Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chasing big targets

The IPL 4 final will remain in my memory for a long time for the sheer predictability of the chase by the Royal Challengers. The moment Chenna Super Kings put on 200 plus on the board one knew it boiled down to Gayle's contribution for Royal Challengers to make a mach out of it. And one also knew that unless the tactics were slightly different Gayle would go in the first over (or the first few years max). And when Ashwin came on to bowl, one could feel it in the bones that Gayle would go in the first over. And when Gayle went you knew Mayank Agarwal would go too. And then you knew that RC would fold up for 120 or so. This is the kind of predictability that caused me to switch off after five overs.

So what do you do when you chase big totals? I guess one needs to look at some of the biggest chases in history to get an idea. Rarely has someone pulled off a big chase alone - so expecting Gayle to do it alone as he did for the rest of the tournament would be one of the stupidest things to hope for. Let us take a look at how South Africa pulled off its record breaking chase of 430 plus against Australia in South Africa. Everyone contributed to the score in one way or another. Though Gibbs made 173 or so, it mattered that everyone, including Makhaya Ntini who got the winning run in the last over, contributed. So in some way or another, the target would have to be divided among the 11, at an average of 20 runs or less per batsman - made in about 12 balls at the crease. Now that looks more gettable, more digestible.

I think the best way for RC to go about it would have been to have their biggest six hitters in the middle for as long as possible - Gayle certainly, Mayank, Kohli, Tiwari. I would have played for a target of 120 or 140 instead of going to get after 200. What it would have done is that it would have kept the wickets intact. I would have had Gayle stay in, even without the big shots for 10 overs, just ticking the singles over, so that would keep the pressure on the fielding side all along. If you needed to go, go with Mayank. Forget the rising run rate, that is hardly the issue, if you have the big strikers going. And then with wickets in hand and Gayle getting his eye in, even if you get close to 140 by the 17th over, you still have a great chance of going for it in the last 18 balls. 20 runs an over - anything is possible.

I was surprised at the predictability of it all, at the pressure Gayle came in to bat with. RC lost out on strategy there. It showed in the uncharacteristic way he played the four balls and the shot he got out on was a nowhere shot. Case of bad nerves, bad planning, too much pressure.

If nothing else, just having Gayle at one end would have kept spectators glued in their seats. And that would have kept the pressure on everyone, including the Chennai Super Kings. Gayle was the key, even if it meant sending young Tiwari open with Agarwal, to hold back the mystery of Gayle. It was like exposing the King in a game of chess in the first move itself. I do wish someone would employ this strategy sometime when chasing big targets in similar conditions - just to see how it pans out.  Play for a normal target and keep revising the strategy as often as you can - big wickets intact, so the pressure builds. I have a feeling it will work. 

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