The highlight of the World Twenty20 which ended last week was the resurgence of the slow bowlers. Bowlers, especially spinners, were thought to be finished when the T20 format took off seven years ago. Over the last few years we have learnt that is not quite true.
In fact, we learnt in the World Twenty20 that the bowlers have a big role to play dictating the game and can actually carry an ordinary batting side for a while. The pitches in Sri Lanka did help them to an extent, but we saw when a track had a little in it for bowlers, it put batsmen under pressure to score quickly. In trying to score quickly the scores shrunk and led to another trend, one from the early days of the ODIs.
Batting sides became comfortable with slow starts, scoring at four to five runs an over early. West Indies were 22 for two after eight overs in the final of the World Twenty20, yet kept the acceleration for later, content to settle and keep wickets in hand.
Opening batsmen in T20s are seeing their role change a bit. They still need to be big six hitters but also need to give their team a stable and brisk start. West Indies tried sending Johnson Charles as an opener, but he mostly looked out of place.
South Africa did poorly despite having such a good side since Richard Levi was found wanting against top sides. With Levi failing and two more orthodox batsmen in Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis in their top three, AB de Villiers was often left fighting a rearguard action for SA.
From the teams in the latter stages, Shane Watson and Chris Gayle did well. Mahela Jayawardene more than made up for Sri Lanka with his quick scoring while Virender Sehwag’s poor show left India struggling.
The young bowlers who made the biggest impression on me were Raza Hassan and Mitchell Starc. The bowlers who made the biggest impression on the tournament however were the mystery spinners. Batsmen take up four overs to figure out how to play a mystery spinner but will be faster to attack a traditional spinner, no matter how good.
George Bailey remarked in an interview after returning home that Australia had to begin looking at mystery spinners. It will be interesting to see if they develop such bowlers given their zero tolerance policy on bent arms. But, as Bailey said, they too must look at bowlers operating within the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) rules and getting results if they do not wish to be left behind.
Moving on to the International T20 League, it remains an exciting tournament for players who normally do not get such a big stage to perform on. Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine earned fame in previous editions, giving it their 100% when they came up against players from the best clubs in the world.
Teams such as Yorkshire have a few players with international experience such as Phil Jaques, Ryan Sidebottom, Adil Rashid. Another one, Joe Root will be touring India as part of the English squad later this year. But there are other talented players I have heard a lot about such as Gary Ballance.
This ongoing tournament in South Africa gives him and his little-known teammates a big stage to perform on against the best clubs in the world. This is a rare opportunity they earned for themselves where they will be seen by fans from across the world.
The $ 2.5m prize money on offer is staggering and can drastically change the financial structure of most of the participating clubs.
Teams like the ones from Sydney and Yorkshire were overjoyed when they qualified for this tournament. To give you perspective, Sydney’s entire player purse is just $ 2m, they have a big incentive to win this tournament and cannot be taken lightly at all.
To give you an idea of how seriously the world is taking the tournament, the Auckland Aces have been in South Africa since September 25, practicing and getting used to the local conditions. They are not strong contenders even with names like Lou Vincent and Martin Guptill at the top but they have that extra motivation to push themselves, giving them an edge.
The pitches in South Africa have more for the bowlers, but the short boundaries level things for the batsmen. It is a different equation than Sri Lanka which had slightly slowish pitches but long boundaries. You get to see more boundaries in South Africa than in Sri Lanka.
(Castrol Brand Ambassador Harsha Bhogle shared his insights with castrolcricket.com)