Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Batting Power Play: A Boon or Curse in the World Cup 2011?

If you have noticed the World Cup games so far the batting power play which was supposed to come as a killer blow on the bowling team surprisingly boomeranged the batting side on most of the high profile games. The time where we should be seeing flurry of runs, we are left to witness flurry of wickets or batsman struggling to make runs. Funny isn’t it? The hunter gets hunted.
Feel free to check the stats in cricinfo on some of those high profiles games in this world cup so far. You would see teams like NZ, WI and Pak delayed or underutilized the powerplay against Australia, SA and Srilanka respectively. The story of England against India was a clear nail in the coffin.
I think most of those teams read the powerplay as a boon to slog overs. They just leave it to the last 5-7 overs for the power hitters of the lower order. Unfortunately the power hitters are not able to exploit when the opportunity was presented in red carpet. Pak batting against SL was a classic example to this.
Some teams even fear to use the power play. Like, NZ was bizarre in choosing the powerplay, when their 8th and 9th batsman were at the crease against Aussies. All they managed was to bat just 1 over of the power play. Had kiwis taken the power play when Vettori and Nathan McCullum were batting? I won’t say kiwis would have won the match. They would have sure posted a better total.
Same story when WI played against SA. They were all set for a big total when Bravo and Chanderpaul going great guns. Had they taken the powerplay when these two batsman at the crease? I won’t say that Chanderpaul and Bravo are the best exponents of powerplay. But they would have atleast got more value for their shots. May be WI would have ended up with a total 275 and made a match out of it.
However, I’m still baffled at WI decision when they left the powerplay for last 5 overs at a time where their 8th and 9th batsman at crease. For WI the last 2 wickets were good to bat only 3 overs of powerplay.
The story of England against India…
I think Strauss took the powerplay to make a statement. It was not the decision that brought the downfall. It was the attitude that brought the downfall. England wanted to crucify India. The batsman created an IMAGINATIVE PRESSURE when they HAD to go after the bowling FOR taking the powerplay. Guess what? They fell to their own trap. Bell, Collingwood, Prior and Yardy wickets were only the victims of the pressure to succeed. However the success of Bresnan, Swann & Shezad without the power play in the last overs was the result of a cornered tiger.
In my opinion India and South Africa are better using the batting powerplay. They prefer to take it after the ball change. Also they make it a criterion that two set batsman has to be in the crease for choosing the powerplay. Their expectations are realistic. Batsman doesn’t have to go after the bowling, but play their natural strokes. In the end the batsman will get more value for their shots because of the rule advantage.
I also think these teams should delay the powerplay if the situation commands. While chasing when you are clearly on course of your victory, you don’t have to take it because you wanted to crucify the opposition. Take it if you need it. Like SL chose to take the powerplay lot earlier in the game against Pakistan only to see if they could explore any chance of winning the game.
Based on the England game, teams can explore the advantages of bowling powerplay. May be they don’t have to take it immediately after mandatory power play. They don’t have to read it as a curse and finish it as early as possible. They could delay and play it even after 25 overs. Preferably use it when two set batsman at crease. May be that would trigger the eyeballs of the set batsman and tempt them to take their chances and fall to the trap. This is just my theory. I would be glad if this theory is tested too. This bowling powerplay theory could also fail miserably. But failure or success can be judged only when they are tested.
Bottomline: Batting Power play is clearly an “X” factor in this World Cup. The wise minds will get it right. For others, it could be a Weapon of Mass Destruction.

Cricket Lover

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