'The nature of the game is risk'
Batting in Twenty20 cricket is not just about hell-for-leather hitting. Batsmen - orthodox ones at that - have proved that one can adapt to the challenge of the shortest format with some judicious improvisation and not too much sweat. Mark Ramprakash, the former England middle-order batsman, who has excelled in the Twenty20 Cup for Surrey, is one such player. He spoke to Cricinfo on how batsmen can rise to the challenges thrown up by the truncated version.
How difficult was it for you to adapt to the format?
Mark Ramprakash Initially when I played Twenty20, I just wasn't up with the pace of the game because the fielding team were charging around trying to get their overs in very quickly, and every ball was a very big event. So as a batsman I had to get used to the pace of the game. I had to weigh up the situation quicker, decide what areas I was looking to score, and that was a very big adjustment for someone who was used to playing four-day cricket or a 50-overs game.
How did you go about making those changes?
MR The changes were mainly mental. If you've got a pretty decent technique and you're a run-scorer, you'll have good, orthodox cricket shots you can score a lot of runs with - playing down the ground, picking the gaps in the V, wide of long-on and long-off.
Some players are good improvisers, but for me it was more of a mental adjustment, of saying "Look, relax, hit through the ball." And almost having no fear of the bowler.
The nature of the game is risk and you have to accept that there is risk involved when you are looking to score so quickly. But that can get the adrenalin going and a lot of players feed off that and enjoy that. Often when we finish a 20-over game we feel drained because although it's a short game it does take a lot of concentration because each delivery is a big event.
I still look to hit good cricket shots, but as I say, I'm looking to up the tempo and be aggressive with my shots.
We have seen orthodox batsmen like Shivnarine Chanderpaul become really good improvisers.
MR Yes, Shiv is a very good example. He is a clever batsman who works his way out and is a good improviser in Test and one-day cricket. There are players who you may think are orthodox players but they are still good because they can adapt to the situation.
|Although it's a short game it does take a lot of concentration because each delivery is a big event|
Can you go in with a predetermined strategy?
MR You are weighing up a lot when you're out in the middle: the pace of the pitch, the size of the boundary and so on. Personally, I try to decide which bowler I can get after. You've to think very quickly on your feet out in the middle as to how you're going to go about scoring the runs. If the ball is quick then you can deflect it using its pace, and if the spinners are on you can try and hit the ball out of the ground ... things like that.
If the new ball moves around a lot in the first six overs, you may want to rethink how many runs you want in the Powerplay - in England we look to get around 50 but against international bowlers you may want to keep wickets in hand for later on.
Factors like rotating the strike, building partnerships, pacing the innings are important to boost the run-rate in the 50-overs format. Do they factors apply in Twenty20 too?
MR You have to go hard in the first six overs and try and dominate when there are only two fielders outside the circle. If that goes well, you try and continue the momentum through the 20 overs. Of course, if you lose wickets it can slow down things. But what you can do is, in the middle overs - seven to 14 - if you can hit at least one boundary each over and try and pick up singles, you are going at around eight an over, which is generally pretty good going.
At times there could be a danger where batsmen who are going very well in the Powerplay tend to get out soon after. And often batsmen perhaps are guilty in getting out at around the 30-run mark and not continuing through the innings. That can slow things down sometimes. So when the fielders go out it's still important to push the ones and twos. If you're doing that you are always keeping the scoreboard ticking.
Do you set targets in batches when building or chasing a score?
MRThe early batsmen do have to make a quick assessment of the pitch and conditions to determine what they think is a par score, a reasonable score. For example, at a ground like The Oval, which is a very good batting pitch with good bounce, the par score may be 180, while on a pitch which is a bit slower or a ground that has bigger boundaries it may only be 150. So its up to the early batsmen to assess the conditions and then they can set the tone for the team's innings.
Nagraj Gollapudi is assistant editor of Cricinfo Magazine