What has been the bane of Indian cricket for years-that our cricket is replete with instances of individual brilliance than team efforts, is now proving of value in the new format.
With the Indians literally thrashing the Australians in the T-20 match at the Brabourne stadium, it is time to acknowledge that crickets youngest format is certain to dominate the horizon of the worlds craziest cricketing nation for some time to come. A clamour for that elusive ticket, a perfect format for television, faultless weekend night out, there are more than a handful of reasons going for T-20. Most important, however, is the clinical way in which the Indians dispatched their famed opponents ushering in diwali two weeks before the actual festival. And it is this that raises the question-why is it that the Indians are playing as they are in T-20 when they are failing to reproduce the same magic in the fifty over format?
History demonstrates that Indian cricket has more often than not been a case of what could have been. Even in the recently concluded one day series had Sachin Tendulkar continued for a while in the sixth match at Nagpur, where he got a run a ball 72, the series could easily have ended 3-3. In the same game had the Uthappa cameo (44 of 28 balls) continued in the penultimate over, things could have been profoundly different. Again, at Hyderabad, had the Yuvraj-Dhoni partnership continued for five more overs, the Yuvraj century would have been of value. Interestingly, T-20 doesnt allow the scope for these hypothetical situations.
In T-20 a couple of solid cameos seal the fate of a game, a trait the Indians are exploiting to the full. Theres no chance for a quality side like Australia to recover from an early shock. In a fifty over contest, the Australians would certainly have recovered from the mauling handed by Gambhir and Uthappa in the first ten overs on Saturday last when the score read 100-1. In T-20, however, the game was as good as over. By the half way stage Australian shoulders had dropped and they were literally seen going through the motions. Even the Uthappa wicket did little to change things and the Indian love affair continued unabated with yet another cameo from Yuvraj Singh.
The moot point is that T-20 is a game of individual cameos and history is proof how good the Indians are at such performances. What has been the bane of Indian cricket for years-that our cricket is replete with instances of individual brilliance than team efforts, is now proving of value in the new format. In T-20 you dont need a team performance. Two or at best three solid individual performances and the game is as good as over. At Brabourne for example only Harbhajan and Kartik excelled in bowling and Gambhir, Uthappa and Yuvraj sealed Australias fate in batting. At Nagpur by contrast despite good performances from Sachin, Saurav, Uthappa and Dhoni India finished some distance from the finishing line. It is this fundamental difference in the nature of the two formats that best explains Indias success in T-20.
The T-20 world cup final provides yet another example of how individual performance matters more in this format. Gautam Gambhirs brilliance at the top of the order and Rohit Sharmas cameo at the end of the innings in batting and Irfan Pathans fantastic spell with one fine over by R P Singh sealed Pakistans fate. While not undermining Joginder Sharmas efforts or the value of Dhonis captaincy, it was the quartet mentioned above who won us the T-20 final to a large extent.
Can India then transform T-20 success in the fifty over format in the months to come? Yes and no. Over reliance on youth cant be the way forward. This was best demonstrated in the one-day contests against Australia. We still need the experience and more importantly skill of Sachin and Saurav at the top of the order to chase down an imposing total. Robin Uthappa for example, a real star in T-20, still has some distance to go in the fifty over format. While of great worth towards the end of the innings, he hasnt yet demonstrated the mettle needed to face a swinging new ball. And Test matches are an altogether different ball game. With four slips constantly in operation in Australia, trying to imagine an Indian side without Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar appears seriously improbable. In bowling too, wickets, not containment is the key in the two bigger formats of the game. While a spell of 4-0-20-0 is nothing short of excellent in T-20, the same spell is hardly of much use in a fifty over contest. Historically, India has lacked the firepower to pick up twenty wickets and bowl out oppositions, a lacuna that best explains our sporadic victories overseas. In essence thus it is difficult to imagine that India will be able to transform her phenomenal T-20 success in the longer formats of the game in the near future unless her experienced hands in Sachin, Saurav, Rahul and Kumble once again come to the fore.
This is what explains why T-20 is the way forward for Indian cricket. It is a truism to suggest that all modern sport is nationalistic. It is also well known that the experienced four will hardly serve the game for more than two years. With alternatives yet unavailable in the longer format, that T-20 will rule peoples hearts in the days to come is only natural. Not without reason is it said that the winner takes it all.