Aakash Chopra

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is one of the best thinkers and writers on the game. Find out more at www.cricketaakash.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @cricketaakash

Changing times for bowlers in IPL

IPL-IV seems to be quashing all claims of twenty overs cricket being incredibly unpredictable and dreadfully volatile. Where is the unpredictability when 14 out of 18 games (at the time of writing this) have been won by teams chasing?

 

Make no mistake by calling it an aberration, for the statistics are too overwhelming to ignore. While the IPL has and is living up to its reputation of setting off regular upsets, especially of underdogs winning a game on their own, this clear trend says a thing or two about IPL hitting its transitional phase.

 

Most teams, right at the onset of this season, failed to identify the par score for the wicket and hence found themselves guilty of aiming too high and ending too low. This often happens in a T20 game, for you're never satisfied with what you've achieved and 10-15 runs more always look attainable.

 

Most batsmen, at the start of this IPL, believed that since balls are at a premium in T20, it's blasphemous to consume a few deliveries to get their eye-in, which in my opinion proved fatal. This was the primary reason that we saw teams losing three-four wickets inside the first 6 overs and subsequently posting a paltry total which was chased down without much fuss.

 

But, as the tournament progressed, batsmen became wiser and started batting more sensibly. Now the scores of 160+ are a norm and not an abnormality, the wisdom though isn't restricted to the team batting first, and that's why teams have started chasing the totals down successfully too.

 

This wisdom not only helped batsmen forge big partnerships (we've already seen quite a few 100 runs partnerships in the IPL) but also exposed the chinks in the bowling departments of most teams. While this is a format perceived to be made for batsmen, bowlers have demanded a bigger say in the fortunes of the game.

 

You may not need 6 quality batsmen to consume 20 overs but you simply can't do without 5 more-than-decent bowlers to pitch-in with four overs each.

 

That's why Pakistan's consistency in this format doesn't come as a surprise. They don't have the batting might like most other teams but their 5 quality bowlers always make up for it with ease.

 

The inclusion of 2 new teams in this edition of the IPL has changed the dynamics with regards to the bowling resources. The requirement of 10 quality bowlers to take care of the demands of the new entrants has started pinching, with the paucity of quality bowlers already showing. The below-par fifth bowler is becoming the bane for most teams and during most chases.

 

Hence it may not be a bad idea to play another bowler instead of having the cushion of a batsman at number 7, who in my opinion is a luxury. If your top 6 batsmen can't last the 20 overs, the chances of the number 7 batsman winning the game for you are not much.

 

Royal Challengers Bangalore had Pujara at number 7 for a long time, Delhi played Finch at 7, Rahane batted there for Rajasthan Royals and even Deccan Chargers has put Ravi Teja to bat at that number.

 

A look at what these guys have done or what the number 7 batsman has done throughout the IPL would tell you that a batsman at that number is indeed a luxury. Moreover aren't the teams wasting some of their quality batsmen because in most cases they don't get to bat and whenever they do, it's not more than a few balls?

 

The beauty of T20 format is that the conditions don't change at all throughout the game and hence the toss isn't as vital as it was believed to be. And that's why it's imperative to change the 'Win-the-toss-and-win-the-match' trend, lest the all exciting T20 matches turn predictable and the tournament lose its sheen.

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