Thinking bowlers in T20, find of the hour
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Something beautiful is happening to T20 cricket. Both in Sri Lanka, and now here in South Africa, bowlers are making a strong comeback; they are saying they never went away, were just forced by pitches and boundary distances to take a little detour. Bowlers who bowl quick and bowlers who turn the ball are back in demand and those that do just a bit of this and a little bit of that are getting the sporting equivalent of pink slips.
It is my hypothesis, and it is worth a nice debate, that bowlers have become more versatile. Like with all aspects of civilisation, adversity has forced them to become more inventive. So fast bowlers have the yorker aimed at the base of leg stump but they also have one that kisses the tramline on the off-side, they have the back-of-the-hand slower ball and the fastish off-break; they have the sharp bouncer and the loopy one. With the batsmen coming hard, the bowlers have had to innovate and as a result, the thinking bowlers are surviving.
Bowlers who can only ping the ball at base of leg stump are getting paddle-swept, if they show their hand early, they are getting reverse-swept. If they don't turn the ball they are being hit through the line and with modern bats if you don't beat the batsman in the air, the ball is going 90 metres away. T20 is forcing the bowlers to acquire many variations. Indeed T20 might seem like a brash young kid bred on modern lifestyles but it is rewarding old virtues again.
And as a result, batsmen are having a challenge on their hands. The mindless sloggers are looking a bit stupid, playing yourself in, even if by a T20 definition, is proving to be a good investment. Mahela Jayawardene is one of the world's top batsmen in this genre and Neil McKenzie showed how a cultured run chase is possible when the Highveld Lions played the Mumbai Indians. Yes, you still need to have quaint flicks, you should still be able to clear the boundary from time to time but the bullies with the big bats who threatened to hijack cricket are discovering there is fight left in the old game. Even Chris Gayle is giving the first two overs to the bowler. Why, that's ten percent of the innings, not too different from when Sunil Gavaskar used to say 'give the first hour to the bowlers' for that was only a little more than fifteen percent of the day!