Armed with the most potent yorker in the game, Lasith Malinga has justifiably created a reputation of being the Grim Reaper of opposition batsmen in T20 cricket. Still, when you think death overs, it’s not the slinging Sri Lankan and his toe-crushers that come to mind first. Instead it’s the sight of muscular batsmen, and even brawnier bats, smashing balls into orbit.
But the bowlers, led by Malinga and his unglamorous ally Nuwan Kulasekara, ensured that they got their own back during the World T20 in Bangladesh. At times, the bowlers even ended up with bragging rights, like in the final where Malinga and Kulasekara kept India down to 19 runs off the last 27 balls. And also that time when Dale Steyn managed to stall New Zealand with just seven required off the final over.
Over the next month and a half, it will be the death overs again that will dominate pre-match discussions and team meetings as IPL-7 gets going. For, more often than not, it’s this hectic and thrill-a-minute period of play that decides the outcome of a T20 contest.
Shane Watson, for one, has shouldered the responsibility of shepherding his team manfully in this pivotal period with both bat and ball for the Rajasthan Royals, throughout the history of the IPL. And in an interview with The Sunday Express, the Royals skipper explains the multitude of challenges that bowlers and batsmen have to contend with in the death overs of a T20 contest. The Australian all-rounder, however, also offers a pragmatic admission, insisting that you can plan all you want but there can never exist a fool-proof strategy of escaping the inevitable onslaught. Excerpts.
Do you think the bowlers have held their own during the World T20 in Bangladesh?
There’s always going to be times when bowlers do get the upper hand. The conditions in Bangladesh certainly were more conducive to bowling, especially spin bowling. Certain spinners like Saeed Ajmal, Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree did a great job for their teams, so did Ravichandran Ashwin for India. There’s no doubt that bowlers are always learning and trying to find ways to limit the damage. The bowlers had their way in the World T20, but history tells us that the IPL always has more high-scoring matches.
Do you think the death-over performance by Malinga and Kulasekara during the World T20 final was among the best ever?
To be able to hold the Indian team with their dynamic batting line-up to just 19 runs in the last 5 overs is an incredible performance. That too, to do that under pressure in a final against the likes of Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh, and the likes of MS Dhoni and Ravindra Jadeja in the dug-out, is phenomenal. That is where continued…