Our writers have provided incisive analysis over the years on what captains and players should do in certain scenarios. But how will they fare when they have to make the decision themselves? In this new series, Hot Seat, we give them a scenario and ask them to decide about what to do.
Your T20 team has 24 runs to defend in two overs at the MCG. The opposition, a dream team, has five wickets in hand, with Kane Williamson batting on 50-plus, and Hardik Pandya new to the crease. The pitch and conditions are typical. You can choose any bowler in the world to bowl the 19th over. Who do you go for?
Gaurav Sundararaman: Kuldeep Yadav
With just 24 runs to defend and long square boundaries at the MCG, it is important to bowl six different deliveries in the over and not be predictable. Dots are vital since you would want to have at least 14-15 runs to defend in the last over. Yadav's variations in speed make him unpredictable. Williamson and Pandya have to look out for the wrong one as well. If Yadav can make the batsmen play square rather than straight, there is a good chance one of them may offer a catch to a fielder in the deep.
Yadav also has good numbers against Pandya and Williamson. Together, they have scored 58 runs from 53 balls off him and have been dismissed three times. Pandya could pick Yadav's variations and line him up for four sixes, but with high rewards come high risk. I am pretty confident Pandya will miscue one and 90,000 fans will rise to applaud the young wristspinner.
Karthik Krishnaswamy Jasprit Bumrah
The MCG is a large ground, which brings bowlers into the contest somewhat against a six-hitter like Pandya. Nonetheless, I'd want to ensure that I'm not bowling anything in his arc, so I'd choose someone to bowl a mixture of fast short balls into his body and - if the pitch offers any grip - back-of-a-length cutters, with fine leg, deep square leg, deep midwicket, third man and deep point on the boundary.
A field like this tells the batsman exactly what the bowler's length will be and restricts the bowler from employing a sucker ball or a change-up, but that's okay because I want my bowler to stick to one coherent plan and execute it impeccably. It also helps that Pandya isn't the sort to run down the pitch to quicker bowlers, a la Brendon McCullum.
Who executes this plan? Jasprit Bumrah has ridiculously good numbers with short and back-of-a-length deliveries: since the start of 2018, his economy rate with those lengths in the last five overs of T20s is 6.82. As good a batsman as Williamson is, as well as he is seeing the ball in this situation, and as clinically as he dismantled Bumrah during the recent T20I series in New Zealand, I'd still back Bumrah. I'd tell him to stick to the same short-ball plan, while slipping in the yorker at the feet (not at the stumps or wide of off) if he tries to make room to hit over the covers or mid-off.
Alan Gardner: Chris Jordan
Exactly four years ago, Jordan marked his coming as an international death bowler during the World T20 final against West Indies. Sure, everyone remembers the name of the fella who coshed Ben Stokes around during the last six balls, but Jordan's nerveless preceding over had left England in the box seat. Since then, very few players have bowled more T20 death overs, or taken as many wickets. With pace to nudge 90mph, a canny slower ball and ability to ping wide yorkers - plus a couple of right-handers, so he can stick to the same lines - Jordan would be my pick to set things up (for someone else to take the glory).
Nagraj Gollapudi Mitchell Starc
We have two right-hand batsmen at the crease, and the angle Starc creates will pose a challenge to them. Williamson, who likes to steer and glide, will be at risk of edging one. The other big weapon Starc has is the killer inswinger, which he can fire in at 150kph.
The G being as big as it is means six-hitting will not be easy, so Starc can fire in those short deliveries at the body too, especially at Pandya, who will find it difficult to pull or hook balls climbing into him at those speeds. And as the final variation, Starc can swerve in the reverse-swinging yorker to keep the batsmen in the crease. If all goes well, he will concede no more than eight, and then I'd have Bumrah bowl the final over.
Sharda Ugra: Wahab Riaz
The scowl arrives first. It's part of his repertoire, along with his wildly reversing yorkers, evil variations and general cunning. He has about nine or ten runs to play with. He will itch to get at Pandya but first Saint Kane will be cramped on leg with a disguised slower one. The only option left is to hoick it leg side. Up in the air where backward square leg is waiting. Pandya has crossed over and will duly produce an ego-pumped slog sweep into the deep fielder's hands. Riaz is now smiling. Bring on whoever.
If you think you have an answer that's better than our writers', or have a scenario in mind you'd like to hear our writers' takes on, send them in to email@example.com and we will feature the best entries in Hot Seat. To read more in the series, click here.