India v Pakistan, 2nd match, Kitply Cup June 9, 2008

Coding Twenty20 into 50-over game

How quickly will India's one-day squad adjust to the demands of the more sedate 50-over format after wallowing for 45 days in the thrill-a-minute IPL rollercoaster?


Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys would do well to extend some aspects of their Twenty20 experience to the 50-over format © AFP
 

How quickly will India's squad adjust to the 50-over format after 44 days of thrill-a-minute Twenty20? That's been the question most frequently asked here, ahead of India's first international assignment since the IPL.

The general perception is that players could take time to find their one-day rhythm. "It is something that we've considered," Gary Kirsten, the India coach, said on the eve of the match against Pakistan. "We need to make sure that our gameplans and strategies are designed for 50-over cricket. It is different from what you're doing in the IPL."

However, the flip side holds equally true: there are some aspects of play in the Twenty20 format, which, if applied sensibly, could give India an unmistakable edge in ODIs.

Sanath Jayasuriya changed the way batting teams approached the first 15 overs. Yet the start of an innings in ODIs can be boosted if either Virender Sehwag or Gautam Gambhir, perhaps even Yusuf Pathan, is given the license to open in Twenty20 mode.

Apart from the constant flow of boundaries, other standout features of the IPL were urgent running between the wickets and attempts to outwit the bowler with innovative footwork and strokeplay. Shane Watson kept moving towards the off side to get inside the line of the ball, a tactic which allowed him to hit towards the leg side; S Badrinath used the depth of his crease when bowlers tried to find the block hole; and Gambhir frequently charged the fast bowlers to pull over wide long-on, or gave himself room to loft it over the off-side field.

What these tactics did was to throw the opposition out of their comfort zones: bowlers had to rework their plans, while captains were required to change the field accordingly. Such strategies could be effective during the middle overs of an ODI, where a little more imagination could transform predictable patterns of scoring.

It's not all one-way traffic in Twenty20 though. Bowlers have 24 balls to deliver and they try and make each one count. The yorker is a critical weapon, and changes of pace and length are vital to surprise the batsman. It takes considerable discipline and control to be spot on for four overs in a Twenty20 match, and the key is to extend that to ten in ODIs.

There is, of course, the possibility of everything falling flat. And that's where a quick-thinking leader - Shane Warne and Mahendra Singh Dhoni were hailed as the best in the IPL - has a tremendous role to play. Contingency plans become vital and the ability of the team to adapt to quick changes in match situations depends on how the captain handles the pressure.

The 50-over version has been criticised by many since the success of Twenty20 and perhaps some of it is deserved. And yet there is scope for enlivening 50-over cricket without tinkering too much with the format. All it needs is for teams to develop the ability to sustain their Twenty20 skill over slightly longer periods. The key is risk management.

George Binoy is a staff writer at Cricinfo