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Big gun players should be up top





The times in the international cricket schedule when national coaches can just sit back and relax and perhaps even get away from the game so as to refresh or reboot are few as well as rather short.

Accepting the job of head coach for most of the cricket countries entails a lot of time away from home due to generally gruelling fixture lists that involve extensive travel.

That said, a few weeks off while there is a cricket tournament on such as the Indian Premier League, and one can't help but have a peep at what's happening over in India with a focus on one's own players.

Of particular interest is the way international players from various countries fare in Indian conditions, with the mind that there is an ICC World Twenty20 to be held there in just under a year. To some, this might seem a long way off and so they may feel it's too early to try and make plans for it.

It’s perhaps not ideal to make specific plans, but the information gleaned from what happens out at the Indian Premier League could be very useful when the time comes to select a team and also to strategise at the tournament.

The conjecture over batting orders has come and gone with cases being made this way and the other about various players batting in certain positions. That sparkling innings from AB de Villiers (and here I must specify that I am talking of his T20 one for Royal Challengers Bangalore as he has played a great many such innings in this the prime of his career) reinforced for those who feel that he should be batting higher up in the Proteas order that he is wasted lower down at number four or five.

Without necessarily focussing on the Proteas side but bearing it in mind, it seems no coincidence that the Royal Challengers Bangalore have done considerably better since having their batting stalwarts, Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers batting at one, two and three.

The baffling thing is that it has taken them this long to figure out that they had not been utilising the player resources available to them to fully benefit themselves. How a squad that boasts those three names has not ever won the Indian Premier League after seven attempts is unbelievable.

A look at the current IPL leading run scorers, and for the seasons gone by, will show that the opening batsmen dominate the list each year and this is no coincidence at all.

While the players' adage is: "you have more time than you think," when referring to batsmen under pressure to score quickly as the run rate climbs, the reality is that 20 overs is not a lot of batting time to spread across your six or seven batsmen. So it is necessary to have your order correctly set out to afford the most effective of players the most opportunity to control the game for your team.

Balance is often spoken about in teams and while strategising, there is sometimes the over complication of scenarios and thus getting to a point where those looking from the outside in have the better view and find some decisions pretty strange and difficult to explain.

The really good players are usually able to execute most roles assigned to them and this can sometimes have a slightly negative effect as they become victims of their talent. Let me explain. An AB de Villiers who can bat at one, two, three, four or five is in a team where there are others who aren't so good down the order so he is given the "finisher" role and lesser players bat before him to set the game up.

While it may seem to work as it optimises the lesser player's talent, surely the one you want to fully utilise is the better player?

One wonders if last year's finalists Kings XI Punjab have also been a victim of those theories. It might well have benefited them, and may in future, to have one of David Miller or George Bailey getting in early and controlling the game.

Good finishers are fine and perhaps even rare but while watching them play impactful cameos is exciting, one would much rather have a player start as well as finish as this will affect the game better.

Get the big guns in early and if they come off, they put the team in a commanding position from the outset. If not, the others are, or should be, good enough to cobble together a decent score.

One wonders whether what is happening at the IPL will have any impact at all on the various strategists that will be tasked with plotting the way to do battle for that ICC World Twenty20 World of 2016.


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