Vantage point

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why Bowlers Will Love Twenty20

When the World Twenty20 started a couple of weeks back, everyone expected it to be a batsman's game, and with good reason. It is a format where a runrate of 8 is par for the course, and even a double digit asking rate is gettable. Two weeks hence, the biggest revelation for me has been the fact that T20 as a format is a lot more bowler-friendly than one day internationals.

This may sound like post-hoc analysis but hear me out. Bowlers rule in test cricket. Everyone knows the cliche - to win a test match you need to take 20 wickets. Bowlers get to display their skills in test cricket without too many restrictions. In ODIs however, bowlers get a raw deal. They are restricted to a few overs, there are fielding restrictions, and restrictions on bouncers. The margin for wides is a lot tighter as well. Now all those restrictions apply in T20 too. Yet T20 is a better format for the bowlers.

The shorter duration and the high run rate is precisely the reason why that is so. In ODIs, with 50 luxurious overs at their disposal, batsmen can cut out the risky shots, take 1s and 2s, and play a very safe game. They can "respect" a quality bowler, take him for just 3 runs an over, and make up the deficit from other weaker bowlers. But 20 overs is too short a duration to play this safe game. There is no time to relax, kick back, rotate the strike and put the spectators to sleep. Be it the fifth bowler or the opening bowler, everyone has to be targeted. This opens up more chances for the bowlers to take wickets. Bowling straight at the stumps, varying your pace, and trying other guiles could never fetch such handsome returns in ODIs where the batsman would primarily look to just tuck you around the corner for a single.

Which is why, at the end of 2 weeks of cricket of quality and thrill levels not seen in the last 4 ODI world cups, it was the bowlers who made the difference. It was a bowler who got the man of the match in the final. It was a bowler (though the wrong bowler) who won the player of the series. Go through every match (except for, possibe the SA-WI run-fest) and it was bowling that tilted the scales. Plus this is a format where you bowl just 4 overs and not 10. And even after that, you have to field in the deep for possibly just an hour. Bowlers can thus go at their spells with a higher level of intensity than ODIs.

So really, there is no reason why bowlers should not love Twenty20.