April 28, 2009

Michael Jeh

Deconstructing the Batting Powerplay

Michael Jeh

As a general comment, without the benefit of statistics or specific team strategies, I’d have to say that I think the Batting Powerplay has often been more of a negative than a positive to most teams. I didn’t really watch the recent ODI series’ in West Indies and NZ so I can’t comment on them but in games involving Australia, it seems to me that most captains have yet to learn how to best use their Powerplay.

South Africa have used it to best effect thus far, mainly because they have managed to keep wickets in hand and therefore been able to use Albie Morkel’s clean hitting (and to a lesser extent Duminy and Boucher).

Australia have rarely benefited from it and Pakistan too seem uncertain of the tactics involved in using it for maximum impact. Too often, it is left too late and the teams are almost forced to take the powerplay when their No 9 batsman is at the crease, caught between trying to bat out the full 50 overs and capitalising on the Powerplay.

Too often, batsmen have played a little bit too conservatively leading into the Powerplay and then promptly got out in the first two overs, therefore wasting the very prize they had been waiting for. Perhaps it’s because middle order batsmen are not accustomed to batting in traditional Powerplay situations – they are more adept at finding gaps and working the ball around until the final slog is on.

I think batting captains are taking the Powerplay too late in the innings. Most captains try to take it around the 40th over but too often, wickets are falling and teams are torn between consolidating with new batsmen arriving at the crease or taking risks in the Powerplay which can turn a mini-collapse into a terminal tailspin. In that sense, the Powerplay almost acts like a trap – you feel obliged to walk into it even though you know it could cost you an arm and a leg!

Take Pakistan for example – I think they got their tactics horribly wrong last night chasing a modest 198. From 0/90, needing less than 4 rpo to cruise to victory, they finished up needing about 7 rpo when their final wicket fell. How in the world did they allow that to happen? They ended up not even using up all of their Powerplay which is almost criminal in its negligence. They simply left it too late. They should have taken it as soon as Afridi came to the crease. Why? Because he doesn’t really change his game whether the field is in or out anyway so you might as well give him every chance of succeeding with the Powerplay. It’s not like Afridi is going to be patient enough to wait for the Powerplay so why waste his hitting power?

Another reason why I think the Powerplay is wasted in the last few overs is because that’s a period of the game when teams score quickly anyway. More often than not, most teams press the accelerator pedal in the last 10 overs so the scoring rate tends to scoot along, regardless of field placements. With short boundaries and powerful cricket bats, batsmen have no trouble clearing boundaries, often hitting the ball way back into the stands. It wouldn’t have mattered if there was a fielder on the fence or not. This tends to happen naturally in the slog overs so why waste the Powerplay when batsmen will clear the ropes with or without field restrictions?

It is a new innovation so we need to allow captains and coaches time to figure it out I suppose. My guess is that we’ll start to see teams employing the batting Powerplay a bit earlier in the innings, perhaps with the new ball that is taken in the 35th over. If the innings gets off to a rollicking start, it would make perfect sense to take it in the 15th over because that effectively forces the fielding captain to change his bowling rota. On pitches that don’t help spinners, he might be forced to bowl out one of his quicks in those consecutive Powerplays which then leaves him massively exposed in the death overs when his lesser bowlers may have to close out the innings. At that point, the batting side may not even need a Powerplay to score heavily against the fifth bowler or a spinner.

It’s fascinating to watch evolution unfold in front of our very eyes. It’s like watching naughty schoolboys in the chemistry lab – nervously mixing a bit of this and a bit of that and then watching anxiously to see what happens. My prediction for the future is that fewer teams will take their batting Powerplays so late in the innings. A bit like the global financial crisis, artificial stimulus packages will take the form of early intervention.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Vikram Maingi on (May 10, 2009, 17:35 GMT)

I think M.S.Dhoni (INDIA) did a very good job in taking the Batting Powerplays against New Zealand.

Posted by sudeep das on (May 10, 2009, 9:11 GMT)

Michael for a change start watching India's matches, specially the last 3 series against Sri Lanka, England and New Zealand. India have used the batting powerplay quite judiciously. Although you mention that you watch cricket irrespective of who is playing, your blogs suggest on the contrary. No mention of India's performance anywhere.

Posted by Gaurav on (May 5, 2009, 22:21 GMT)

I think India and SA have made the best use of batting powerplays. I have never seen Australians performing good in Batting PP. Other teams are also yet to fully understand and master this art. I was surprized to see Ponting failing to utilize PP to a good effect.

Posted by Vinod Dhar on (May 2, 2009, 6:23 GMT)

It is really ridiculous to see some of the teams leaving Power Play as late as 45th over. Well it may not sound ridiculous, but the part that makes this part look pathetic is that most of the time, by then teams are already 7 down or something like it. In 1st ODI between Pakistan - Sri Lanka (Feb 09), Lankans used Power Play after 45th Over when they were 9 down. Similarly in ongoing series between Australia and Pakistan, Pakistan used power play after 45th over in 3rd ODI of the series when most of the proper batsmen were already dismissed. In my opinion, best time of taking batting power play is any time when your batsmen are set any time after 34th over (ball change time). This is where India did well in New Zealand by not letting it for too late. Clearly Australia and Pakistan are not getting the things right in this field. Guru Mantra is that you should take Power Play when you have batsmen to take its advantage and not that your No 9 or No 10 is at crease.

Posted by Michael Jeh on (April 29, 2009, 21:46 GMT)

Hi Vijay, thanks for your constructive feedback mate. It's never my decision whether to publish a comment or not. Your comments get sent to Cricinfo and the first I see it is when it gets posted on the site. Thanks for the critique and I'll certainly try to take your comments on board. You'll notice in my posts called "Get Lefty", I did invest many hours in trawling through statsguru to come up with detailed averages to support my argument. Sadly, too often, I just don't have the resources to back up every opinion with detailed stats so I have to make generalisations based on my overall gut feeling. If I was writing a stats-type column, I would definitely need to provide evidence but as this blog is pretty much about opinions and personal perspectives on different issues, I'm less inclined to clog it up with a host of numbers and decimal points. Your points are well made though and I'll certainly use it to keep improving. Thanks mate.

Posted by Michael Jeh on (April 29, 2009, 21:39 GMT)

Saurabh, I agree totally that the Batting PP is a great addition to the game. I wasn't saying that it was negative, I was merely saying that many teams have found it be a negative in the sense that the PP has actually disadvantaged them if used poorly. It's certainly not a case of sour grapes because I'm the first one to concede that SA used the PP quite effectively but Australia have rarely been able to use it to good effect. That was the whole point of my article - to illustrate that Australia (and perhaps Pakistan's) use of it has been poorly executed and that's why I think it needs to be used earlier in the innings. I don't support any team per se - I just love watching cricket, regardless of who is playing.

Posted by achettup on (April 29, 2009, 11:39 GMT)

"I’d have to say that I think the Batting Powerplay has often been more of a negative than a positive to most teams." Thats a pretty bold statement to make if you're basing it only on two series involving three teams, one of whom gets to play as often the associate nations. The trouble is poor captaincy is at fault here, Ponting has mentioned on at least one occasion that he has not fully understood how to use it. My own point of view is that it is ideal to use it in two circumstances: 1) You've got two set batsman at the crease who can probably take the game away with an onslaught 2) To counter attack when the opposition tries to stifle scoring options The danger with the batting powerplay is that it can force a team to take risks to gain the initiative thereby being a double-edge sword, which is probably why teams are hesitant to take it too early, risk aversion determines it is better to miss out on the power play than lose the top order trying to gain too much.

Posted by Anonymous on (April 29, 2009, 8:49 GMT)

Perhaps the most effective strategy would be for each team to identify the ideal players to have at the crease for the powerplay, rather than picking a period of the innings at which to take it each time. When India has used the batting powerplay most effectively, it has been when Yuvraj was at the crease (usually 20th to 30th over) or in NZ, with Sehwag (11th over) at the crease. Similarly SA have been most effective with Morkel.

Thus each team would have different times in the innings when they use the batting powerplay most effectively, based on the position of their biggest hitters in the batting order.

Posted by Navin on (April 29, 2009, 3:30 GMT)

I further want to illustrate on the India-NZ series, which many readers have commented on. First two matches were badly affected by the weather and the last one India lost badly bacuse the kept losing wickets. But the in the 3rd ODI India were 121/2 after 22 overs when they decided to take batting powerplay. India took 69 of that powerplay and were 190/2 after 27 overs.Infact at the end of 18th over they were 90/2 and in a nine over spell they more than doubled their score. In fourth ODI which was again affected by rain. India were 89/0 after 11overs and bowling powerplay was not taken by NZ when India took batting powerplay to maintain the momentum. NZ never took the bowling powerplay in that match and India won on DL after consisten rain interruptions

Posted by Yogesh on (April 29, 2009, 2:39 GMT)

As like many above, i think Sachin-Yuvaraj taking batting powerplay in 3rd ODI in 23rd over was the best. Kiwis went in with four seamers and the best of the lot Butler had to retire injured. The other three had just finished their spell and Jeetan patel was about to come into attack. Sachin sprung a suprise at Kiwis by taking the powerplay. Confused they bowled their part-timers and also Jeetan patel ended up bowling only 5 overs. It ended up atrociously with Elliott and Ryder bowling 12 overs for 116 while Patel bowled only 5 overs for 37. Never seen a batting powerplay that threw the opposition in total disarray as this one !!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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