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Strange Mumbai Indians tactics and Raina’s aversions: CLT20, 2010

Posted By Suneer Chowdhary On Sep 14 2010 @ 9:13 am In Cricket | No Comments

The second edition of the Champions League T20 begun in South Africa amidst much fanfare and saw the most spoken about team, Mumbai Indians take on the home side, Highveld Lions in the first game. All the highlights and scorecards of the Champions League T20 [1] can be found here.

The Champions League T20 got off to a good start, with a high-quality cricket match resulting in the underdogs Highveld Lions stunning the Mumbai Indians. For the Mumbai Indians fans, it would have been a difficult pill to swallow – and to digest.

After all, looking at the two sides on a man-to-man basis, there isn’t much evidence to prove that Lions are a better side than Mumbai. On the proverbial paper, the Mumbai Indians are probably a couple or more light years ahead of Lions. Or so the fans thought.

Unfortunately, or fortunately to a few, T20 cricket is a different kettle of fish. Not for nothing has the most unpredictable and fickle cricket sides in the world, Pakistan, been the most consistent in this format of the game – they have entered the semi-finals of the all the three World T20Is, won one and were runner-up once. Probably if the Mumbai Indians and the Lions were to play a 100 T20 games over a month, Mumbai would win 90 of those. Even 95. And no, by no means am I trying to demean the Highveld Lions; it is just a matter of their opposition being much better. But on paper.

What happens on the actual field depends, to a large extent, on how the captain thinks in those 20 overs. The experts may say that the role of the captain in a T20I is the least, but my gut feel is that while a captain’s role in winning a T20 game is the least amongst the three formats, he can be the deciding factor in a T20 loss. Unfortunately for the great man, it was not Sachin Tendulkar’s day at the helm and some strange selection decisions and bowling changes were all it took for the Mumbai Indians to go down.

The other highlight of the first five games of the Champions League T20 was the continuing inability of some of the Indians to play the short ball. One may be flogging a dead horse, but to get out to a defensive stroke off a bouncer does not speak a lot about Suresh Raina’s technique, and it definitely points out in the general direction of nonchalance towards the issue.

Some years back, former Australian captain, Steve Waugh had had similar issues with the bouncer. However, his solution was simple; he pushed the hook stroke out of his repertoire and would duck under it. And he took many blows, but strengthened with every one of them. What works in Raina’s defense is that the format that Waugh featured in was a five-day game, where ducking and weaving were probably as important as scoring the runs. Here, in a T20 game, each delivery is as important as the next one and wasting any of them away can hardly be a solution to the issue.

But even in the T20 format, a good technique can go a long way in helping the team. S Badrinath, Raina’s team-mate in the Super Kings’ line-up showed it in the latter part of the same innings.

Raina is a huge bundle of talent, and there is no doubting that he is the future of Indian cricket. What needs to be seen is whether this perceptibly huge chink in his armour will shackle him getting into the list of all-time greats.

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[1] highlights and scorecards of the Champions League T20: http://live.cricketdiaries.com/cricket/tour/97/5/champions-league-t20-2010/Series.html

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