Time Out October 3, 2012

'T20 cricket has grown more intelligent by the year'

ESPNcricinfo staff
Harsha Bhogle, Ian Chappell and David Hopps on the championship so far, the exits of three major teams, trends and strategies, and the upcoming knockouts

On our latest Time Out, recorded a day after the Super Eights ended, our panelists look at the lack of surprises in the first round, the subsequent setbacks to India, South Africa and England, the tactics and selections, and the four teams that have made it to the knockouts.

Excerpts from the discussion below. The numbers in brackets are the duration of each segment

How big a disappointment was the performance of the weaker teams in the first round? (2.23 - 4.35)

Ian Chappell: There are many problems with cricket and this is one of them. You're just not seeing any progress from the Associate nations. Bangladesh [a Full Member], you wouldn't say they are any closer to winning a World Cup now than when they started. The problem with a lot of the other countries, like Canada, is that so many of their team are expat Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, with perhaps the odd Englishman or Australian thrown in. Until you're going to get the bulk of the team made up of locals, I'm not sure you can think you're making a hell of a lot of progress. I believe the only way to globalise the game is through T20, but I'd like to see a bit more progress.

David Hopps: Afghanistan were the most exciting of the sides that didn't qualify. Bangladesh, they are so frustrating. You could understand if they missed out because they didn't have big, strapping fast bowlers, but part of the reason they missed out was because their fielding was absolutely incompetent at times. There was no excuse for that with the amount of years they've been playing at the top level and still to be fielding so poorly in the match in which I saw them. Ireland, every time they find a world-class player, England steals them. There's no future for Ireland if that keeps happening.

Where did India fall short? (4.36 - 8.05)

IC: Against Australia, their bowling was disgraceful. Selection has been a problem for Indian cricket, not just in T20s but overall. The panel that's now gone has been poor, really poor. I don't think they've had any vision, guts. A classic example is when they came to Australia - their side was losing badly and they did nothing to revitalise things. India can only hope the new panel has got some guts and some vision.

DH: India's lack of bowling has been an issue for them and it's one of the reasons why they've gone out, and I also think the balance of the side was wrong. Last night they'd seen the Pakistan spinners bowl well, they knew they'd have to dismiss South Africa cheaply, and then, in the middle of the innings, you've got two part-time spinners bowling crucial overs, where if they didn't get three wickets for 20, they were out of the game. Where's Harbhajan Singh? I just don't understand the selection.

What are the reasons for England's exit from the Super Eights? (8.06 - 11.52)

DH: There are many. They didn't have Kevin Pietersen, for a start. It's a very deep issue and it was an issue of team ethics that had to be resolved, and it was important that England resolved it. It certainly weakened England as a team and we certainly shouldn't be blind to that. England had a slightly different attitude; they seemed to be emphasising a more careful start in the first six overs, so if you're going to play like that, why is Ian Bell not there?

All the young guys didn't particularly play well, the Buttlers, the Bairstows, the Kieswetters. They've been to the subcontinent before, England brought them last year to give them some preparation. None of them did particularly well. You don't learn as an English batsman to bat in Sri Lanka in five minutes, no matter how good you are.

IC: This is a problem not just with England. I think some teams have got carried away picking guys who are specialists in a format of the game, but where they've done well is basically at a lower level, i.e. at the domestic level, in that form of the game. Any day of the week, give me the guy who can make runs or get wickets at international level, as an international player. If he is any good, he is going to adapt to whatever length of time the administrators give him to play the game.

South Africa were a classic case. To me, [Richard] Levi is a classic example of a player they've picked because he's succeeded at domestic level in that form of the game. If a fellow has proved he can make runs in the 50-over international game, why the hell can't he make runs in a 20-over game?

How have the pitches behaved so far? (11.53 - 14.20)

IC: It doesn't matter what format of the game you're playing, your bowlers are going to win you the matches. The batsmen might set them up, but the bowlers will win them for you. The further you go in the tournament, the more likely that's going to be the case. I feel sorry for the curators. When you are using the same three or four pitches, rolling them, the grass has got to die. Therefore, you know that as the tournament goes along the scores are going to get lower, which surely sends you the message that the bowlers are going to be pretty important. The pitches in Colombo [with more turn] were far from unplayable

DH: I thought the Pallekele pitches held up marvelously well. I've not seen a ground as good as Pallekele in Sri Lanka before, and I've not seen pitches as good. They were ideal for this tournament. Sri Lanka Cricket has really kicked forward in what they produced at Pallekele. They brought in agricultural experts to discuss soil composition, the square of the pitches, and they've gained the rewards they deserve.

Have teams picked sides according to the conditions, and what about some questionable tweaks in the batting order? (14.21 - 16.47)

IC: Isn't that the idea of selecting a cricket team? Everybody talks about a well-balanced bowling attack, which you've got to have, but you also need a balanced batting line-up. Surely, the success of Sri Lanka and Australia in particular has got to tell you that you put your best three batsmen at the top for the simple reason that you give them the longest opportunity to score runs. Sending some guy in to whack a quick 15 or 20, to me is a total waste of time.

"You'd have to say, [in terms of] the natural cricketers who have come through in the last 15 to 20 years, Pakistan is way ahead of every other country"
Ian Chappell

DH: The top three for Australia and Sri Lanka have been wonderful. And yet, even Ian would admit that if Australia go 10 for 2, they could easily be in trouble.

T20 has changed in that the preservation of wickets matters much more now, as teams believe they can go hard with wickets in hand in the last few overs. (16.48 - 18.38)

DH: You give a game to professional cricketers surrounded by coaches and analysts and they'll make the game professional. The years are gone where it was clown's hats and red noses. Cricketers are now trained to play this game as a proper professional cricket match and every year it becomes more and more intelligent.

IC: And it'll also vary with the conditions. You give them flat pitches, and they'll go and belt the first six overs. But if you give them a pitch where the bowler's got a bit of a chance, no international batsman likes to throw his wicket away. and if he thinks the odds are bid in favour of the bowler, he'll play with a bit of caution, don't worry.

Shane Watson has been impressive, but there are concerns over Australia's middle order (21.15 - 24.40)

IC: No doubt about that. At the Champions Trophy, the semi-final and the final, he does have a history of rising to the occasion - that was as a batsman. The fact that he's become the go-to man for Australia, if they need to get a breakthrough… and he's now a senior player. You get some guys that are buoyed by the responsibility, there are others who are weighed down by it, and he certainly appears to be the type of player who is buoyed by it.

Australia's original mistake was picking a captain first and picking the other ten players around him. In all the years that I have followed cricket, Australia have picked a team and then found somebody from that XI who can captain the side. If you're going to tell me you can't do that now, I'm going to say, "You're talking rubbish." If you play Bailey, two things happen: Either one of [Glenn] Maxwell, [Cameron] White or David Hussey has got to go out, and it's been David Hussey in this tournament. That's a mistake because Hussey is a dynamic player, all three are more dynamic than Bailey. The second problem is, he comes in at a time when all of those three batsmen should really be coming in.

DH: You could argue the same about West Indies. Darren Sammy is a big-hearted, affable, very popular skipper, but if you look at his role in the side, he doesn't bowl well enough, doesn't bat well enough, and he affects the balance at No. 8.

Saeed Ajmal has been the bowler of the tournament so far. (25.18 - 31.06)

IC:: He's got a couple of things going for him, in that he's pretty confident and he's very smart. He's got a hell of a lot of confidence in himself, which is a natural trait, but the more success you have, the more confident you become.

DH: The romantic story, though, is Akila Dananjaya. In England, it is almost impossible to comprehend that a 19-year-old lad can be pulled out of the nets and suddenly appear in World Twenty20. To be hit in the face after failing to take a catch, having a slightly fractured cheekbone and still to be bouncing back two days later says a lot about his bottle. It's a great story.

IC: I've come to the conclusion that you either have very good coaching when you're young or you're better off to have none and just play a hell of a lot of cricket. I think the Pakistan system, when you're playing in the streets or wherever you can get a game, you just play a hell of a lot of cricket… it helps you know your game. Greg [Chappell] has said this to me many times, that what a young player gets today is a structured nets session or he's playing in a match. Look at how Sachin Tendulkar developed his game, with his coach taking him from one game to the other on the maidans. It's not a bad way to develop. I've heard Imran [Khan] say about the lack of structure in the first-class system in Pakistan, and that's probably true. For actually producing cricketers, you'd have to say, [in terms of] the natural cricketers who have come through in the last 15 to 20 years, Pakistan is way ahead of every other country.

Which team has impressed you the most? (32.05 - 34.06)

DH: I didn't tip them at the start of the competition because I thought there was too much pressure on Sri Lanka from the people in Sri Lanka. They'd done so well to get to so many finals, and I thought the expectation level was too high. I've been in Pallekele, I've seen the way they're responding to the crowd, the bits and pieces of their game seem to be coming together. The top order is in good form. I fancy Sri Lanka.

IC: Pakistan don't surprise, they're so inconsistent, and that's what makes Pakistan cricket more interesting to watch. You go along to the ground and you're never quite sure what you're going to get. That's why you watch sport. If West Indies get their bowling together, they're going to take some beating. That batting line-up is seriously dangerous.

Numbers Game question (34.11 - 37.54)

In the 2012 World Twenty20, the lowest scoring rate is in the first over. In which over is the scoring the second lowest?