Twenty20—in Search of a Winning Formula

Chris PotterCorrespondent IJune 22, 2008

All of the hype and controversy regarding the various breakaway and officially recognised Twenty20 competitions aside, the question of how to succeed in the newest short format of the game is seldom discussed.

This is after all a very different kettle of fish to the 50-over game that once ruled the one-day roost.

There is little time for a batsman to get his eye in or for a bowler to find his rhythm. The issue of the how to combat or prolong the mid-innings slump has become irrelevant. Getting after the bowlers whilst the fielding restrictions (superficially dubbed ''Power Plays'') are enforced is not important as batsman go hell for leather from ball one.

There has been much experimentation in the laboratory that is the Twenty20 arena. Sides have opened the bowling with 2 spinners and pinch-hitters at the top of the order are all the rage for some but pointless for others.

It is a badly-kept secret that spinners are a key weapon in this new format. The general rule is: the faster the ball hits the bat, the faster it disappears over the ropes.

To that end, spinners such as Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Derbyshire's Nayan Doshi (the all-time leading wicket-taker) are much sought-after as they torment their victims with their air balls and arm balls.

But how many spinners can a team afford to include? In the recent IPL tournament, the victorious Rajasthan Royals lined up invariably with 3 spin options in the form of Warne, Jadeja and the part-time chinaman bowling of Darren Lehmann, as well as numerous swing and seam options.

In fact, the versatility of Warne's squad was a decisive factor in their triumph with as many as 6 all-rounders playing in some matches. Shane Watson and Yusuf Pathan were both valid candidates for MVP, contributing with both ball and bat consistently. There were many other players young and old, ingenuous and experienced who contributed greatly to the franchise's success.

Watching the tournament was a real treat from a purely aesthetic point-of-view, but I also found myself asking how I would piece together a team to deal with all of the problems that this format throws up. 

Also, there is the question of the captain; a vital role given the snapshot decisions that can make or break a team in this fast and furious environment. 

Surely, it is too much to ask any one individual to make all of the decisions? 

Shane Warne provides strong evidence against this case. Should the captain be the wicket-keeper who, from his stance behind the stumps, is more likely to see patterns developing during the 75 minutes a side has in the field?

Given the success of the little-talked-about Royals this spring, I would suggest that versatility and flexibility are key to winning games. A captain needs to have several options to fall back on when everything else goes to pot.

Lucky is the captain who can call on a pinch-hitter to set the wheels rolling at the start of an innings or a nudger to keep the scoreboard ticking over in times of difficulty; the captain who has an extra bowling option up his sleeve when the ball is being hammered to the boundary every other ball.

For these reasons, I would go with 4 specialist batsmen, a keeper-batsman, 4 all-rounders and 2 specialist bowlers. After all, (from a bowler's viewpoint admittedly) it is clearly a batsman's game - a flash of a bat here, an 8-iron there and up comes the 100 before you can blink.

Over to you. How would you pick your side? Who would you pick in your side and why?