Powerplays are heavily loaded in favour of the batting side © Getty Images

 

By Murali Venkatesan

 

The better part of valor is discretion – Shakespeare

 

It was telling that India elected for the batting Powerplay in the 45th over of the match against Ireland. The collapse of England (25 runs, 4 wickets) in the tied match against India during the batting Powerplay was one among the more dramatic mini-collapses witnessed during this World Cup. The teams are still trying to come to terms with their batting Powerplay strategies, both in terms of timing them and what the goals for this passage of play should be.

 

I believe that goals set improperly are the reason for the poor returns from the batting Powerplays.

 

The batting Powerplay is called for typically after the 34th over in sync with ball change. Usually, there are two well set batsmen, spinners and/or part-time bowlers have been in action, and the prior period of play has seen risk free batting with mostly singles with the field spread out. The batting team is looking to accelerate beyond the 5-6 runs an over.

 

During the batting Powerplays, the bowling team turns to their best bowlers and the field comes in. Singles become difficult. The batsmen are looking to accelerate and therefore have to switch to risky shots to pierce the field.

 

The combination of the refreshed primary bowlers, the pressure to accelerate, and the close in fields that deny singles combine to create wicket taking chances. When a wicket falls during the course of the Powerplay, the new batsmen is denied easy singles and is under pressure to “utilize” the batting Powerplay, hence the clutch of wickets.

 

In my opinion, the teams should approach the batting Powerplays as an opportunity to reduce the number of options the bowling team has for the death overs. They should not look at this as an accelerating opportunity. They should look to play the ball on merit, accept that singles will dry-up, and pick up the occasional boundary as the bowlers stray.

 

Preserving wickets will be key while postponing aggressive action in the latter part of the Powerplay, as dictated by the match situation. Alternatively, using the batting Powerplay in the last five overs, especially if there are enough sufficient wickets left, maybe the right way to go.

 

It appears most teams are adopting the “preserve wickets early and go hell for leather at the end”. The batting Powerplay strategy should simply an extension of this strategy, in my opinion.

 

(Murali is a resident of the San Francisco Bay Area. When he gets time off from his cricketing duties, whether it be playing or watching cricket, he attends to his duties as a husband, father, and engineering new solar technology solutions)