In the era of the Chris Gayles, the David Warners, the Jason Roys and the Glenn Maxwells, the shortest format of cricket, T20, is rising up the ladder of popularity in an unbelievable pace. Initially, when the T20 cricket was introduced, any regular batsman’s mentality was going for the hard-hitting batting since a side is given just 20 overs to bat. When a sudden switch was made from 50-overs to 20-overs, the big shots were discovered as the only solution to the new challenge. In the course of the change, the basic mantra of keeping the scoreboard ticking was slowly forgotten. In an attempt to keep the ball in the air with uppercuts, reverse sweeps, scoops and all kinds of weird shots, today’s batsman have been showing the tendency to forget the fundamental rule in batting – rotation of the strike.
Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith belonged to the generation that kept alive the purest form of cricket. These lads produced the smartest game of cricket; not that they never enjoyed smashing the ball into the stands; they did that too but in a well turned-out way. Their shots were never even close to what today is termed as “slogging.” Most of the current batsmen choose to slog, that is hit the ball as far as possible with an aim for a six, or at least a four. Their approach to scoring runs eventually has restricted to power-hitting, rather than proper technique and elegance.
For example, if the bowler is at his best, one can counter him with a few placement drills and ensure the runs keep coming. That way, the pressure coming from the bowler would get negated and the risk of losing a wicket would also reduce. Without a doubt, a batsman striking several boundaries in an over is a rarity; that can happen either when he is at his finest forms or the bowler is having an off day on the field. It is always a good idea to take as many singles as possible and go for a boundary only when the bowler delivers a loose ball. If six singles are taken in an over, those six runs eventually are crucial for the chasing team. They get under pressure if the batsmen struggle to rotate the strike.
What the experts say
Speaking to CricketSoccer’s cricket expert, former Indian cricketer, Deep Dasgupta, said, “Singles keeps pressure off as batsmen, not rushed to play big shots or take a risk. Till a couple of years ago T20 was all about hitting boundaries but technically more accomplished players like Virat [Kohli], [Kane] Williamson, [Hashim] Amla have changed the mindset and the emphasis is back on strike-rotation.”
The likes of Maxwell, David Miller, Yusuf Pathan, Thisara Perera and Shahid Afridi still continue to play irresponsible cricket and they surely can never turn into the main batsman of their respective team. They lack proper cricketing shots. Between a four and a six the difference is two runs. Because you hit the ball in the air (for six), the risk goes up to 100 percent. At the end, cricket is a team game. Instead of always needlessly trying to smack a boundary, a batsman must build a better understanding with his possible batting partners in order to convert a dot ball into a run; a single into a double and a double into three runs.
“Strike-rotation is very important. It doesn’t let the bowler settle into a groove,” former Indian middle-order batsman, Rohan Gavaskar, said.
The Kohlis, the Amlas, the Smiths, the Mushfiqs…
However cricketers such as Kohli, Mushfiqur and Steven Smith have revived the old form of the game. There is a reason why Kohli and Smith are considered among the finest modern day batsmen at present. The others are Joe Root, Kane Williamson. In 2016, Kohli and Smith were amid the top five top-scorers in ODIs. More importantly, they scored more than half of their runs via strike-rotation, taking singles, doubles or three runs.
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, Mushfiqur Rahim has established himself as one of the finest exponents of rotating the strike in modern times. Whenever he senses about a collapse is around the corner, he cut short his attacking instincts and concentrates more on scoring runs via singles and twos. Bangladesh have benefited a lot from his strike-rotating abilities in recent times.
Hashim Amla’s recent two T20 centuries in the IPL 2017 is an even better testimony to the fact that big innings are ‘still’ possible even with technique and skill rather than slogging every shot.
It is all about the confidence in a batsman to rotate the strike. The success of any team is generally more to do with the strike-rotation. If a batsman is struggling, he can always keep giving the strike to his partner, instead of losing his wicket with a poor shot selection. That way, it keeps both the batsmen fluent and going well.
The ICC Champions Trophy is a few weeks away from kickoff. There will once again be an abrupt switch from T20 to ODI format for the players. So as to progress further in the tournament, the players will have to remember that making of champion player requires more than smashing the ball across the ground, especially in the ODIs.
A batsman, who at all times finds a gap, after a boundary is considered to be a sharper player. There have been batsmen, even today, who throw away their wickets in overconfidence when they attempt for the second boundary in a row. It’s always safe to rotate a strike and keep the momentum going. The team with the more numbers players following the strike-rotation ‘mantra’ will have a better chance to get hold of the coveted trophy in England.