'Sometimes the most important thing is execution, not strategy'
Watch and read part one of the interview here
Does the price tag in some way force selection? For instance, Pawan Negi in this IPL had a huge price tag and you had situations where you could not play him in the XI in some games.
You're trying to pick the best XI that works on that particular day, against that particular opposition, on that particular ground. You are not trying to pick people based on the money they've got. In general, in a selection meeting we do not discuss what somebody has earned. A selection meeting is based on what a guy can offer, his form, his performances, does he fit into the team? At times you find there are good players who have to sit out.
You might have come out of an auction with clear areas or holes in your team that you have got to fill, and then you're trying to mix and match and sometimes good players miss out. And there are other players who are lesser in terms of international experience or lesser in terms of current performance in domestic cricket that don't actually get a chance to play, and that's difficult for them, and I can understand that. It's an opportunity for them to further their careers, both in terms of selection and also financially. It's a big tournament and if some of them don't get an opportunity, it can lead to frustration, and that's natural.
Aren't you now picking XIs based on what you anticipate situations to be and how players will respond to those situations? In the past you've had to rotate players, give them certain roles they may not have been used to. For instance, you asked Brad Hodge to bat lower down the order [at Rajasthan Royals].
Tactics have evolved and people are now picking different kinds of players and they're not just picking players based on reputation. You're seeing players being picked based on what they bring to the team.
Each of those strategies will be based on the team you have. Hodge's role is not a trade secret. Hodge batted lower down the order in that team because we didn't have a gun Indian batsman at that stage. We had Ajinkya Rahane, who was still a developing young player at that stage, but he is clearly more a top-order player. Someone like a Brad Hodge can play that role. There could be another team where Brad Hodge might have been more valuable at the top of the order.
Data is a very important aspect of the game in T20. Is that significantly different to how you've seen it in the other formats of the game?
I think data's growing in every format of the game. People are coming up with new metrics to view things. A lot of it is really useful. But it's how you read that data. I think that's the game changer. That's where the skills of the coaches come in.
A particular batsman faces three dot balls and you're aware then, from the data that you've collected, that he has a particular get-out-of-jail shot. Let's assume it's over cow's corner. Are you down to that level of strategising?
Sometimes we get caught up about tactics and strategy and we forget that the most important thing actually is execution. I always like to use the example of Lasith Malinga. He is a great example of someone, when you were facing him, you knew exactly which ball he was going to bowl at the back end of an innings. Millions of people watching on TV know which ball he was going to bowl. If he executed it brilliantly, like he did most times, there's nothing you can do. Can you execute that particular ball that you're asked to do? Sometimes people ask, "Oh what is that tactic?" Sometimes the tactic and the strategy is not wrong; it's the execution that's wrong and a lot of times people get confused with that.
We are hearing a lot more about head-to-head contests in T20s. Is that also a part of your scenario, picking players for particular players?
You could, in certain cases, and Chris Gayle is a good example. People have in the past used offspinners against him a lot but if Royal Challengers Bangalore open with either [AB] de Villiers or [Virat] Kohli, you've got to counter that as well. I think it happened in a game in Bangalore where R Ashwin didn't actually bowl an over, or he bowled an over very late in the innings because Gayle had got out and then they had a string of right-handers and maybe the situation didn't come up. I think the teams that win are the ones that have the best balance. They have the ability to play every situation and in all conditions. They are not reliant only on certain things panning out for them to be able to use certain players.
What's your sense of how much batting has developed in T20 cricket?
I think batting has the freedom to develop. We are more accepting of failure in T20 cricket than we are in any other form of the game. When a batsman takes risks and plays a paddle sweep or a reverse sweep, you're more likely to view it with a certain degree of acceptability than you would in a Test match or one-day match. If you keep practising something, you are going to get better at it. AB de Villiers has had nine IPLs now - think of the amount of batting opportunities he has had to experiment with this. He's got gifts that other people don't have, but he's also had so many opportunities to fail, to learn from them and to keep refining his batting technique for T20. People have been allowed to take few more risks.
Are power-hitters more valuable in a T20 set-up than the conventional batsmen?
Of course they are, which is why a lot of the West Indian players are so valuable in an IPL because they are able to play the kind of shots that are not easy for others to hit. The West Indian team of this World T20 was a brilliant T20 team because it had batting so deep, with power-hitters who could change the course of the game from No. 2 to 8. It's not easy to accomplish that for every other team, especially in the IPL teams for certain because no one's going to allow you to pick eight power-hitters.
It is almost sacrilege to start suggesting that players like Virat Kohli or David Warner, while extremely valuable for their teams, may not be quite as valuable as these dynamic power-hitters, who can actually turn the game on its head. And if you've got a team loaded with a few of those, you have a greater chance of success?
If your dynamic power-hitter can score 900 runs for you, then yes, but not all dynamic power-hitters can score, which is why Chris Gayle has been one of the most dominant T20 players for a long time because he scores as many runs as he does, at a great rate. These are not easy skills to obtain - consistency as well as power-hitting, and the ability to negotiate pace, spin. It's not like there are many players around who can do all of these things. There's no way that the talents and the abilities of a David Warner or a Virat Kohli are ever going to go extinct.
Is the concept of the par score in T20 changing?
I think the batsmen are slightly ahead of the bowlers in terms of the way their skills have improved over the last 9-11 years in T20 cricket, but the bowlers are slowly catching up. We find bowlers coming up with new skills and strategies to counter some of these batsmen. Mustafizur [Rahman] was excellent in this [IPL] tournament. The nature of bowling is such that you're limited physically by the amount you can do. Batsmen can set up bowling machines to mimic certain kinds of balls and you can go on practising. They have a little leeway. You can't obviously go on bowling for two hours every day because you're going to get injured.
In terms of embracing innovation, are young batsmen now more accepting of it?
When you're growing up, you're a product of the environment you are in, and the environment that a lot of them are in is one where they grow up watching their heroes play these shots. So it's only natural that they will take what they have seen the night before and go to their summer camps and try that. You see more and more batsmen today being fearless about the risks they want to take, being more innovative and more creative.
How much has captaincy in T20 evolved with time, and is it the most challenging form of the game in which to captain?
Because of the nature of the game, one decision to give somebody the ball could actually cost you a game, whereas in a Test or one-day match, you have an opportunity to come back. Sometimes at the back end of a game, you are weighing your options and you get one of those decisions wrong, and sometimes it's not even a wrong decision, and that's why I think in T20 cricket it goes down to execution. You have to make decisions a lot quicker, be very flexible. You have to be quick on your feet and clear in your thinking - you can't get muddled. You can't afford to get rattled because the ball is flying all over the place, and it's the captains who can actually just hold their own in that kind of situation that are the ones who end up being successful.
In a T20 scenario there's more input possibly because the coach/mentor is right there in the dugout. What sort of dynamic does that create? Does the captain want all that input or is he almost shooing you away?
That's unique to different players and different captains. Some captains might like some conversation, some captains might not. I think it's just the dynamic of the team, the way it's structured, the kind of information the captain is looking at.
You have the strategic time-out, where you are actually allowed on to the field to offer inputs.
In the strategic time-out you don't get in the way and confuse them even more. It's again something that's very unique to this format and sometimes just to bounce off a few ideas of the captain. Sometimes you realise how different you might be thinking but it's the guy on the ground who finally makes a decision, and he should be given the right to make that decision.
Where do you see T20 headed over the next two or three years?
I think T20 cricket is only going to get bigger and bigger. We need to be a bit careful that we maintain the balance between bat and ball. I see that as one of the major challenges of T20 cricket. What we don't want is for every score to become a 200-plus score, where it's always about power-hitting skills. We want to bring the skills of cricket. You want somebody to negotiate a difficult spell, the turning ball, and see if he can score at seven-eight runs an over against a good spinner. I think otherwise you just might put up bowling machines and see who hits it further.
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Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75