This World T20 hasn't seen mammoth scores being piled up. Which bowler will dominate the finale? © Getty Images
This World T20 hasn’t seen mammoth scores being piled up. Which bowler will dominate the finale? © Getty Images

 

T20s have always led to discussions over the advantages for batsmen but finalists India and Sri Lanka have had an excellent run due to their bowlers. Abhijit Banare elaborates on how a planned Indian bowling line-up and a skilled Lankan attack will make for an even contest in the ICC World T20 2014 final.

 

The irony of cricket can no more be so glaring than in the Twenty20 format. Any format you consider and the batsmen will always be in the limelight with all the discussions of big bats, power-hitting and batsmen-friendly pitches. Yet that hasn’t reflected in the way matches pan out. And the World T20 is just another example representing the advantages of having either a skilled bowling attack or one that has a good plan. And then in the end it is the subcontinent teams which had the arsenal. The teams which didn’t have neither skill nor plan perished in a flash. As India take on a familiar Sri Lankan side in the final on April 6, the bowling attack of the two teams has been a crucial factor in their success in the ICC World T20 2014. And if you narrow it down, the spinners have played a major hand in that.

 

 

At the pre-match press-conference ahead of the semi-final against South Africa, Ravichandran Ashwin made an interesting statement: “The bowlers need to have the guts to bowl slower.” And during the match day, the bowlers’ stuck to the plan except for Amit Mishra who kept bowling faster and faster only to be hammered for runs. But overall India’s bowling has been planned, which has helped them deliver the results. Let’s admit it, none of us would have placed our bets on the bowlers scripting all four wins in the group stage [which was referred as the Group of death]. Two spinners shared the four Man of the Match awards amongst themselves. But there was some fine bowling from the pacers as well. Despite the lack of acumen to deliver the yorkers or the fancy slower bouncers, the Indian pacers haven’t been hammered for runs. As they take on Sri Lanka in the World T20 final, the task will once again be to stick to a plan and execute it. That is India’s best chance.

 

It’s a different story in the Sri Lankan side. Their bowling attack on paper is certainly far better than India’s. They have two of the top-ranked bowlers in T20Is in Lasith Malinga and Ajantha Mendis. Malinga is certainly the best bowler you can ask for in limited overs formats. Nuwan Kulasekara has, for long been an underestimated bowler and the oppositions have time and again paid the price for thinking so. Sachithra Senanayake has been maintaining the prime responsibility of containing the batsmen while the others go for the kill. And not to forget, the least fussy bowler among all of them is a Test specialist who has been running through the opposition with his left-arm spin — Rangana Herath. Add all of them and you have a classic ingredient to spice up the contest against the famed Indian batting line-up. This Sri Lankan attack has the skill for the shortest format whereas the Indians are counting on their momentum that has been built through planning their attacks based on every opposition, which so far has paid off very well.

 

 

Key strategies for both sides on the bowling front:

 

India

 

A) Who cares about Lasith Malinga?

 

As captain, Lasith Malinga will have to deal with that extra ounce of pressure © Getty Images
As captain, Lasith Malinga will have to deal with that extra ounce of pressure © Getty Images

 

India has been one of the rare oppositions against whom Malinga has failed to have a considerable impact. The ease with which Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni face him is a delight to watch. Come the final, the Indian batsmen will not be restrained against the slinger. In fact, they will look to score against him. Indians may have a weakness for bouncers but there’s not much worry when it comes to yorkers!

 

B) Unleash Ashwin-Bhuvneshwar against the Lankan batsman

 

Along with Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (left) and Ravichandran Ashwin (right) have been equally responsible for a transformed bowling attack © Getty Images
Along with Amit Mishra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar (left) and Ravichandran Ashwin (right) have been equally responsible for a transformed bowling attack © Getty Images

 

Dhoni has been quite flexible with his opening bowlers. He has used Ashwin at the start as well as in the middle overs. And as we saw against South Africa, he used Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma to open. Looking at the Sri lankan side, the swing of Bhuvneshwar will have some impact from one end, but Dhoni will be focusing on reducing the damage caused by Kusal Perera by getting Ashwin in early. The off-spinner [or carom ball spinner as you may refer to him] has had a good record taking on explosive batsmen at the start of the innings [thank IPL for that].

 

 

Sri Lanka

 

A) Stifle the openers with Sachithra Senanayake

 

India’s strategy in the semi-final was to allow Rohit Sharma to go after the bowling while Ajinkya Rahane finds the gaps at ease. In the final, the Lankans will focus on building the pressure. And just like it goes with any batting side cornered early on in an innings, the batsmen are bound to go after the bowling. Senanayake has been a floater in the Lankan bowling doing a fine job in keeping a check on the run-flow and this might work well in bagging Rohit in particular.

 

B) Planned line from pacers against Virat Kohli

 

Nuwan Kulasekara's ability to get some movement early on can be crucial against Virat Kohli © Getty Images
Nuwan Kulasekara’s ability to get some movement early on can be crucial against Virat Kohli © Getty Images

 

With the positive intent he carries with him in every match, it’s virtually impossible to overpower Kohli’s abilities. But Sri lanka must have worked hard over and over again to find a ploy to get Kohli out. Like many attacking batsman, Kohli is not the one who can be restricted, so dismissing him is the only way out. Here’s a piece of stat: 14 out of the 19 times he has been dismissed in T20s is by a pace bowler. The numbers are reflected in the ODIs as well where out of the 108 dismissals, 59 have come against pacers. Kohli has that hint of weakness to drive tentatively early in his innings. By committing himself to reach for the drive, Kohli has been caught behind a few times.

 

And not to forget, skill and plan doesn’t hold much value if the bowlers fail to absorb the pressure. Both teams have players who have enough big-match experience; it’s a challenging contest to see who caves in first.

 

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)