A tactical view of world T20 final: Master Jayawardene, Simple Sammy and and Determined Samuels

There was lot more pressure and panic displayed by batsmens in world T20 final then they should had been. But if you look closer, a great string of tactics trapped and pulled them into that situation.

When you ask people to name top five great cricket captains/leaders in 2000’s, you won’t find Mahela Jayawardene in most of them list. But time and again, he proves his value as captain and up-brings his team to new level. Before January 2012, Srilanka were down and out, not consider a threat to top teams in any of the format for that matter. Now nine months into his second tenure as captain, Jayawardene changed that perception of that thoughts on Srilanka. On past Sunday, he almost pulled one of the miraculous task, deemed by many as impossible at the moment, (i.e.) containing this new West Indies side and rejuvenated Chris Gayle in T20.

The move to bring in Dananjaya on the place of last match, semi final, player of the match, Hearth into the playing XI is a tactical one. Make no mistake, Hearth is a good spinner, even got a carom ball to strengthen his case but when this mighty players from Caribbean swing their bat, even a mishit goes far into the stands. So, one way to hold them back is by creating doubts in their mind. Dananjaya, a rookie, 19yr old, not only a less known entity but also got plenty of variation to go with it. A odd action for off-spinner means, harder for batsmen to settle down against him early and easily. Remember all dangerous players in West Indies line-up starting from Gayle are slow beginners. With Mendis and Malinga in the team already, 12 out of 20 overs are from mystery bowlers for West Indies players to deal with.

Much to his credit, his tremendous spell in world T20 final is down to his teammates hard work and his captain’s tactical brilliance

When West Indies began their innings, Jayawardene immediately didn’t throw up his any of mysteries dice. He held them back to unleash later. Gayle and West Indies knew it, that’s why when Jayawardene opened with Mathews and Kulasekara, they tried to attack immediately, Gayle walked out of crease to the second delivery he faced, but early wicket and impeccable bowling neutralized their move. Balls were hitting Samuels and Gayle bat tops and edges, pads, whistling past them on many occasions too. But that’s it, initial work-out is burned out. Now batsmens had seen enough of both bowlers, got used to it and in dire situation of 8/1 at the end of fourth over, they will try to get a move on. So, what’s next? Get in Slinga, Malinga. Windies got just four, one more economical over, actually five in a row and scorecard read 12/1.

Its either make or break situation. Samuels and Gayle will go hard against the ball in search of quick runs. Gayle in particular was under pressure to get runs. Ball hadn’t yet hit the middle of his bat once and produced a sound ‘tok’ that boosts one’s confidence. Lankan bowlers gave him either no room to free arms or long hops to slog and pull. Gayle don’t like it up when bowled to his outer part of leg or toe, leg stump line mostly, early in the innings, a defect detected by Mumbai Indians in match against KKR. Srilanka did exactly that. And in another brilliant but obvious move, Jayawardene bought in Mendis. Not only Jayawardene took the pace off the ball, he also introduced a bowler, who is hard to be at ease without playing much of him in the crease. Immediately Mendis produced the breakthrough, a reward for combination of his own and teammates disciplined bowling. Gayle was trapped plumb in front of stumps to a straighter one followed after a leg spinner, both bowled on middle and leg stump line, from Mendis.

This are delightful scenes to watch sitting in front of TV. All one need to do is, get those 12 mysterious bowlers overs bowled in right mix out of 20 overs; neither over-using (repetitive) nor in one go. Jayawardene is in his zone on that night, taking right armories at right moment in the battle. He bought in the young Dananjaya at right time, less pressure with Gayle already gone and two batsmens struggling to score. Dananjaya eased in and created more problems with his variations; off-breaks, leg-cutters and top spinner. Overs 5, 6, 9, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 18 (ignore 19th & 20, slog at any cost overs anyway) were preceded either by “batsmen with no option must have a go” or “batsmen scored runs and threatening to take the game away”. Jayawardene got it right every time by going to his one of mystery bowler. He placed his bowlers into the perfect over slots. He kept creating doubts in minds of West Indies batsmen in their needy times. Not allowed them to settle down at one particular bowler. Actually no one bowler bowled more than two overs in a spell. In-between, with context of the game seemed more about consolidating to batting team, he tried to squeeze in the overs of Mathews and Jeevan Mendis. Had the catch of Samuels in Jeevan Mendis 2nd over been taken by Kulasekara, who knows, the world T20 trophy might not have traveled with West Indies. Yet this was spectacle of tactical show displayed by Jayawardene.

“I visualized Malinga bowling night before”, said Marlon Samuels at the end of the match. His blitz of 78 from 56 balls wasn’t just down to luck.

Despite all this thoughtful moves by Jayawardene, West Indies slipped away, got them out of danger zone and entered into fighting zone at the battle arena, thanks largely to Samuels determination. Samuels was hardly visible until the 13th over in the match. Until 13th over, he was trying, trying and trying to get going but simply can’t. Slow bowlers of Srilanka are making him look bad after he looked good in the previous ball. Samuels is fighting with himself to be composed and see through the period; his couple of ugly slogs against spinners, thankfully not ended his stay. But unlike Gayle, Samuel found quite a few in the middle of the bat off his 37 balls before 13th over. Yet, what he did after that had no warning of coming whatsoever. It was just like how rain visits my city (Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India) quite often. After been punished by sun day after day, suddenly rain arrives at one moment and water sweeps across the street in place of heat.

Samuels innings is no fluke, although it may seem like that, it wasn’t still. A superb innovation or what i call a tactics used by batsmen to counter the bowler. To every ball against Malinga, he cleared his right leg away from line of ball consistently and kept his left leg deep into crease, enabling him to hit (time well) the yorkers which missed its length by few inches. If Malinga shortens his length, like the one he did in 16the over, fourth ball, Samuels can slog it with full bat swing in his wide open should position. He revealed the secret behind it later, “I visualized Malinga bowling the night before”. So you got to give it to Samuels on this. Even against Jeevan Mendis in 15th over, Samuels was out thinking the bowler; stepped out in stump line, so that if Jeevan bowled wider to his right, then ball likely end up where first slip stands or if bowled to his left, he can just slog in leg side. Jeevan Mendis going along with the disciplined bowling, bowled in middle and leg, a good line for leg spinner to bowl actually, but since Samuel stepped out in stump line, those balls landed exactly on his legs and were duly dispatched to boundaries.

The moment first innings ended, after a gully cricket like slogging and running knock of captain Darren Sammy, TV camera focused on Jayawardene face. It was for me a telling image of someone who is disappointed at the result after doing all the necessary hard work. I knew deep down my heart at that moment, Jayawardene is not confident at all. He is thinking the score of 137 at the rate of 150. Pitch was dry and all but 150 was still gettable. Like I feared, it happened. I had seen and experienced that people who are very good thinker, sometimes thinks too much for a simple issue and complicates it in the end. Instead of just straightaway start solving it like everyone else is doing, they after awhile try a strange way to solve it.

One of Hazards being good thinker is, complicating a simple issue by thinking too much sometimes. Jayawardene just did that while chasing the target of 137 run.

Jayawardene and Srilanka had one plan – Dilshan attacks and rest stay around. So, when Rampaul bowled a peach of delivery and sent back Dilshan, Srilanka complicated a simple a easy go – ‘play your natural game’ solution. But a due credit to Darren Sammy for not letting Srilanka to comeback and take that simple route. He unlike his competitor Jayawardene, didn’t do anything extravagant in tactical wise. He kept it simple, very simple under immense pressure. Because Srilanka doing all the things to absorb whatever the pressure existed on the match into them. Sammy for his part, rotated and thrown the ball at bowlers to make sure, the handle on pressure cooker is not released. From Badree to Rampaul, Samuels to himself and Narine to Gayle, he did a “horses for courses”.

In the end, you can have different view to me. May be i over exaggerated the things happened on the field due to my admiration to captaincy and tactics. You can say, all the moves made by Jayawardene are not born from his own brain. There are bowlers meeting, coaches, analyst and players out there. But still, its a captain call and Jayawardene is the captain. So, he deserves for choosing and using tactics from either his thoughts or others suggestions. Samuels knock is a one for T2o “most impact created innings” hall of fame. Sammy will continue to prove many as wrong on captaincy theory.

But all in all, it was a T20 world cup final to remember. Gangnam style dance, West Indies winning celebrations and Samuels batting. For some, like me, this tactical battle will also be the one to recall.

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