IN HOT PURSUIT
The score that the team batting second is chasing
governs the strategy it adopts more than its
Targets can be divided into three broad types:
Small totals are generally achieved with minimum
discomfort unless the wicket plays spoilsport. But
then, batting-unfriendly wickets are a rarity in
ODIs these days. A small total can become a winning
one if the bowlers are disciplined and the chasing
team becomes complacent. The Rothmans Cup game at
Sharjah in 1985, wherein India bowled out Pakistan
for 87 after being dismissed for 125 is remembered
fondly even today.
The end of a well-planned chase - Indian skipper
Sourav Ganguly hugs
Yuvraj Singh after India's victory over Pakistan in the 2003 World Cup.
Rahul Dravid is on the right.
If the target is huge, the chasers might well
consider going for an out-and-out attack in the
first 15 overs. Most teams believe in this
approach. An alternate gameplan is to start
steadily, get a feel of the wicket, the conditions
and the bowling, and then move into top gear with
plenty of wickets in hand. A 'bang bang' policy
demands clarity on all counts. The openers need to
be clear of what is expected from them. Are they
both supposed to attack, or should one of them go
for it and the other play second fiddle?
What approach a team will adopt in such a situation
will depend upon its resources. A team like
Pakistan, if confronted with a 300-plus target,
will ask Shahid Afridi to go hammer-and-tongs. His
partner, by no means as aggressive, will be told to
hold one end up. On the other hand, if India or
Australia are chasing, the openers (Sehwag-Tendulkar
or Hayden-Gilchrist) will be told to go flat out.
Like their Australian counterparts, Sehwag and
Tendulkar are natural attackers. It will be utterly
pointless to ask one of them to put down the
A chase that went horribly wrong for the chasers -
The Indians celebrate
the fall of yet another Pakistani wicket in
the 1999 World Cup clash.
Quite a few teams prefer to set targets than chase
them. This is because the pressure of overhauling a
target can take its toll on the world's most
experienced and intelligent batsmen. One can never
predict when a wicket may fall and trigger a
The key to chasing a huge total is to plan the
chase well, by defining the role of each player
clearly and being ready with plans B and C if plan
A fails. It is important to be composed and
sensible. Recklessness should be avoided. It is not
mandatory to hit fours and sixes to build the
pressure on the bowlers, as aggressive running
between the wickets can ensure a run-rate of six
per over without any undue risks. The team that
keeps wickets intact before entering the final
stages ends up winning most of the time.
One of the best-planned chases was India's
successful pursuit of Pakistan's 273 in the 2003
World Cup. Of course, Sachin Tendulkar's individual
genius played a monumental part in the win. India
got off to a flier, scoring nearly 120 in the first
15 overs for the loss of two wickets. The
middle-order then played the consolidation job to
perfection. What the openers had started, the
middle-order finished in style with some practical,
risk-free batting. They did not have to take
chances, as the openers had scored at such a rapid
pace that there were plenty of overs left. The
middle-order was cool and collected, and yet did
not refrain from punishing the lose deliveries. The
final score read 276 for 4, India winning by six
The most dicey propositions are the 'in-between'
targets. They leave the chasers uncertain; should
we go on the offensive, or should we play out the
full fifty overs instead? Many a time, a team that
prefers the slow-and-steady approach and looks to
bat out the innings can put itself into a position
wherein the asking rate has climbed to 6-7 runs per
over from the initial 4-5 runs per over. Another
Indo-Pak World Cup encounter comes to mind. In the
1999 edition, India batted first and scored 227, a
quintessential 'in-between' total. It wasn't an
intimidating total, but neither was it one that the
opposition could take lightly. The Pakistanis
started well, playing their natural game, but
became far too defensive as the innings progressed.
They also kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
The outcome - Pakistan was bowled out for 180 in
the 46th over. With all due respect to the Indian
bowlers, Pakistan lost the match because of the
lack of strategy. They would have won had they
played their natural game, which was a combination
of attack with defence.
Hence, the best way for a team to tackle different
targets is to bat according to its strengths.