“The Fizz + Bhuvi + Warner = IPL Trophy,” tweeted one cricket fan ahead of the live-wire final of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2016 between Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. He made the right prediction, eventually.
The match was being touted as the contest between SRH’s bowling unit and RCB’s merciless batting power. Both teams made it to the final night relying solely on their strengths and by not letting the opposition take advantage of their weaknesses.
While SRH had a fairly strong bowling attack compared to RCB, their over-reliance on David Warner made them look slightly weak. But it was vice-versa in case of RCB, who banked upon their batting firepower and hoped the onus of making the team win the match did not fall upon the shoulders of their weak bowling attack.
On the match day, both teams clashed and there was a run fest which saw 400+ runs being smashed in a space of 40 overs. But interestingly, the title went to the team which placed its bet with a highly effective bowling attack at disposal.
Bengaluru was the den of Virat Kohli-led side, who scripted a remarkable turnaround at the half way stage of the tournament to end up in finals, but many believed SRH were favorites to lift the coveted trophy.
The all glitzy cricket format of cricket, the Twenty20, somewhat has a reputation of being bowler friendly. Most of the people believed the format favors the batsmen heavily. The terms – Big bats, small grounds, power play advantage – all slowly became clichéd. The onset of the IPL added more flavor and popularised this version of the sport.
The franchises, with tight budgets, also have been put in a situation where they are left pondering whether to pick better bowlers or batsman. But if the recent trends are meant to be taken under consideration, the answer is certainly clear – pick the better bowlers over star batsman. Cricket fans and experts have somewhat learnt and agreed upon the fact that a good bowling attack is always a better bet in multiplying the chances of winning rather than having star batsmen in the line-up.
RCB had beaten their opposition by simply putting up highly entertaining batting performances. But when the moment of facing the most miserly bowling attack of the competition came, they failed. SRH had proved themselves to be a tough team to score against. They choked them not once but twice, having beaten them in the league stage by defending the total. In fact, they became pretty well known for strangling the run-rate during the death overs.
On both occasions, a huge total of 194 in the league stage and 207 in the final was on the board. But the catalysts were, without any doubt, the fast bowling department which consisted of Mustafizur Rahman, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra and Barinder Sran. These four effectively neutralized the best of the batters in the tournament and paved way for their team to become the champions.
While not completely ignoring the contributions of batsmen, traditionally, at least in the IPL, it has been the bowlers that have taken their team to glory. When Rajasthan Royals won the trophy in the 2008 inaugural edition, the pillars of their success were their bowlers and all-rounders did a fantastic job with the ball.
The likes of Sohail Tanvir, Munaf Patel, Ravindra Jadeja, Siddharth Trivedi and not to forget the charismatic Shane Warne helped their team to the victory path. Similarly, if we single the key players who played huge role in their team’s success – most of them turn out to be bowlers. Pragyan Ojha for Deccan Chargers in 2009, Ravichandran Ashwin along with Doug Bollinger and Dwayne Bravo for Chennai Super Kings in 2010 and 2011. Sunil Narine for KKR in 2012 and 2014.
These names were the star performers and overshadowed their batting counterparts during those editions without any doubts, clearly stating a fact that having a highly skilled names like Ravichandran Ashwin or Dwayne Bravo or mystery bowlers like Sunil Narine or Mustafizur Rahman benefits more than getting big names like Chris Gayle or AB de Villiers, who tend to crumble under pressure (I don’t intend to downgrade them by any means and the comparison is solely based on the collective contribution to their team’s success).
T20 is a format where effectiveness counts more than star power and the franchises have learnt that in a great way. There bidding patterns clearly reflect the attitude wherein they tend to focus more on getting a potentially good bowler over a promising young batsman. Bowlers with little experience like Kishore Kamath, Shivil Kaushik, Barinder Sran, KC Cariappa are crystal clear examples of this approach. The retention habits are also somewhat similar.
So, as the upcoming auction approaches us steadily, it clearly seems despite the game being labelled as batsmen friendly, the bowlers have beaten them in terms of gaining the trust of their respective team owners. One can conclude that, so far, arguably, it has been the bowlers on whom the franchises bank upon for success.