The beauty of the World T20 tournament was that it encouraged a contest between bat and ball, writes Greg Chappell
I doubt that Oscar Wilde had cricket in mind when he opined: “The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible”.
Despite the fact that the batsmen could see where they were coming from, the spinners once again had a big impact in the ICC World T20 championship. The teams with the best spinners rose to the top of the tournament. The more mysterious, the more successful they were.
Ajantha Mendis was the leading wicket-taker with 15 at 9.80 runs per wicket. Sunil Narine, with nine wickets, was equal fourth highest wicket-taker with Pakistan’s Ajmal. All three were parsimonious with runs allowed as well.
Considering that the popular belief was that T20 would signal the end of spin bowling, it is intriguing that this is so. Pakistan, against Australia, bowled spin for 18 of the allowed 20 overs; and this on a wicket providing good bounce and pace for the faster bowlers.
The beauty of the tournament was that it encouraged a contest between bat and ball. It was not just a tournament for batsmen. This meant that scores were never far out of reach and that one partnership, or a couple of wickets, could change the course of the game.
Cricket is not an easy game to master, but it is simple. In Test cricket, the battle boils down to which team wins the contest over a piece of turf which might only be a few square centimetres in area.
The team which can control that piece of turf generally wins; if the bowler can consistently hit that area his team will be on top, while the challenge for the batsman is to take that piece of turf away from him by clever use of the feet.
By getting to the ball on the full or half volley, or by getting well back or across the crease, the batsman will make the job of the bowler more difficult.
The battle in a T20 game condenses down to a contest over something even smaller in area; the middle of the bat.
If the batsmen can find the middle of the bat regularly they will invariably win the bigger battle.
The challenge for the bowler is to miss the middle of the bat as often as possible; especially as the middle of the modern-day bat seems to be larger than any time in the game’s history.
This is where the spinner comes into his element.
Firstly, a decrease of speed means the batsman has to work harder to generate his own pace.
Then, with clever variation of pace and flight, allied with spin or bounce, he can make the batsman’s job that much more difficult than can the quicker bowlers.
If the bowler misses the middle of the bat, it is more likely that the ball will stay inside the rope. This not only saves runs, but increases the likelihood of a wicket being taken.
The ‘mystery’ spinner can steal another slight advantage by having a degree of confusion as his ally.
This contest between bat and ball is often won or lost between the ears. A big part of this battle, especially for the batsman, is to not beat oneself before the contest has begun.
It obviously helps if one can pick which way the ball is going to spin once it lands. With all three of the best spinners in the World T20, it appeared that this, for most batsmen, was problematic. This is why these three, in particular, had such a profound impact during the tournament for they were able to create enough confusion in the minds of the batsmen to gain a head start, so to speak.
Teams that did not make it to the final will have to reflect on a number of areas, but I have no doubt that finding quality spinners before the next World T20 will be a high priority for many of them; the more unusual the action the better.
The relaxing of the law governing illegal deliveries has been one factor in allowing the spin bowler to survive in the shortest form of the game.
Allowing for the use of an extra lever in the chain has not only helped the finger spinner to spin the ball more, but to spin it both ways at speed and to disguise the difference. It has also allowed them to mix their pace up more to add to the confusion and the degree of difficulty for the batsman.
Bold decisions needed
With the next World T20 scheduled for Bangladesh I will be surprised if the teams with the best spinners don’t come to the fore once again.
India, among others, will need to build a team that is balanced with specialist batsmen and specialist bowlers. Part-timers will not win a World T20.
The pressure is on the new selection panel led by Sandeep Patil to throw out convention and be bold in its decisions. Dhoni must insist upon it and show true leadership with similar boldness on the field.