Throughout the short history of Twenty20 cricket, slow bowlers have been a revelation. Pace off the ball has been a wicket taking option and also an option which controls the flow of runs. Many at first thought spinners would be dispatched out of the park when the county circuit introduced the first domestic twenty20 competition in the summer of 2003, but instead spinners have out-bowled and out-performed the pacers. Majority of the highest wicket takers and highest ranked bowlers in Twenty20 cricket are spinners at the international level. Here in sub continental conditions during the 4th international t20 championship, spin will have an important say and be the most influential factor in the tournament. This refers not only to bowling spin well, but also tackling it when holding a bat in hand. This will be the slow bowler’s World Cup. Spin undoubtedly will be the most crucial factor and aspect of the games and there are many fine bowlers and players of spin of show.
Spinners have been effective for a number of reasons. This includes, an element of complacency from batsmen to think they can take them on and hit them out of the park and in the process providing more chances for spinners to take wickets and get their confidence going. Also, generally the smartness of spinners in varying their pace and experimenting with different angles to keep batsmen guessing. Spinners have adapted to mastering the format and deserve credit for that. They bowl at a quitter passage of the game when the field is back and batsmen are content on knocking the singles which perhaps is one of the reasons the economy rates are as good as they are, but nonetheless when they bowl in the restrictions they also keep things tidy as batsmen are not used to facing them with the hardness of the new ball which tends to skid on. With the shortness of the run ups, it’s difficult for batsmen to think on their feet when attacking and trying to be pro-active as they get through their overs incredibly quickly and don’t give you much time at all in between deliveries. Some bowlers with high arm releases like Bhaji and Botha have also developed a Yorker and with their short run this can be difficult for batsmen to set themselves and counter-act it.
Twenty20 cricket is about boundaries and wickets for me. Generally the side who hits more boundaries and takes more wickets should win the game. However, it’s important to understand the importance of a dot ball, bowling as many as possible and stopping singles in the field, but also trying to reduce the percentage of dot balls when batting and playing as many scoring shots as possible to keep the scoreboard moving. In doing that, you develop a rhythm and boundaries become easier to come by. It also keeps the bowlers under some sort of pressure, knowing that runs are continuously being leaked with ease against them and the team.
Many sides use a ‘boundary an over strategy’ where they try to find the fence at least once in an over and take singles around it. In doing that, they already achieve a productive 7 or 8 an over. Sometimes when the opponents are bowling well and are hard to get away and the percentages are not in your favour you have to hold back and restrict yourself to singles and back yourself to score boundaries and make up for it against other bowlers at different other stages of the innings.
Twenty20 cricket is about expressing yourself, its action packed eventful drama in a short time scale. Obviously, you have the license to play you’re shot and free yourself up in such a format, but it might be an idea for teams who do not play spin particularly well to hold back and play the waiting game against the spinners, trying not to give their wickets away and target the quicker men in the restrictions at the start where scoring will be a lot easier or when they come back at the back end. In doing so, they are ensuring the innings doesn’t go pear shaped and they give themselves maximum opportunity of taking advantage of the pacers where they feel more comfortable, but also ensure they limit the damage spin can do. Teams can easily counteract that by opening the bowling with spin and bowling more overs of spin and possibly playing an extra spinner in which case you have to take a few more risks if the innings is to get anywhere.
Pakistan have the best spin attack in the competition. The land of talented fast bowlers is now the land of crafty spinners. Saaed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez will form a dangerous trio between them. They are the stand out spin attack and should back themselves in these conditions. India have Ahswin and Bhaji and also Yuvraj who are 3 very different types of spinners. This will make it difficult for the batting side to adjust and they also should back themselves in such conditions. Swann is a fine bowler in this version of the game and it’s hard to keep him out of the action with his classical off spinners. Mendis of Sri Lanka could be a real threat, the mystery bowler who holds the record for the best figures in an international Twenty20 game. New Zealand are boosted with Vettori’s inclusion in this version of the game. The highly experienced slow left arm spinner is a nagging bowler and well complemented by the off spin of McCullum who is one of the best around in this format. Sunil Narine who was the player of the tournament in the IPL is running through oppositions as many mystery bowlers do at the beginning of their careers when they are the new kid on the block and largely unknown. West Indies have a magician up their sleeves. Not to forget Brad Hogg, the left arm wrist spinner who makes a come-back at 41 or his IPL teammate Johan Botha.The quality is endless and I expect spin to dominate this 20 day carnival.
I am expecting modest totals of around 140, but with the quality of spin on show, for many sides this might be more than enough.
The only concern for spinners is the weather. If they are having to grip a wet ball from a wet outfield this will be challenging to control and in the process batsmen will inevitably get some loose deliveries to put away. The weather at this time of the year is the not the most reliable and we can expect some interruptions during the course of the tournament. For spin heavy attacks, this might be a worry, but they should be prepared to face the worst.