ODI's Action and Adaptation - Batting I
Limited-overs cricket is a little different from
the longer version. The skills, strategies and
attitude required to succeed vary a bit from those
demanded by the traditional variety. This is why
some great Test players fail to become great
one-day players and teams with fantastic Test
records struggle in ODIs. Cricket is a game played
as much in the mind as on the field, and it
involves a 'comfort zone'. This comfort zone' is
dependent on the strategies and beliefs of the
team. Some teams, for instance India, believe that
they are better off setting a target for the
opposition and defending it. Batting first is their
'comfort zone'. On the other hand, some teams like
the West Indies team of the 1970s and Sri Lanka of
the mid-90s believe in sending the opposition in
and restricting them to a low score.
This word in limited-overs game means nothing but
destruction for many batsmen - destruction of the
bowler's psyche and the opposing team as a whole.
But aggression without control and common sense is
futile. Not everybody can be a Sehwag or a
Gilchrist. Hence, other finer aspects of batting
should be viewed.
1 : Taking quick singles.
2 : Running between wickets - judging a run.
3 : Placing the ball in the right areas (gaps)
4 : Creating angles
I cannot think of a better example than current
Australian captain Ricky Ponting for proficiency in
the first two areas. Not only is he quick between
the wickets, but he is also a magnificent judge of
a run. The art of Running between wickets is not
only deciding whether you will reach the other end,
but also determining whether your partner will make
it. It's all about 'completing' the run, not merely
'taking' it. Mohammed Azharuddin was a class apart
as far as placement and angle-creation was
concerned. He was adept at leaving bowlers
awestruck with his wristwork.
FIRST - THE STRATEGY:
A team batting first in an ODI should decide its
strategy on the basis of its 'comfort zone'.
I. Going hammer-and-tongs in the first 15:
There are only two fielders in the outfield in the
first 15 overs. This means that if you have
big-hitters in your ranks, then you can really
benefit from going for the shots in the initial
overs. But it is important to mix caution with
aggression. Players who are fearless and possess
the ability to hit over the top are invaluable for
this gameplan. But a belligerent approach can be a
risky one. It might give your team a flying start,
say 100-0, but at the same time, if you play
recklessly, there could be a collapse and the score
could be a disastrous 40-4 after 15 overs. This
strategy also depends on the type of players in the
middle-order. If the middle-order is strong enough
to weather the storm of early wickets and not get
bogged down, then the risk is worth taking. The
present Australian middle-order is a master at
this. The Indian middle-order has also pulled off
some rescue acts in the recent past, although not
II. Laying a solid base:
alternative to destructive aggression is 'passive'
aggression; aggression in approach, running between
the wickets, punishing the loose deliveries and
capitalizing on the missed chances of the
opposition. In this approach, the scoring graph
will show a consistency, apart from probably the
slog overs at the end of the innings. Followers of
this approach believe that 50 overs is a long
period. Conservation of wickets in the first 30-35
overs will ensure that the team has plenty of
wickets in hand when the last 15 overs begin. This
will enable the batsmen to go bang-bang, and a big
total will be a foregone conclusion. Australia
adopted this strategy in the 1987 World Cup, as did
Pakistan in the 1992 edition. It is not a
coincidence that both teams won!
III. Capitalizing on the opposition's weaknesses:
More often than not, teams play only four
specialist bowlers, unless they have quality all-rounders.
The part-time bowlers fill the fifth bowler's slot
and bowl ten overs in the middle stages of the
innings. The batting team naturally looks to attack
these part-timers and score atleast 6-7 runs from
their ten overs.
- By SP. Bhatia