INSIDE THEIR

THE OVERVIEW BrEtt GEEvES

f ur We ask vo rying of a players ce how they experien T20 cricket. approach s writes about ve Brett Geefalls of being a the pit r, while Will bowle interviews Swantonw Hayden, Matthe kshank and c Tim Crui oran about Luke D r roles thei

HEADS
“How much better does it look when the ball flies 10 metres over the boundary? The poor bowler has the maximum amount added to his bowling tally and the batter gets to strut around like he was the man who shot Liberty Valance”
BOWLING in T20 cricket is one tough job. Sure, it lacks the outcome consequences of ensuring a baby is delivered healthily or performing open heart surgery on a stranger. These are life and death scenarios, bowling a cricket ball at a stranger, is not. This should not take away from the difficulties the bowler faces in T20 cricket. It has though hasn’t it? Damn it ... When entering a T20 game, it is the coach’s role to ensure you are over-thinking every delivery. The day before the game, he has sat you down with your bowling buddies and he has made you watch hours of footage of the opposition batsmen plundering countless fours and sixes from the last time you played them. Then, he has constructed documentation that suggests if 20 percent of balls bowled in the innings are dots, you will win the game. Mentally, you’re now second guessing your own ability and if we are to be honest, those around you, especially the coach.

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There is no point watching the dismissals – they are all caught on the boundary and tell you nothing about the batsman’s technical flaws. To make matters worse for the bowlers, it seems the worse a player’s technique, the better a T20 batsman they are. Look at the unorthodox nature of the way David Warner swings a cricket bat. He has taken to batting left and right handed! What a genuine freak. I have never seen cleaner hitting than that of Warner in his last two Champions League innings. As a bowler all you can do is attempt to not have his finishing move performed on you – he screams “How Far!!??” and places his hands to his eyes like a poorly dressed model in a Kmart flyer (think cream three-quarter length khakis, horizontal striped polo and brown sandals), as the ball sails out of the ground. I’ll be honest, hearing “Get over here” and having poison tipped Kunai knives enter your heart would be more fun. Just to make the bowlers job that little bit harder, the boundaries are brought into a well connected drop punt and the technology and craftsmanship behind a cricket bat these days means that not only can Neil Harvey talk about the modern game being nowhere near as strong as his 1948 Invincibles because of their ability to face bowling twice as slow with fence palings as bats, but the pickets are cleared with consummate ease. The short boundaries are for pure aesthetics. How much better does it look when the ball flies 10 metres over the boundary, which in a Test match would plug before the fence and the batsmen may scamper through for a 3rd. Instead, the poor bowler has the maximum amount added to his bowling tally and the batter gets to strut around like he was the man who shot Liberty Valance. Meantime the crowd are going mad and the bowler is left to suffer the type of humiliation that takes place when being chased down the street by Today Tonight after selling a 92 year old lady a Ford Model T that’s odometer had been wound back so much it was being sold “as new”. T20 Cricket in Australia is set to come under the microscope this summer. State vs State Big Bash has been replaced by city based franchises with cheesy nicknames and the type of coloured clothing you would expect to see at a pre-pubescent girl’s slumber party. It’s little wonder our Test ranking is rapidly dropping with all of Cricket Australia’s energy and resources over the past three years having clearly gone into the development of this competition and the failed split innings concept to further enhance the profile of short form cricket. The salary cap for Big Bash league teams is marginally less than a state association can disperse to potential Test aspirants. How is this possible? This sends a very clear message to young cricketers who are attempting careers as professional cricketers – get your slog on because for eight weeks work you can make the same as a Shield contracted player. I wonder what Mr Argus thinks.

THE CLOSER tIm CruICkShaNk
“You’re always analysing . . . There’s so much strategy, so much cat and mouse between the batter and bowler”

THE OPENER MaTTHEW HaYDEN
“The art of T20 opening is to know the balance between the risk and the outcome”
OPENING THE batting in T20 is the finest line to walk in cricket. Slog from ball one? Have a few sighters? How many? Every dot ball is another dagger in your team’s heart. Late in the innings, in the frenetic chase for boundaries and quantum leaps on the scoreboard, recklessness is excused, but the opener is doing his team few favours by trying to hit his first ball to Kingdom Come only to have his stumps disturbed as quickly as the mood is shattered among his teammates. One-for-none sucks. Openers have to be cut a little slack, but how much? According to Matthew Hayden, the former Test great and now bludgeoning opener for the Brisbane Heat, the key to the early overs is momentum. Hayden attempts to play every ball on its merits. Thing is, though, in T20, most deliveries merit being given the long handle. That’s why Hayden admits to a large degree of pre-meditation. He has a firm view, before every ball is bowled, depending on it being in the hitting zone, of course, what he wants to do with it. Hayden’s pre-conceived ideas are never more evident than when he’s walking down the pitch nearly as fast as the bowler is approaching it. He’s bullish and confrontational. He’s looking for a fight, moving into a head-on collision. He’s looking to dictate. “Opening the batting is so challenging in T20,” Hayden says. “The art of it is to know the balance between the risk and the outcome. Whether you’re playing Twenty20 cricket or one-day cricket, they’re in sync with each other, it’s just that decision time comes around a lot quicker in T20. If you’re chasing a big total, for instance, you’ve got to get cracking straight away. You have to weigh up the risks and decide on the spot if you’re confident about the application. There’s always pre-meditation. Every ball, you might have a few areas of the ground you like to play to and the bonus in the early overs is that the field restrictions mean you can get massive rewards for good, positive shots.” Hayden has played some terrific T20 innings. He only played nine times for Australia but had three seasons with the Chennai Super Kings, being the leading runscorer in 2009. He’s an innovator, unveiling the Mongoose bat he’s likely to parade again this summer when he strides out for Brisbane Heat. Body language has always been part of his armoury. Heat coach Darren Lehmann calls him The Godfather of the side: disciplined, determined, passionate, formidable, the very personification of power. Strong body language is not too difficult to have when you’re built like a Mack truck. Not many fast bowlers get to look down on Hayden. It’s harder to sledge when you’re being dwarfed. “The key to pre-meditation is the stability of your technique and the positioning of your body,” Hayden says. “You have to have a solid base so when the moment comes to hit the ball, you have a good foundation. You still need to have your head still. You might have given yourself room, or gone down the pitch, but right at the lasts second, you have to plant yourself as if you’re playing a more textbook shot. Even guys you see playing lap shots - technique is important with that, too. It’s just a different technique. I like walking down the pitch. My feet are moving, I might be in full stride, but when the ball is bowled, I’ve got to be absolutely still. That’s where the control comes from. You’re taking the risk, but controlling the risk as much as you can. Most importantly of all, though, is this – you’ve got to back yourself. If you’re halfhearted in any way, it won’t come off.”

SyDNey Thunder’s Tim Cruickshank is adamant there’s more to batting late in a T20 innings than having a licence to tonk. He says every shot is the result of a forensic investigation into bowling habits, field placements, match situations, pitch conditions and pace.

“There’s more to it than meets the eye,” Cruickshank says. “you’re out there weighing up all the circumstances, and the circumstances might change every ball. you’re obviously looking for boundaries, three or four an over if it’s possible, so you’ve got to be analysing what the bowler is trying to do. Whether they’re trying to hit the block hole, cramp you for room, bounce you, you have to weight all that up, and then work out the best way to respond to that. you’re always analysing, where the ball is most likely to go, where your scoring options are. There’s so much strategy, so much cat and mouse between the batter and bowler. If someone like Malinga is on, you know it’s going

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THE SPINNER LukE DOraN
“My game plan is generally defensive. I bowl a bit flatter and quicker in T20 than in four-day games to take away the scoring options”
yOU’Re A spinner in T20. you’re a lamb to the slaughter, right? “There’s a realisation that spin bowlers just have to accept in this format, that balls are going to go the distance and the margin for error is very small,” says Sydney Thunder’s Luke Doran. “But in saying that, we have the opportunity to bounce back. We’ve got a great chance to get batsmen out because they’re coming after us. I’d rather be the spinner than the batsman. We get to keep going at them; if you’re in the batsman’s shoes, you only get one chance. If you make a mistake, you’re gone.” T20 spinners are constantly juggling the need to be economical with the desire to attack and take wickets. Doran, a polished left-arm orthodox, like most if not all T20 spinners, prefers to err on the side of caution. “My game plan is generally defensive, depending on the situation, but there’s a bit of attack involved, too,” he says. “I bowl a bit flatter and quicker in T20 than in four-day games to take away the scoring options, but also only limit them to the areas I want them to hit. you have certain field settings and you have to bowl to them. I believe that wickets will come with good, tight bowling and the building of pressure. Being a bit unpredictable, and making the batsman guess, is our greatest weapon as spinners in any form of the game so depending on the situation, we’re able to flight and tempt them to take risks - or just go safe. We’ve got a lot of weapons.” The arrival of T20 raised fears it would be the death of spinners. As the abbreviated form of the game took hold in schools and junior cricket, what young bowler worth his/her four-over spell would want to bowl slow? To risk being hit out of the park, every conceded six another dent to the pride? One of the biggest surprises in T20’s evolution has been the worth of top-line tweakers. Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralitharan, Daniel Vettori - the great spinners have a huge impact. “For young spinners, yep, it can be hard to quickly adapt,” Doran says. “But to be up to the standard of high-quality T20, to do well in the format, you just have to accept it’s going to happen. Half the art is recovering straight away. If you go for a boundary, you can’t let that affect your next ball. With the way this format is going, the bowlers with variation and unpredictability have the upper edge. It will be so crucial for young spinners to be adaptable. And I believe it will make spinners try new variations and ways to get batsmen out as they’re developing. There

to be yorker after yorker, you might only be able to get him away for singles, which means you have to go doubly hard at whoever’s bowling the other end. There are all these calculations and strategies you’re constantly making.” There’s no hard and fast rule to the art of closing an innings. There cannot be one: every match, every pitch, every bowling attack, every run chase and every first innings is different. “If it’s a slow deck, you’ve got to try to make the pace yourself,” he says. “If it’s a quick deck, you get pace to work with. Different bowlers try to do different things. It’s hard to pinpoint one bowler as being really hard to get on top of but I’d have to say Steve O’Keefe is a really good lateover bowler. Being a left-arm spinner, getting the ball going away from a right-hander, that can be really challenging. On any pitch, really, Steve is so hard to get away, he’s got it all down pat.” Cruickshank believes most bowlers fall into a

pattern. Those who bowl full, those who aim just short of a length. “If he’s trying to hit the blockhole every ball, it’s pretty easy to tell and you start using your tuck or just use the pace of the ball to get it past the ‘keeper, to his left or right,” he says. “you try to predict what the bowler is going to do and have your own option ready to go. If the ball’s always being pitched up, you can paddle or tuck; if they’re bowling shorter you’ve got to back yourself to hit through the ball, hit it clean off a length. We train for that stuff. When you’re playing a lot of four-day and one-day cricket, you have more your textbook net sessions. But with the Big Bash getting closer, like all your skills, you’ve got to practice your T20-specific stuff, getting the execution spot-on for shots you wouldn’t even think about playing in any other form of the game. We spend probably one or two sessions a week working on those shots, clearing the boundaries.”

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