September 27, 2010

Champions League Twenty20

Innovations in the Champions League

Aakash Chopra
Kieron Pollard ducks under a fiery Dale Steyn bouncer, Bangalore v Mumbai, Champions League Twenty20 2010, Durban, September 19, 2010
It wasn't only the subcontinent batsmen who struggled against short balls  © Getty Images
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It was survival instinct that drove players to look for cutting-edge tactics at the recently concluded Champions League Twenty20. The second tournament has been nothing short of a discovery: unsettling yet determined shots, novel field positions and a whole new bag of tricks from the bowlers to hold them in good stead. That's what made the CLT20 a good show. Despite some ordinary cricket, there were also some splashes of brilliance. Here are my observations from the tournament.

Starting with the fine-leg fielder inside the circle
Most teams had the fine-leg fielder inside the ring and pushed the square-leg fielder back to the boundary right from the beginning. This is not how teams have traditionally begun one-day innings, preferring instead to have the fielder beside the square-leg umpire save singles and the fine leg, though slightly squarer, back on the boundary.

There are three reasons to have the square-leg fielder back. First, the balls that end up in the fine-leg region are the ones drifting down leg side but bowlers, especially in Twenty20 cricket, back themselves not to err in line. Second, the batsmen aren't afraid to hit over the top and taking the aerial route over the square-leg fielder is safer than walking across the stumps to play fine or to scoop the ball like Dilshan and McCullum. Third, bowlers don't mind conceding singles because a single is as good as a dot ball in Twenty20 cricket.

Bowling short
There was plenty of the short-pitched stuff throughout the innings. Yes, the extra bounce on South African pitches may have encouraged the bowlers to bang it in short but that's not the only reason. Most batsmen, regardless of nationality, were in obvious discomfort against chin music. While the Central Stags from New Zealand used it to good effect against the Chennai Super Kings, Dwane Bravo bowled at least a foot shorter against South Australia. The more you see matches in these conditions, the clearer it becomes that it's not only the batsmen from the subcontinent who aren't great players of short-pitched stuff and that they have company. No bowler can get away with bowling just one-dimensional short-pitched stuff, though, but there is no harm in making the batsman smell leather every now and then.

Playing straight
The teams from South Africa and Australia have taught a lesson in batting to the rest of the sides only if they choose to notice. While the players from these countries are good off the back foot and play horizontal bat shots, they have shown the value of hitting straight down the ground with a vertical bat, as opposed to their counterparts from the subcontinent who are guilty of looking to score only square of the wicket. Yes, there's bounce to deal with but a half volley is a half volley on all surfaces and should be hit straight. Also, since teams keep the mid-off and mid-on fielder really wide on bouncy surfaces, there's a huge gap in the front to get maximum value for shots. Indian teams are yet to utilise this to its full potential.

Slower ones
The slower ball is an important delivery in a fast bowler's armoury but just taking the pace off is not enough, especially on bouncy South African tracks. One could get away with rolling the fingers across the ball in the subcontinent because the lack of pace and bounce makes it even slower after pitching. Ergo you could get away with it but that isn't the case on bouncy surfaces. A poorly executed slower ones sits up to get hit and we have seen many disappearing into the stands in this tournament.

It was in fact the lesser-known, non-IPL teams that defied odds, and held their ground - Warriors, Redbacks, Bushrangers, et al told their counterparts that first-rate athleticism and fielding could make up for the lack of stars.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by Kaylea on (November 10, 2012, 22:30 GMT)

To think, I was cuonsfed a minute ago.

Posted by achu on (September 30, 2010, 12:03 GMT)

its really a good observation and explanation by akash ji

Posted by Raks on (September 27, 2010, 15:20 GMT)

Well said Akash about the short stuff. Too much is made about the sub-continent batsman against short stuff. Last I remember aussies struggled against Pakistan short stuff in England.

Posted by guy on (September 27, 2010, 8:10 GMT)

i agree. last night dhoni had a short mid-on and a long on while murali bowled to the warriors middle order. murali was bowling around the wicket to the right-handers and was turning the ball some. made sense, but certainly something i have never seen before.

then when boje came in, dhoni had a third-man, a deep-backward point on the fence, and a third fielder on the cover boundary. if memory serves, this was while bollinger was bowling, presumably with the aim of being full outside off stump. again, not something i have seen before, but makes a lot of sense.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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