Cricket is an enthralling contest between bat and ball. The action spices up to the maximum level at its death overs. As the match unfolds and reckons the arrival of the death overs, there is jam packed noise around, intensity zooms in, viewers are glued to their TV sets, batsmen ready to strike at any provocation, every ball anticipated with a thrill and followed up with a suspense, and the bowler gears up before his run up, all set to decide the battle’s fate.
Bowling at the death overs is a specialized art. It needs skill, patience, energy and focus. Every single run matters, every extra counts, every chance missed is grabbed by the opposition, and the onus is always on the bowler to deliver the goods. It is a team strategy rightfully to be implemented not only by the bowler but lead by the captain and supported by the fielders. These days the death overs are not the last ten overs but fifteen through the inclusion of the batting powerplay. It starts from the 35th over and it is 50-50 mental and physical.
From a bowler’s perspective the ball released from his hand will do all the talking. He will have to be sensible. You cannot complain if Yorkers turn into full tosses, good length deliveries being smashed out of the park, inside edges races past the keeper or even if your fielder puts down a sitter. There can be variety in an over but variety itself should not be permanent. You try to bowl different things then you only end up giving away everything. Batsmen’s weakness is the target to be aimed at. More often than not bowling to the stumps without much variation restricts the flow of boundaries. The adrenaline rush should never be drained out. You cannot keep bowling just to keep waiting for your over or the innings to get over.
The captain’s tactical abilities are put down to a test. With the batting powerplay taken just before the death overs, it is important to give the ball to the right bowlers at the right time. With the opposition struggling just before the start of the batting powerplay, it is not such a bad decision to defend than attack. The platform is well laid for the captain to run through the overs with the other part timers or other bowlers. By this way, he has his firepower ready to strike during the death overs. Unsettled batsmen might get into form during the batting powerplay, but even your side has the strike bowler ready to plunge into action any second at the death overs. It will be a battle worth watching than being hammered down by the batsmen making it a one-sided contest.
Experimentation is out of scope in death overs. It might click once in a while but it is never a reliable weapon. Even a spinner with extraordinary figures and good economy rate in that innings should never be handed the ball to bowl after the 45th over. Finally, the icing on the cake for the opposition is to exploit poor field placings. You have got to have the right fielders at the right position. It is always better to have your sloppy fielders leak away a single or two and have your top notch fielders diving and covering large grounds. In a fielder’s dilemma, keeper’s gloves are always a soft target than a bowler’s hands.
PS: This is in reference to some outstanding bowling by India against their one-off T20 against South Africa for which they travelled 4990 miles.