Aakash Chopra: T20 cricket is a bowlers' game

Aakash Chopra 16:34 28/04/2017
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Mumbai's bowling has been really impressive [Sportzpics]

The tenth edition of the Indian Premier League [IPL] has reached its halfway stage and while Mumbai Indians [MI] and Kolkata Knight Riders [KKR] have looked the two best teams by some margin, there’s some serious grappling expected for the third and fourth spots.

Rising Pune Supergiant’s [RPS] rise and Sunrisers Hyderabad’s [SRH] issues with illness and injury have opened up the league further. Delhi Daredevils [DD] look like one win away from finding momentum and Kings XI Punjab [KXIP] aren’t too far away from stitching a couple of wins together.

Gujarat Lions [GL] are the only team that looked fairly strong on paper but haven’t managed to create any momentum thus far.

Let’s have a look at a few trends emerging in this year’s IPL.

T20 IS A BOWLERS’ GAME

The common thread in the top two teams in the league is their depth in the bowling department. Both MI and KKR have resisted the temptation to play an extra batsman for a bowler.

Whenever they have made changes to their playing XI, they have made sure that they have fielded five proper bowlers with an additional bowling option to take care of someone having a bad day.

In the early years of T20 cricket, most teams thought packing the team with batsmen was the key to success but that’s changing now.

T20 is a 120 balls game and therefore, you seldom require the services of more than six batsmen but irrespective of how good your bowlers are, you need five in every game.

YOUNG, LESSER KNOWN INDIAN PLAYERS COMING TO THE FORE

This season, the absence of some of the big stars was expected to dampen the spirits but it has provided some of the younger ones an opportunity to stand up and get noticed.

Nitish Rana has done so well that his team’s captain Rohit Sharma has to make peace with batting at four, for it’s criminal to move the best in-form batsman lower down the order for the captain’s preferred batting spot.

The same is the case with Rahul Tripathi for RPS. He has not just hit form from the outset but also is now being seen as a more dangerous batsman than his opening partner Ajinkya Rahane.

Once again, it proves that form is the only currency that works in T20. Basil Thampi and Mohammed Siraj are the two quick bowlers who’ve impressed one and sundry, and it won’t be surprising if both start featuring in India A teams soon.

UMPIRING IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Umpiring is at its best when it goes relatively unnoticed. The moment it becomes the central part of cricket discussions around a tournament, you know that it hasn’t been of a very high standard.

This year’s IPL has seen some really ordinary umpiring, which in turn has raised the issue of the standards of homegrown Indian umpires. It’s not that overseas umpires haven’t erred but it’s a fact that Indian umpires have done so more often.

Ever since the Board of Control for Cricket in India [BCCI] has started covering every first-class game with six stationary cameras, the umpiring standards have improved in the domestic circuit but the ordinary standard displayed by the few handpicked (who are supposedly the best Indian umpires) in the IPL shows that there are miles to be covered still.

The ambience of the ground, the pressure of the game, and the stature of the players involved have the potential to influence the decision making of the on-field umpire.

World-class umpiring is necessary to make the tournament world-class and currently, the umpiring standards are bringing down the league’s stature.

CHAMPIONS TROPHY ON THE MIND?

Amongst the known performers, some have shown more than the rest. And interestingly, they happen to be the ones who’re in line with India selection for the Champions Trophy.

Manish Pandey’s brilliant run must have served as a timely reminder to the selection committee. And with both Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav doing well, it’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar has all but sealed his place along with Jasprit Bumrah. While the focus is on making their respective teams win the IPL, there’s an intriguing story playing out on the side.

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