Virat Kohli has shown the world the importance of rotating the strike rather than hitting the ball hard
Virat Kohli is a typical modern-day cricketer who has evolved his game with changing times © AFP

Modern day cricket requires cricketers to play the game differently to the way it was played a decade ago. With the advent of Twenty20 (T20), things have changed drastically. The game has seen changes with the way players approach the game nowadays. Captains have become more aggressive and tactical in their approach. Bowlers are taken apart more often than not, but their desperation has bred evolution. We now see deliveries like the carom ball, the doosra, the off-cuter, various types of slower balls, and more. Fielding has become an extremely important aspect and we have seen some innovations even in fielding — just look at Shane Watson and David Wiese in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL). READ: Why T20I cricket is fun but IPL is a drag

The batsmen too have adapted some insane shots like the switch-hit, upper-cut and dilscoop among others. Batsmen lay a lot of focus on running hard between the wickets to convert the ones into twos and twos into threes, especially in the middle overs of a limited-overs match. The way Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni run between the wickets toward the end of an innings ensures that not only are the runs flowing regularly even without boundaries, the bowlers and fielders are constantly under pressure. In the recently-concluded ICC World T20 2016, Kohli and Dhoni employed this tap-and-run method to great effect. The shortest format of the game has changed the way ODIs are being played now. Before 2006, a 400-plus total in ODIs was unheard of. Since then it has become so regular that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2016 saw as many as 3 such scores. READ: Virat Kohli and the bat of destiny: RCB’s Deathly Hallow in IPL 2016

These have not been possible only because of some explosive hitting but because of playing with common-sense in the middle overs. Rotating the strike is considered a must in these days. In IPL 2016, Dinesh Karthik has played a few innings that define modern-day cricket. He has played the upper-cut, reverse sweep and has run between the wickets with ease. Karthik’s innings of 51 off just 29 balls against Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Sunday depicted the mentality successful players possess these days.

Virat Kohli or Ajinkya Rahane do not hit the ball as hard as Chris Gayle or MS Dhoni but they are more consistent than most. It is solely because they know which ball to hit and which ball to block-and-run. Kohli’s memorable innings against Pakistan in the Asia Cup 2016 and ICC World T20 showed his maturity as a player. This is the major reason he takes his game to another level while chasing targets. READ: Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Sarfaraz Khan: Three different styles, each one compelling

Talking about bowlers, India’s premier off-spinner, Ravichandra Ashwin has been successful in the past few years mainly because he continues to learn new tricks. He knows how and when to use the carom ball and excels at out-thinking the batsmen. He has learned to bowl with the new ball, and has frequently got the better of top-class batsmen.

Bangladesh’s young left-arm pacer Mustafizur Rahman has been able to provide breakthroughs for his side as he has a number of variations. He bowls a slower ball that few batsmen can pick, and gets a lot of wickets because of that. Likewise, Dwayne Bravo too possesses a slower ball that not many batsmen around the world can read.

The fielding standards have also increased dramatically over the last decade and a half. Fielding and fitness were thought of as an area of strength only for South Africans, Australians, and New Zealanders, but an emergence of players like Yuvraj Singh and Mohammed Kaif for India, Shoaib Malik for Pakistan, Tillkaratne Dilshan for Sri Lanka, and a host of other cricketers the world over changed the way the traditionally unfit teams started fielding. Today, every team has at least 2 or 3 fielders who pull off blinding catches or affect sensational run-outs.

This has led captains to use fielders as a weapon; no longer are captains shy of setting strange fields. Brendon McCullum and MS Dhoni are two captains who have thrived on setting unusual fields and reaping rewards for it.

The basics of cricket have not changed. Rotating the strike always eases the pressure of any struggling batsman and keeps the scoreboard ticking. A wicket is still the best way to keep the runs down. Playing in the ‘V’ between long on and long off is still the most bankable place to score runs. But there have been innovations as well. The number of variations have increased and fielding has got its due in recent times. Change is necessary everywhere and it is clearly seen in the way cricket is being played. It will be interesting to see how much further the game evolves over the next few years.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry.)