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Virat Kohli’s innings against South Africa reflects the true value of singles and twos in Twenty20 (T20) cricket. In the slam-bang version of the game, one may overlook the basic returns with an eye on the boundaries. Nishad Pai Vaidya discusses how Kohli’s gem helped India and what it says about pacing an innings.
How important are singles and twos in Twenty20s (T20s). In a mad rush that is T20 cricket, batsmen often tend to target the boundaries and may disregard the importance of the smaller returns. But, ask Virat Kohli about it and he will tell you the importance of rotating strike. “I believe, a single is as important as a six in T20s,” said Kohli after his brilliant innings against South Africa helped India sail into the final of the ICC World T20 2014. Kohli’s innings was a perfect example of his theory.
Consider this: Out of Kohli’s first fifty runs, he had only scored 16 in boundaries i.e. one four and two sixes. He had walked in to bat at the end of the fourth over, and helped India maintain pace without taking too many risks. If you watched him bat at the Sher-E-Bangla National Stadium, you wouldn’t have realised when he made it through to the 30s, as he was knocking the ball around in the gaps and pushing hard for singles and twos. For quite a while, it looked as if he was getting his eye in, but by then he had raced to a significant score.
It was the way Kohli placed the ball that stood out. Using his wrists, he would dab it on the leg-side with the men back on the fence. As a result, he could push his partner for the second and get there quite easily. As he said in the press conference, he went to 20 in 17 balls without taking risks or hitting boundaries. At that stage, a boundary or two could push his strike rate up by some distance and put the opposition under pressure. And, as India had to score at around 8.5 runs an over, his initial move to knock it around did keep the required-rate under control. He was of course helped by the initial surge provided by Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane.
It wasn’t just the fact that he took singles, but the manner in which he took singles that helped India. A batsmen may start off slowly, but then get bogged down and try to hit. Kohli was assured right through and there was an inherent aggression in the way he picked his runs. There was an assured plan and the body language was positive, not allowing the pressure get the better of him. Plus, his innings also set the stage, wherein India needed 40 off the last four, which makes it anybody’s game. That allows someone like a Suresh Raina to wield his willow around and power the final surge.
For a man to adopt this strategy, it requires tremendous belief and confidence. But, the basic principle in any format has been to keep the scoreboard ticking. As Kohli said, you can push a few twos in an over and then if you get a boundary ball, it suddenly becomes a fantastic over for you. Compare that with someone who may try to smash every other ball. Firstly, there is a chance he may throw his wicket away and secondly, he may not connect and concede too many dots. It is quite fascinating that not many batsmen realize the true value of singles in T20 cricket.
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