Batting muscles need flexing at power plays

Desperation to get on with it proving counter-productive for Indians

Batting muscles need flexing at  power plays

Praveen Kumar wears a sheepish grin as Brett Lee inspects the willow with which the medium-pacer tonked the Aussies around on Sunday. PTI

On the face of it, the rule appears to have been designed to benefit the batting side, but if one were to look at the use of the batting power plays, very few teams seem to have made the most of this field-restriction phase.

Sunday’s first one-dayer between India and Australia here was just one of the many examples. Well on course to registering a total in excess of 300, Australia exercised their choice from the 43rd over, when the score read 226 for three. By the time the power play was over, they were 259 for six, just 33 runs and three wickets not the outcome they were looking for.

“We have been guilty of it (losing wickets in the power play) in the last few games that we have played,” admitted Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting. The right-hander feels the loss of momentum in that period made the batting power play irrelevant, at least as far as his side was concerned.

“When we target our power play, we have generally lost a wicket in the first over. We lost one to the first ball of our power play, India lost one second ball, so as soon as you lose wickets it slows you down and almost makes the power play irrelevant,” he explained.

It wasn’t any different when India took their power play in the 35th over when they were 167 for three. Requiring close to seven runs an over from that stage, it was imperative that India maximised the option, when only three fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle.

But like the Aussies, they ended up losing three wickets for just 32 runs. More importantly, the wickets lost included the set pair of Gautam Gambhir and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

India’s matches since the tri-series in Sri Lanka suggest they are yet to come to terms with the batting power play. In the last six completed matches, Sunday’s was the best for India in terms of number of runs scored. 

It’s possible that especially when chasing big totals, teams across the world are more concerned about saving wickets early on even if at the run rate mounts, hoping to capitalise on the power play.

In the process, they might be leaving themselves with too much to do, particularly if a couple of wickets fall quickly at the start of the power play. As Ponting pointed out, in such an event, the whole idea of the power play becomes redundant.

Dhoni, however, didn’t find anything wrong with the way India approached their chase. “We had to take the power play because in those five overs, if you can get 35 to 40 runs, it really eases pressure on the batsmen to follow. One of the reasons we played slowly in the middle period was because we could cash in on the power play. We had wickets in hand. We looked to accelerate and get those runs but it didn’t work in this game. But I was quite happy with the strategy and where we were positioned before taking the power play,” he elaborated.

Ponting was right on the money when he said the mindset of the batsmen too changed during the power play. “Once the field comes in, you think you have to hit every ball for a six,” he said, cautioning batsmen against putting additional pressure on themselves. “Quite often, you bat through a one-day innings with the field in, but you put a little bit more pressure on yourself when it's your power play.

“You have got to get it right because it's going to cost you games pretty quickly, as we saw today,” he observed. Controlled aggression, perhaps, is the path to adopt.

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