Method to the mayhem

If it is Twenty 20, the experience can't be complete without Misbah-ul-Haq. At least the Bangalore Royal Challengers will agree. Misbah's arrival will provide them with desperately needed reinforcement. He averages 67.60 after ten Twenty20 internationals, in which he has scored 338 runs at a strike-rate of 135.20. Bangalore, a bit weak in the batting, will look to him to be the main batsman around whom their middle order will revolve. Misbah spoke to Cricinfo on the art of batting in Twenty20, the strategies involved, and on the future of the format.

Critics say Twenty20 is all about going bang bang, and there is no subtlety involved. What's your take?
That is completely wrong. Let me tell you, as a batsman you have to carefully study your opposition, pick the bowlers you can hit, and also the kind of shots you can hit against various bowlers. Planning is really very important, and it's not like people think - go and swing your bat. You have to pick your moments properly: what time I can hit, what shots and which bowlers to hit.

The player who looks at the strengths and weakness of the opposition, and analyses the big picture well will be successful in this format.

I have played lots of Twenty20 tournaments in Pakistan. At times, during Ramadan I would play two matches a day. The teams have to do a lot of man-to-man planning. The biggest thing in this format is that you don't get much time. In Tests and 50-over matches, the time span is longer and you can adjust, but in Twenty20 you have to keep adapting and the span of a phase is very small.

In Twenty20 they say you need to hit out in the first six overs, seven to 14 are the middle overs, and the last six the slog. Your thoughts?
I agree with it in theory, but it keeps changing. If you have had a good start, then overs seven to 10 could be slog overs. Of course, depending on the attack, sometimes you will have to bat more calmly from the seventh to 14th over.

To what extent do you predetermine your shots?
You have to predetermine at times, but it's from planning. Let me explain. When you see me play the paddle shot, it's not an instinctive reaction in the middle. There is a lot of practice that's gone into that. When all the fielders are in the deep at conventional positions, you might clear them once or twice with your big hits, but you will probably hole out in the end. So a shot like the paddle scoop, or hitting over extra cover, or a reverse sweep becomes very important as there is no field set for those kinds of shots. For this, lots of practice is needed. You have to choose the shot according to the bowler.

So you tailor your shots according to the bowlers?
Even if you are going to play, say, four overs, you have got to make a strategy. I will see who are the bowlers who will bowl these four overs and decide what shots to play against whom. I may be better off hitting some of them straight, if they bowl a full length, and with other bowlers who bowl short of a length, you devise other strategies.

Speaking of which, the Glenn McGrath-Mohammad Asif pair has been very difficult to get away. How would you play them? For that you will have to wait and see. But, yes, they are very fine bowlers. I have played lots of cricket with Asif, and against him too in the domestic arena. If the bowler is bowling as well as McGrath or Asif do, you give them respect. Asif can tie you up if you allow him to get away with his plans. He is a very good bowler, and you have to be very smart. You have to keep upsetting them. I will probably walk a step or two forward, or shuffle to the off stump to put him off his length. You will see when I play.

Martin Crowe [Bangalore Royal Challengers' Chief Cricket Officer] said if he was playing against McGrath, he would probably take an off-stump guard. Like he did against Richard Hadlee in county cricket.
Hmm ... very interesting. Yes, you would have to do something like that to throw them off their rhythm. As I said, it would all depend on the situation. You need more innovations in this game. You have to quickly change your plans, bring new shots into play. My favourite shot is the cover-drive, but I do play a lot of sweep shots in Twenty20. You have to play these kinds of shots in this format to just throw the bowler off his length

In that sense, is there more pressure in a Twenty20 than in a 50-over game?
Most definitely. There is more pressure and intensity in a Twenty20 than in a 50-over game. You don't have enough time. The situation keeps changing every ball almost. You have to be more alert, and it takes more energy and more skill. There is a lot more pressure on the bowlers, of course.

What's a good score in this format?
If you have a good bowling and fielding side, a score of 180-200 can be considered a good total. It can be chased, but the team playing second has to really play very well. If you have two or three match-winners in a team, the others can rally around them and put up an effective show.

In the future do you see Twenty20 replacing the 50-over game? Perhaps, as Crowe has said, four 20-over innings in a game?
The people will decide the future of Twenty20 and the 50-over game. The main game is Test cricket, and that should not change. But whether the 50-over format remains or goes is entirely up to the audience. The players do get a better chance in the 50-over game to prove themselves as there is more time to play around with, but the pressure of Twenty20 is very enjoyable in a way. Whatever the public wants.

Have you got over that Twenty20 World Cup final against India?
Ha! It was very tough to recover from that loss. I had many sleepless nights. I would think about that shot again and again. I had two options on that particular ball: either go very straight over the bowler's head or go for the paddle. I could have mis-hit the straight hit, so I went for the second. I wanted to go between short fine-leg and the 'keeper, but that was a full one and slower too, and I didn't connect well.

I have now recovered from it. It's not as if I have taken it too hard on myself, but yes it will remain a big regret through my life. They are going to keep showing that shot on the TV!