What would you, as a skipper do, at a crucial point, when the game has gone down to the wire with just three overs remaining, and your best bowlers - RP Singh, Sreesanth & Vinay Kumar still left with an over each to bowl? Of course, you’d consider yourself blessed while making that rather unambiguous decision, of consuming the remaining three overs between those senior men, especially when your team is trying to defend a total. Bowling second and that too towards the end is as much about skills as it is about having the nerves of steel. You must be well equipped to bowl those impeccable yorkers and slower-ones and also have the experience to absorb the pressure. Quite tactlessly though, Mahela, in the opening match for Kochi, threw the ball to Gomez, a rookie and DeVilliers, sealed the match in 6 balls. Royal Challengers Bangalore needed 32 runs in last three overs but the target was reduced to run-a-ball off last two post Gomez's over.
No, I'm not trying to run down the youngster for getting the stick but debating the wisdom behind the decision to give him the ball. I would have understood the merit of such a risk had Gomez bowled a couple of good overs in the match, but that wasn't the case either, for the 18th over of the match was his first over of the game. Well, it may have been an instinctive decision to spring a surprise but isn't it imperative to know your players' strength and weaknesses before trusting your instincts.
Mahela had flown in on the morning of the match and had little knowledge of his personnel, especially the uncapped Indian recruits. Since he didn't know the team like the back of his hand, he perhaps went by what the coach told him. While it's okay to take inputs from the coach, T20 cricket dictates the skipper to be thinking on his feet and take quick decisions. And it's not always about the skill set but how a particular individual performs or reacts to a pressure situation. Certain players are more vulnerable to buckle under pressure than the rest and you could only get to know these traits if you spend both quality and quantity time with them.
And it's not just Mahela who messed up; his counterpart Vettori also did something similar. He gave young Asad Pathan two overs when he hadn't bowled even a single in the domestic T20 competition for his side, The Railways. The problem is simple - the captains have joined their respective teams in the eleventh hour and have had no time to know their players. They are relying heavily on inputs from the coaching staff which may or may not be a 100% reliable all the time. While the format allows you to make a few mistakes and gives you the time to learn from them, losing can become a habit and, at times, a tough one to get rid of. Ask KKR or Kings XI about their infamous seasons when they found it almost impossible to get out of the rut.
Teams who have managed to retain the core from the first three seasons are getting a head-start over the rest, since they only have to invest time in planning and not in knowing their players well. While Tendulkar and Dhoni would be working out plans for their oppositions, Sangakarra, Vettori and Mahela would be busy getting to know their own players.