April 10, 2016

Ten things we learned from the World T20 (or knew already)

Kohli is very good; so are England; and so is the art of running twos. Oh, and dew is water
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Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni have turned running between the wickets into an art © Associated Press

1. Arise Virat Kohli, Prince of Cricket
The pre-tournament talk was of the master blasters, the willow-wielding barbarians who were going to smash the tournament to pieces. And, well, they did, with Carlos Brathwaite scorching West Indies and poor Ben Stokes into the history books. Yet few would challenge Kohli's prize as player of the tournament. He had a supreme 84.95% control, only bettered by Root's 87.06%; it was immaculate orthodox strokeplay that put these two at the top of the batting stats. Will coaches now spend less time drilling helicopters and Dilscoops, and more practice on that old-fashioned front-foot drive with precision placement? Root played in such a risk-free manner that he could maintain his T20 tempo in longer forms this summer.

2. Talk nah, Mark
Thank you, Mark Nicholas, for reminding all us hacks that what might seem a throwaway phrase could end up being quoted by the cup-winning captain seconds after he lifts the trophy. Darren Sammy took Nicholas' claim that West Indies were "short of brains" in the same manner in which Clive Lloyd used Tony Greig's "make them grovel" as a rallying cry. And, quite nobly, Nicholas came back with a thorough apology (some might describe it with one of those words that Greig once uttered) that might mean he'll be forgiven but not forgotten.

3. Less is more
The bat did indeed dominate the tournament, as predicted, but bowlers vastly improved their game. The canny paceman now has an arsenal of change-ups, and downs - the slower ball, hardly a revolution, considering I recall Jonathan Agnew bowling Chris Broad with one at Grace Road in the 1980s, has become standard fare. And here West Indies varied better than any other attack. A Simon Hughes radio documentary broadcast last year demonstrated that top batsmen played the ball from the hand, rather than simply following it in flight, and deceiving at the point of release proved most effective, disrupting rhythm and bat speed. What once was a long hop is now a dot ball, but whether this strategy will transfer as effectively into other forms, where focus is on playing the delivery on merit, one shall see. England open their Test series against Sri Lanka on May 19, but I imagine fewer slower balls will be bowled in those five days than in a single T20.

England now really get limited-overs cricket, don't they? © Getty Images

4. Less is... less
Empty seats in Kolkata for a stunning climax to what was a wonderful contest was a sad sight. Authorities seemed to pass the blame like a hot potato, tossing it between the BCCI, the ICC, and local stadium arrangements. From the opening of the tournament, when hundreds of fans were locked out of the Super 10 qualifier between Hong Kong and Zimbabwe in Nagpur, despite tumbleweed blowing around the deserted stands, to those unpeopled sections of Eden Gardens, the game deserved better.

5. 2 + 2 + 2 + 2
I've written before about six-hitting before. I love hitting sixes. I love watching sixes. Never did I think watching batsmen run twos could be so thrilling, but when Kohli and MS Dhoni paired up in the middle, that 22 yards seemed like a hop and a skip. Like the best dancers and ice skaters (yes, I really am comparing Kohli and Dhoni to Britain's gold medal-winning duo at the 1984 Winter Olympics, Torvill and Dean), there is a harmony of thought and communication, as well as supreme athleticism. (Looks like I'm already planning excuses for that first run-out batting for my ageing Sunday side.)

6. Dot. Dot. W
Apologies England Women, but if Kohli and Dhoni showed us how to run between the wickets, the England Women showed us how not to. Losing by five runs to Australia in the semi-final could have been averted with those singles turned into twos. And even when they did go for the steal, it was badly timed. BBC commentator Dan Norcross prophetically tweeted the desperate run-out of Jenny Gunn the ball before it happened, such was the calamity waiting to happen. In his post-match dressing-down, the team's coach, Mark Robinson, hinted at a toughening up in his squad's fitness. Good luck in that pre-season circuit training.

7. Dew is wet
Yes, dew is made of water. And water soaked in leather and lacquer becomes slippy and difficult to grip. I felt for the spinners bowling second this tournament. And after the excitement at the raging turn early in the group games, I hoped my two favourite leggies, Adil Rashid and Imran Tahir, would rip teams apart. Did the groundsmen prepare different tracks after New Zealand twirlymen Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi outspun the hosts in their own backyard? The stats showed teams chasing were the more likely victors, and I imagine the bowlers who struggled to get their fingers around that water-swollen seam might blame the wet grass (which I shall do on damp English pitches in a couple of weeks' time)

New Zealand missed the power-hitting abilities of their charismatic former captain © IDI/Getty

8. New Zealand do miss Brendon McCullum, after all
The lack of reaction, some kind of batting Plan B, left the New Zealand batsmen devoid of scoring shots when pinned on the stumps by England's best death bowling of the tournament, in the semi-final. By chalking only 20 runs from the last four overs, New Zealand lost the match, and with the Stokes/Jordan yorkers zeroing in on the popping crease it need a Brendon McCullum-esque improvisation to counterattack.

9. England are actually quite good
They really are. When they fail, that old cliché about "taking the positives" is bandied about by both players and coaches. But when you get to the final and only fail thanks to a miraculous hitting spree in the last over, there are lots of "positives" to put on the plane back to Blighty, including David Willey's swing, Chris Jordan's yorkers, Jason Roy's potential, Joe Root's mastery, and the general youthful exuberance of a team that played with refreshing freedom and joie de vivre. Can they keep the party going until May, when the Sri Lankan team touch down?

10. Cricket is fantastic
But you already knew that, of course. Bring on the summer.

Nicholas Hogg is a co-founder of the Authors Cricket Club. His third novel, TOKYO, is out now. @nicholas_hogg

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kuldeep on April 15, 2016, 2:01 GMT

    Mr.Khiladusher I want to know what dhoni did in last 3 years as finisher? Finishing means 1) in 1st inning approacing to 300 s.rate (means greater than 250) 2) in 2nd inning win the match by some significant contribution Let some examples 1)braithwate 4ball 4 sixes 2) sasrfraz khan 10 ball 35 3)abd vs Afghanistan 4)butlers wc innings 5)hardik pandyas 1 inning against sl And start vs bangla 6)heroics of virar vs aus. What so called finisherdhoni done in This? Please everybody give ans?

  • umair on April 14, 2016, 11:04 GMT

    The tilting of ICC in the favor of batsmen is driven by the need to pull crowds and globalization. That's why we only see steyn in the same class as of the McGrath and Akram. But my fear is over commercialization has actually started the actual shape of the game. It's like baseball, the seam on Duke and Cokaburra ball has become meaningless. Bowlers have faces which draw sympathy, when Rohit sharma is confidently belting six after six. We saw Starc and Cummins breaking down, while they were bending their backs more than their anatomical capacity, because tail enders were able to smack them around on FLAT decks. Wahab Riaz once told that he played hockey to raise his stamina to be able to bowl more overs at 140+ because under 140 Ks there is one sided affair and he can't keep his place in the team. There's another thing, the confidence in the trueness of pitch is making players like rohit sharma and David Warner excel, who are simply clueless when there's SOMETHING in th

  • Alistair on April 14, 2016, 9:25 GMT

    @Umairaslum. A perennially interesting question! I think you're right to raise it and this is why we should be SO cautious about calling anyone a legend until years have passed, certainly not until their career is over and even then it's a BIG word to use. A number of people over the last few years have raised the question of whether there are as many great bowlers as there were before. Personally, I think there aren't. The only bowler of the last few years (in Tests) that I'd consider putting in that category one day is Steyn. For years and years he has been at the top. Your point about defence is also interesting, the pace at which the game progresses has increased and this makes a difference to the number of chances batsmen are willing to take and bowlers receive. I believe there is an article elsewhere on the site that is asking the question you raise about comparisons between eras. Cheers.

  • umair on April 14, 2016, 7:27 GMT

    Comparison between Kohli and Root going on. Shows that they are on the top of the chart. Williamson is also there. Smith, maybe, but he thrives on his confidence and lust for runs. But I was wondering, if these fellows had faced the pitch conditions, bowlers, technology and bats of 1990 to 2000 era. The likes of McGrath, Donald, Pollock, Akram, Waqar Ambrose, Warne, Murali, Saqlain and pace of Lee and Akhtar, WOULD they getting same stats... I guess Tendulkar, Lara, inzimam, had stronger defense which is NOT required now.

  • Alistair on April 13, 2016, 10:38 GMT

    @KHILADISHER. Seriously, no-one outside India thinks Kohli is at the top of the tree in Test batting. The stats show why. He is undoubtedly at the top of the tree in ODIs and T20s - I think he's quite remarkable in these formats, but unremarkable in tests. He had one outstanding series against Australia in tests, but then it was a batsman's series in which 9 players averaged over 50 (e.g. Smith 128, Clarke 67, Vijay 60, Rahane 57) and the scary bowling attack of Australia went for 29.33 (Hazlewood) or higher. In this batsman's paradise of a series India still lost 2-0. In the 8 tests since then, against 3 different sides, Kohli averages 34. For my money, he is the outstanding short form batsman in the world and may one day be universally recognised as an all time great in these formats. But it doesn't help anyone to dismiss other outstanding batsman who may be better than him in another format. They're different formats and that's OK. Let's enjoy them all.

  • Alistair on April 11, 2016, 23:51 GMT

    @Advaitha. I take your point that you're not disrespecting Root and are merely concerned with exploring the comparison in this tournament. To be fair to the author he does write glowingly (& rightly so) about Kohli as the main item. The mention of Root is only an aside, but perhaps is a little misleading. I'd have given Kohli Player of the tournament as he single-handedly carried his team to the semis and the chase against Australia was quite stunning. He is a terrific short form batsman - for my money, the best there is at the moment in terms of class and consistency. Best wishes to you.

  • Anil on April 11, 2016, 23:38 GMT

    Salute two of the Greatest All time Match finishers & chasers in World Cricket. Dhoni & Kohli .

  • 158notout on April 11, 2016, 20:52 GMT

    I think I will wait for Kohli to prove himself in Test cricket in England. He was useless on the last tour of England, couldn't play the moving ball, kept nicking to slip. Just like Steve Smith. They say we have 4 great young Test batsman at the moment - Root, Williamson, Smith and Kohli. In English conditions a couple of them have had their techniques examined and come up short. Time will tell if they can rectify that.

  • Tracey on April 11, 2016, 20:51 GMT

    The 11th thing we learnt from the World Cup is 'If Carlos Braithwaite is batting the 20th over, don't let Ben Stokes bowl unless 40 or more runs are required'.

  • S on April 11, 2016, 16:58 GMT

    @BIG_AL_81 . I was "stirred up" by the author's comments not about Joe Root who I think is a fantastic batsman. If I have to choose one batsman for a test team Root will be my first pick at the moment. My whole comment was about Kohli's performance in this particular tournament.

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