NEW DEHLI: Whether planning to open the bowling with a spinner or capitalising on the powerplays, World Cup captains have to make sure they do not leave their thinking caps in the dressing-room.
Creativity has paid rich dividends ever since New Zealand captain Martin Crowe bucked the trend in the 1992 World Cup by tossing the ball to off-spinner Dipak Patel after the opening over. The spinner continued to deliver whenever he shared the new ball till his side ran into Pakistan in the semi-final, losing by four wickets.
The 1992 tournament saw for the first time not only coloured clothing, white balls, black sightscreens and day-night matches, but also pinch-hitters in a bid to exploit fielding restrictions in the first 15 overs. New Zealand used Mark Greatbatch while eventual runners-up England promoted all-rounder Ian Botham to do the pinch-hitting, but many teams still preferred specialists at the top.
Sri Lanka went one step ahead in the 1996 edition when they turned pinch-hitters into a potent weapon on flat sub-continental tracks. Sanath Jayasuriya and Romesh Kaluwitharana, both middle-order batsmen early in their careers, were sent in as openers and stunned the opposition with their hitting.
The coming years saw hard-hitting batsmen at the top, with India’s Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly, Australians Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist, and West Indies’ Chris Gayle providing brisk starts.
The days of pure wicket-keepers were also over, with Gilchrist, Sri Lankan Kumar Sangakkara, India’s Mahendra Singh Dhoni, New Zealander Brendon McCullum and South African Mark Boucher giving their teams more batting options.
Yorkers and slower balls have now become useful weapons, especially in ‘death’ overs.
“Now, more than ever before, the fast bowler has to blend intelligence with pace and aggression,” wrote Pakistan fast bowling great Wasim Akram. “Variety is the name of the game and at the same time one must guard against over-experimenting.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 18th, 2011.
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