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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

World Cup 2011 - How will teams innovate?

The last few World Cups have seen many innovations introduced by teams that has helped their winning strategy:
  • Pinch-hitter. This was a fad that started way back in the 1987 World Cup when Craig Mcdermott was sent up the order by Allan Border to hit some quick runs. Soon, other countries followed by having their non-regular batsman come at a time they were least expected. Chetan Sharma was one example who did so well that he won the match for India by scoring a century. This was not seen for the last few versions  as all teams have stroke-makers all the way down the order. It has made a comeback this very day in Sydney where Mitchell Johnson came earlier in the batting order during the World Record chase of 334 against England.
  • Opening the bowling with a spinner. This was first introduced by Martin Crowe during the 1992 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand. He opened the bowling with Dipak Patel, thereby reducing the pace of the ball. Batsmen who had made up their mind to face the quicks were shocked by the lack of pace. This option was successful in getting the star-less Kiwis to the Semi-finals of the World Cup, where the individual brilliance of Inzamam-ul-Haq brought them down. This might come back this Cup, especially under the lights on sub-continental pitches offering turn.
  • Opening with a dibbly-dobbly bowler. This was tried out by West Indies in the 1992 World Cup - more because of lack of options - when Phil Simmons used to open the bowling along side Curtley Ambrose. The difference in pace at both ends would unsettle the batsmen to an extent that run-making would go down drastically. Though this trick was not very successful, the career of Simmons was extended because of this utility.
  • Having a bunch of part-time spinners. Sri Lanka followed this strategy to the maximum extent during the 1996 World Cup - at one time, having four spinners (Muralitharan, Dharmasena, Aravinda De Silva, Sanath Jayasuriya) in their playing eleven. The current Indian team has this option available to them - will they repeat history?
  • Making a batsman keep wickets. This option was well tried out by the Indian team during the 2003 World Cup, before the MS Dhoni era. Rahul Dravid, who had kept wickets in early days of his career, was asked to keep wickets so that the team could play the extra spinner. This was one of the ideas that came out of the collective thinking of Sourav Ganguly and John Wright. The Indian team reached the World Cup finals with this strategy, so successful it was. 
  • PowerPlays. This was the first World Cup after PowerPlays was introduced to the ODI format. None of the teams have still managed to get an hold of this concept after 4 years. Will they get it right this time?
What do you think will be the innovation this time in 2011? Any predictions?
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