India, April 23 -- In sport, there is a huge advantage of playing at home. Indeed, it is such a huge factor that in football, an 'away' goal practically counts for two. Cricket also toes the home advantage line, though I am not sure whether it ought to be as massive a factor as it is turning out to be this season.
The general way of looking at things is that playing at home is an advantage, and you can't argue with that entirely. You have the knowledge and familiarity of the ground and conditions, having practiced there for long hours and because you are playing half your 16 league matches at that venue. Additionally, there is the crowd support, which can be potentially decisive in a tense, tight finish.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore have been one of the primary beneficiaries of a decidedly partisan crowd that has solidly backed the team, and particularly the trio of Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers. It's no surprise, therefore, that RCB have won all their five matches at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. Likewise, both the Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals are undefeated at home this season but I would like to reiterate that home advantage is not as pronounced in a T20 game from a technical point of view.
In Test cricket and one-day internationals, there is a distinct advantage in playing at home in that you can prepare pitches to suit the home team's strengths. As the home team, you know the nature of the surface, you know how it will behave at various stages of the game, and you therefore use that knowledge and familiarity to your advantage.
No time to adjust
In a T20 game, however, there is no time to get used to the wicket. After all, you have only 240 deliveries and it is highly unlikely that the character of the pitch will change drastically in such a short period of time. Indeed, if there is any advantage at all for the home team from a playing conditions perspective, it is at best very small.
In T20 cricket, home advantage is more of a psychological aspect, with the thinking of the players being very positive going into a home game.
It all boils down to one's frame of mind, when you walk into a ground you are familiar with, you take notice of all the good things as you step on the field. You derive confidence from having done well at the venue in the past, having practiced on it for long hours. But the functional part of the game is much the same.
The fact that you have home advantage can also stem from a certain negativity on the part of the opposition. Everyone knows how a surface at a particular venue will behave these days because there is greater access to information.
But if teams travelling to a particular ground allow themselves to be overcome by negativity and for some reason believe that the home side is invincible in its backyard, then that is half the battle won and lost.
The writer is a former India pacer
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.