

Now, it’s up to India how quickly they adapt to it.

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