Between Wickets | Columns

T20: Mining data is as important as hitting sixes and fours

Team leaders: (front row) Harmanpreet Kaur, West Indies' Stafanie Taylor, Australia's Meg Lanning, Sri Lanka's Chamari Atapattu, Pakistan's Bismah Maroof and (back row) Thailand's Sornnarin Tippoch, New Zealand's Sophie Devine, South Africa's Dane van Niekerk, England's Heather Knight and Bangladesh's Salma Khatun.

Team leaders: (front row) Harmanpreet Kaur, West Indies' Stafanie Taylor, Australia's Meg Lanning, Sri Lanka's Chamari Atapattu, Pakistan's Bismah Maroof and (back row) Thailand's Sornnarin Tippoch, New Zealand's Sophie Devine, South Africa's Dane van Niekerk, England's Heather Knight and Bangladesh's Salma Khatun.   | Photo Credit: AFP

How many world class batters do you need to win a T20 World Cup?

How many world class batters do you need to win a T20 World Cup? That’s a question Indian teams — both men and women — will be asking themselves. The women will get their answer earlier as their World Cup begins on Friday. The men will have to wait till October-November. Australia Women’s coach Matthew Mott has said that India have the most feared batting line-up in the world.

“They’ve got four world-class batters and when I say world-class I mean top of the tree guns,” Mott has been quoted as saying. Skipper Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Jemimah Rodrigues are in the Top 10 of the ICC rankings, while 16-year-old Shefali Verma last year became the youngest Indian to hit an international half-century, younger than even Sachin Tendulkar was. The batting has both potential and record.

Exciting line-up

It is an exciting line-up, and like many exciting line-ups, they have a tendency to swing from one extreme to the other. India are as capable of taking the game by the scruff of its neck and sauntering to a win as they are of collapsing unexpectedly and throwing it all away. Former captain Diana Eduljee has put it down to the players being “lazy”, which is both unfair and nasty.

If all the guns fire and if collapses are averted, this team has the potential to make it to the final. They have beaten Australia, the favourites, but a World Cup is different, especially one in Australia.

Sensibly, coach Woorkeri Raman refuses to buy into the hype. India are one of the favourites, he concedes, and says, “Even if the top order is firing, the winning runs will be the 20-odd from the lower order,” thus exhibiting the streak of pragmatism so essential to those in charge. India recently lost a tri-series final to Australia after losing seven wickets for 29 runs; only four days earlier they had beaten the same team by seven wickets while chasing 174.

Women’s cricket should not make the mistake that the men’s did at the 1992 World Cup (50-overs) in Australia, when India’s plan was for Krishnamachari Srikkanth to scatter the bowling at the top and for the remaining batsmen to walk though the opening he had created. It didn’t work then, and such a plan is unlikely to work now. Everybody has a role in a team, and to rely on just a few is both impractical and dangerous. It is easy to say, as some have, that the top four should bat through 20 overs to put India ahead, but team sport is about shared responsibility.

That “top batters” theory was for long the men’s favourite too. Rohit Sharma, K.L. Rahul (or Shikhar Dhawan), Virat Kohli were expected to make numbers 4 to 11 redundant, but the ideal solution seldom worked in practice. With Shreyas Iyer establishing himself in the middle order, the options have increased. In T20 cricket, it is all about increasing options, batting or bowling.

The “top batters” theory hasn’t always succeeded. Royal Challengers Bangalore’s record in the IPL is a counter to such thinking. At one point, their top three batsmen were Chris Gayle, A B de Villiers and Kohli — theoretically the formula for destroying any bowling anywhere. Yet, as results showed, this was top-heavy, and didn’t quite work. There is a lesson in this for the women’s team, as well as the men’s.

Team strategy

If unpredictability is their calling card, the women can make it work as part of team strategy. Recently Ravichandran Ashwin made a profound statement about bowling in the T20 format. “I think that six well-constructed bad balls could be the way to go forward,” he said. If the bowler doesn’t know what he is going to bowl, it is unlikely that the batter is going to. That is one way of looking at it. The other is the element of surprise that might force the batter to settle for something less than the boundary she might have struck.

What teams have going for them is the enormous amount of data that is available, the interpretation of such data and the response to specific data that have succeeded in the past. T20 is as much about batting and bowling as about getting the maths right.

When Indian men won the T20 World Cup in 2007, the effect on the cricketing world was profound. The IPL was inaugurated the following year, and from T20 sceptics, India became T20 proselytisers.

If the women’s team does well in the World Cup in Australia, a logical case can be made for a women’s IPL, an idea that has been in the air for sometime now.

Both the Indian teams are ranked fourth in the world, so they have something to aim for, and a couple of things to prove.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 8:44:07 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/columns/t20-mining-data-is-as-important-as-hitting-sixes-and-fours/article30852202.ece

Next Story