Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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BBL 2023 (2)
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Asia Cup [U19] (4)
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What went wrong for Pat Cummins?
Cummins conceded 49 runs in three overs and wasn't given his full quota of four by his captain Dinesh Karthik. He never quite got into his rhythm, and that is likely because when he came on to bowl after four overs, Suryakumar Yadav and Rohit Sharma were settled already. He started off bowling a wide and followed it up with a short ball to Sharma, a man who has a playlist of pulls to punish you with, to concede seven off one legal delivery. Cummins repeated the delivery later in the over, and Rohit repeated the shot to the same effect.
In his second over, the game's 15th, Cummins was up against the tall Saurabh Tiwary, who comfortably reached out to his length balls to straightaway hit them for a six and a four. His next four balls were slower ones and he conceded just five runs but the damage was already done in the over.
Cummins started this third over in a significantly better manner than his first two, rolling his fingers over the ball to Hardik Pandya to deceive him and even force a top edge, but when he overdid the cutters, Hardik was prepared.
Predicting Cummins' lengths, Hardik pulled him to the leg side, twice for fours and once for six because the slower, short ball simply did not bounce enough. The one time he bowled a 146kph short ball, Hardik was nearly floored, a tactic Cummins could have employed more.
Whether it was the pressure of his price tag of INR 15.5 crore (USD 2.2 million approx) or just strategic miscalculation on the pace-length combination, it is hard to say. Also, as Karthik pointed out later to the broadcasters, Cummins had only just ended his mandatory quarantine period after arriving from the England-Australia series, so he probably had little time to ease into his role with his new team-mates.
And that brings us to the KKR captain himself. Why didn't Karthik give Cummins the new ball? Wouldn't you give your seemingly best bowler a go at two unsettled openers?
Why is Saurabh Tiwary getting a consistent run at No. 4?
In a star-studded Mumbai line-up, Tiwary appears to be an anomaly. Before this season, he last played an IPL game in 2017. But this time, in the UAE, especially in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the square boundaries are much longer than in India, making the straight boundaries your best bet for sixes. And that's what Tiwary's strength is.
Off his 58 IPL sixes, 32 have been in the "V" between long-off and long-on while a further 23 have been between long-on and deep midwicket So, attacking and putting away balls that are in the slot comes naturally to him. His long stride also helps him negate the turn of spinners if he attempts the big shot. Kishan, the person Tiwary has replaced in the playing XI, prefers playing squarer, relying on his wristwork to accumulate his runs.
Perhaps, also, batting him up the order offers something of a safety blanket for Mumbai - they know that Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard are still in the shed and, in an ideal situation, available for the death overs after most of the spin is done.
Should teams move away from blindly following the "win toss, bowl first" template?
In five games so far, only the tournament opener has been won by the chasing side. That night in Abu Dhabi, the dew factor - which often plays a big role in IPL games in India - was significant but, since then, it hasn't been a standout talking point.
And when dew isn't as big a factor, the advantage of setting a total and putting pressure on the chasing side perhaps outweighs the risk of your bowlers getting derailed by a wet ball. More so in large grounds, and where pitches aren't tailor-made for batsmen alone.
Take Delhi's Arun Jaitley Stadium, for example. Although it's not a particularly large ground, the pitches make for a much more even bat-ball contest. Since IPL 2017, 45% of the matches have been won outright by the team batting first. In Hyderabad's Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, a larger ground but with a moderately better batting surface, 60.87% of the last 23 completed IPL games have been won by the team batting first.
Given the pitches on offer so far and the ground dimensions, games in the UAE - barring Sharjah, a smaller ground where only 11 of the 56 league games will be held - are likely to follow the Delhi and Hyderabad pattern, where batting second is likely to get complicated. It is still early days in the tournament, but perhaps captains should be more wary of letting the potential dew factor play a key role at the toss.