T20 strategies complicating simple game

HAMISH BIDWELL
Last updated 05:00 02/10/2012
Ross Taylor
Getty Images
OVER COMPLICATION: New Zealand captain Ross Taylor.

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OPINION: Never has cricket been made to look more complicated than it does here at the Twenty20 World Cup.

Yes, there is a premium on time and every delivery has to count, whether you're batting or bowling. But that can hardly excuse the knots that teams are tying themselves in at this tournament.

New Zealand are obvious offenders. Firstly, because they're the team Fairfax Media has scrutinised the most. But also because they've clearly made playing cricket more difficult than it needs to be.

Their tournament will be dissected in greater detail in coming days but it's worthwhile offering up an example of how their planning has caused problems.

Against Pakistan, off-spinner Nathan McCullum was the preferred candidate to bowl the second over of the match. Only between the warm-up and the second ball of the game, captain Ross Taylor felt that the breeze had started blowing differently.

It meant he wasn't confident that McCullum could bowl after all and while he was wondering who might, he dropped a simple catch at slip.

There's so much time between games, compared to the few hours overnight during a test match, that coaches, captains and their senior players' groups decide they have to use it searching for radical new ways to play the game.

“Scouting" they like to call it, so batting lineups are shuffled here and players rotated out of the side there, in an effort to find the perfect 11-man combination.

But if the breeze changes after two balls, or a batsman hits a good shot, then someone else has to bowl and five fielders need to change positions because plan A is automatically out of the window.

One thing that New Zealand have, that others don't, is a hard and fast playing XI. Only within that they tinker and tinker and tinker. He's good between overs six and 10, he's better from 12 to 17, he can play spin, he can't, blah, blah, blah.

They're not on their own in that. Leg-spinner Samuel Badree bowled superbly for the West Indies in their Super 8s win over England.

But their next opponents were Sri Lanka, who play spin well, so Badree was dropped. Never mind that the Pallekele pitch was dry and turning, fast bowler Fidel Edwards had to play instead. Edwards ended up getting smashed to all parts.

In Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers, South Africa have two of the best limited overs batsmen around.

But du Plessis can't get a game and de Villiers hides himself at No 5 while Richard Levi, who has barely made double figures since depositing the Black Caps all over Hamilton earlier this year, continues to make a hash of opening.

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England had a theory that their best player, Eoin Morgan, was no good batting between overs six and 10. So they left him at No 5 until they desperately needed to beat New Zealand, when he went up a spot.

In concert with Luke Wright, Morgan formed the third-wicket partnership that won England the match.

Batting at three, Pakistan's Nasir Jamshed has been one of the finds of the tournament.

So what do Pakistan do after they win the toss against India and decide to bat? Promote the erratic Shahid Afridi to three and drop Jamshed down a spot.

They ended up making just 128 to lose the match by eight wickets.

The stupidity of some of these theories is as plain as the nose on your face, but teams swear by them.

Right up until things look like they might hit the fan and suddenly the best players are batting and bowling where they should have all along.

Keep it simple, stupid.

- Fairfax Media

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