Chokers, Fighters, Wrestlers, Wicket Takers and Wicket Keepers: 5 Observations from the World of T20
All the current action in the shortest format of the game has thrown up some very interesting insights. Our expert tells you more…
It’s not been easy picking one topic to write about after the past few Twenty20 games. There’s been so much going on - de Villiers’ batting, Ganguly’s resurgence, Ganguly’s hair, Kolkata choking in close games (just like they did last year) and so much more. So instead of picking just one, here are five observations, from stats to random snippets, which have made this season’s event worth the watch.
1. Kolkata continue to display South African-esque choking ability
Under Gautam Gambhir, the new look Kolkata team has been unstoppable when they get going. There’s a reason they had the second highest net run-rate in last year’s tournament and are second on NRR this year as well. Under Gambhir, they have also shown the ability to lose close matches and choke when it matters the most. In fact, in games decided in the last over or where a side has won by less than 10 runs, here is Kolkata’s record:
Played - 9, Won - 2, Lost - 7
One of those wins was not really a close match (Kolkata won by 9 runs) because Amit Mishra hit a consolation six of the last ball to reduce the margin of victory. So it wasn’t really a case where Kolkata had to hold their nerve. Their other close win that came this year was against Rahul Dravid’s Jaipur.
Plenty more losses to count against those two wins! The biggest choke efforts came in the most important matches. First, the final league game against Mumbai last year where a win would have assured Kolkata a Top 2 spot. With Mumbai needing 21 of the final over, you think Kolkata would have won it but they didn’t. Scenes from the final few deliveries included full tosses by Balaji, a missed run-out by Goswami, and an angry Gautam Gambhir. The eliminator game, again versus Mumbai, was not as close but Kolkata lost in the final over. It was their batting that fell apart when it most mattered in that match.
Put simply, Kolkata is unbelievably good at registering big wins by T20 standards. But if it’s close or if the stakes are high, they don’t get the job done. Sounds eerily similar to the fortunes of a certain international team.
2. Sourav Ganguly is having some fun and letting his hair down
We move from Kolkata to one of Kolkata’s favourite sons - Sourav Ganguly. Everybody has been raving about his captaincy (rightfully so), his ability to find the likes of Samuels and Steve Smith and his constant fighting ability. My brother though is the first to point out his strike rate of 104 this year, and suggests employing the Geoff Boycott strategy from the 1979 World Cup whenever Dada is batting.
Still you have to hand it to Dada for his match-winning performance against Delhi. The moment of the game was Ganguly getting KP clean bowled and running half way to the boundary to celebrate in style. But as my Kolkata friend Fubster pointed out to me, his hair didn’t get the style memo - which prompted the fashion-conscious Yuvraj Singh to tweet: “Well bowled dada! Uneed (sic) to put gel next time you take a wicket!”
Harbhajan Singh has been in the news for all the wrong reasons these days. First, the Sangakarra debacle happened. Then, there’s his bowling form which has been woeful as indicated below.
Of course, it’s not just cricket that keeps Harbhajan busy these days, as I realized when channel surfing. I was shocked to see Harbhajan Singh wrestling Jeff Jarrett on TV the other day. (No, this is not a mis-type, check out this link if you want to see what I am talking about.
Bhajji and wrestling! This is incredible!! Just think about the possibilities this opens up. For instance:
Harbhajan vs. Sreesanth no holds barred, one slap to the finish.
Closing stages of the match: Andrew Symonds interrupts with a steel chair to hit Harbhajan to get back at him for all their past battles. Sreesanth, seeing a struggling Harbhajan, decides to fight for his countryman and takes out Symonds with a clothesline. Harbhajan and Sreesanth embrace at the end and the whole crowd cheers. Now that’s TV ratings right there!
4. Foreign players get you wickets
Seven of the top ten wicket-takers in the tournament are overseas players.
That’s a pretty telling stat. It also tells me Bangalore should be playing Murali as their fourth foreign player. Heck, I’d pick Murali over Vettori if you think Appanna can fill that second spinner spot and find someone else to be captain.
5. AB de Villiers might be the most valuable T20 keeper-batsman in the world today
I always like to ask people who they would pick first if they had a draft and could select anyone to be on their team. For years, across ODIs and Tests, I would unequivocally pick Adam Gilchrist, only because there is no one close to him for the role that he plays - match-winning batsman who can also keep wickets (this was before Dhoni came along).
For Tests today, Dale Steyn is an easy first pick because the gap between him and the next best bowler is huge. In T20s, I think the world’s most valuable player today is AB de Villiers. His Batting Momentum is amongst the Top 5 in this year’s tournament (there’s not much to choose between Gayle, Rahane, Pietersen, Du Plessis and ABD in the tournament so far). And he does a good job keeping wickets. McCullum, Dhoni and Sangakarra are not even close to ABD when it comes to T20 batting these days. In this department, de Villiers is in a league of his own.