The short route to the semifinals

The benefit in the Champions Trophy is with the fast bowlers, writes Ian Chappell.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2006 01:29 IST

What home ground advantage?

You can forget conditions favouring India in the Champions Trophy; the benefit in this tournament is with the bowlers. But the quickies not the spinners.

A few teams have decided to take the short route to the Champions Trophy semifinals. First it was South Africa pitching short to bounce one of the favoured teams, Sri Lanka, out of the tournament.

The strategy was planned to negate the effect of dew and South Africa didn’t utilise even one over of spin in their comprehensive victory over a rattled Lanka. In doing so they took the first step to the semifinal.

Having seen the tactic work in Ahmedabad, New Zealand implemented a similar strategy on the bouncier Mohali pitch. The Kiwis even omitted their spinner, Jeetan Patel, to include an extra pacer in case they had to bowl second. The plan worked and New Zealand’s victory made them the first team to qualify for the semifinals.

Expect Australia to adopt a similar approach in their do-or-die encounter with India at Mohali. Australia signalled their intentions in Jaipur when they left Brad Hogg out of the team in order to include an extra pacer in Mitchell Johnson.

The Australians will be delighted when they see the Mohali pitch; it has a healthy coverage of grass and affords more bounce than most Indian pitches. Bowling first or last on this pitch suits Australia more than India.

In fact, this tournament hasn’t been kind to the spinners in the usual Indian way. Only four spinners appear in the top 22 wicket-takers and two of them are Sri Lankans who are now back home.

Considering the success already gained from the liberal use of the short-pitched delivery it may be assumed every team will adopt similar tactics. However, a ‘one size fits all’ approach is no guarantee of success. Against New Zealand Abdul Razzaq often pitched short and the flood of runs that ensued probably cost Pakistan victory.

Regular use of the short-pitched delivery will serve teams like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia well but I’m not sure about the others.

There is one other thing to be considered about pitching short; that is the opposition. It is not advisable to bowl short to the Australian top order regularly; they are used to bouncier pitches and play the horizontal bat shots better than most. A barrage of short-pitched deliveries might just be the thing Ricky Ponting needs to find his form.

Now, will it work in the final?

Pitching short may well be a good tactic in Mohali and, to a lesser extent, Jaipur but not on the slower, less bouncy Brabourne pitch. In Mumbai the slowness and uncertain bounce of the pitch means it is smarter to have batsmen driving rather than playing off the back foot.

The most interesting thing about this tournament has been the development of tactics to overcome inconsistent pitches and dew factor.

Cricket is at it’s best when it develops into a tactical battle and this really only happens when the balance between bat and ball is fairly even.

First Published: Oct 29, 2006 01:29 IST