Like with the evolution of science where hypotheses,even if flawed,were necessary for superior ones to emerge,T20 cricket,still so young,has begun to question and refine theories on how it should be played. It is a wonderful opportunity for us,no more than bystanders,to see our game present another facet of its greatness. And that is why I worry about people who shut their minds to this evolution. Sometimes,as with my reluctance to embrace smartphones,we try too hard to limit the world because it is uncomfortable for us to keep pace.
This is not a long article so let us limit ourselves to three hypotheses we had about T20 cricket as recently as six years ago. And let us look at those through the eyes of the Rajasthan Royals,the most sorted (theres a modern usage of an old word!) of all the Indian franchises.
We thought bowlers would have no role to play in T20 cricket,that they would be no more than bearers of gifts to batsmen,that they would prostrate themselves before the batting masters and accept their fate. But we forgot that bowlers,like good entrepreneurs,always emerge stronger in the face of adversity. So many innovations have emerged; the slow bouncer and the wide yorker for example,and from the Caribbean,a part of the world that produced terrifying fast bowlers,two bowlers with a bagful of tricks have arrived. Sunil Narine is the better known and more successful but Kevon Cooper with myriad slower balls and yorkers has become an integral part of the Royals.
Cooper has played a mere two first class matches but his style,like Narines,is designed to thwart attack. If batsmen sit on him and nudge the ball around like they would in cricket as we knew it,he would be ineffective. And so he is a bowler that nature has thrown up for a specific form of cricket. Will he take five wickets in a test match? Maybe never. Will he win you a game when the opposition needs ten an over? Most days. So what do you measure him by? The scales you use will determine how you look at the modern game; whether you look at what players are or what they arent. Measure Cooper the traditional way and he will fail,check his utility in specific situations and you want him in the side.
We thought T20 cricket would be a slog fest. It is,on some boring days when cricket descends from being bat vs ball to being bat vs bat. But increasingly,it acquires its own ebb and flow,there is a rhythm to playing this game. For the Royals Ajinkya Rahane scores at a strike rate of 110-115 but he plays as important a role as Stuart Binny who strikes at 140. There are different stages of a game now and Binny facing the new ball would be as ineffective as Rahane in the last five. But place them where they now play and each is a match winner. Ashok Menaria slips in an over at the start when the batsmans feet are continued…