T20, offering a stage for specialists

T20, offering a stage for specialists

What would the likes of Chris Gayle, Brad Hodge, Albie Morkel, Lasith Malinga and many such others be doing without twenty20? Perhaps retired or sidelined.

It’s a tough guess but had Royal Challengers Bangalore not pulled Gayle out of deep freeze and given him a fresh lease of life in 2011, the West Indies Cricket Board wouldn’t have sat across the table with the left-hander to settle the differences that had kept the Jamaican out of the national squad for well over a year.

The 39-year-old Hodge, a top-order-batsman who turned into a T20-finisher for the Rajasthan Royals, would surely have hung his boots long ago. Morkel, a hot pick in the IPL, would have been on the sidelines and Malinga, given Sri Lanka Cricket’s attitude towards its players, would have said thank you had Mumbai Indians not stuck with him. Come to think of it, Kevin Pietersen, who was finally retired by England, could afford to remain a ‘rebel’ in the English dressing room because of the guaranteed riches from the IPL.

While it’s debatable if such a state of affairs is ideal for the larger good of the game, what IPL and many such leagues around the world have done is to give rise to T20 specialists whose exploits in these franchise tournaments are earning them places in national squads. Malinga, retired from Tests, does play in ODIs but he has assumed an iconic status in T20s.

Morkel has been picked by South Africa after one and half years with the Bangladesh World T20 in mind. Hodge had played his last international for Australia in 2007 before he made a comeback last week against South Africa. Apart from Hodge, Australia have also included all-rounders Daniel Christian and Cameron White in their squad for Bangladesh. It’s a bit cruel to term Gayle, who has two 300s in Tests, a T20 specialist but he is increasingly restricting himself to the ultra abridged version. His injured team-mate Kieron Pollard was the first from the Caribbean to earn mega bucks from Mumbai Indians but since then Gayle has taken over the mantle.

The West Indies are packed with such mercenaries, a term Gayle loathes, that once again make them the favourites to retain the World T20 title that they won in Sri Lanka in 2012.

Many of the Windies’ players do play Tests and ODIs but that’s mainly because of the limited pool of talent they have right now than their real worth. Darren Sammy will find it tough to find a place in any of the top Test sides but he captains West Indies in the longer version. Marlon Samuels, hero of the Caribbean win in the last edition’s final, is an underachiever in Tests as is Sunil Narine. But all these are big stars in the shortest format.

England too have a couple of T20 specialists in Luke Wright and the 34-year-old Michael Lumb while Pakistan hope the recalled medium pacer Sohail Tanvir does the trick for them. They have also drafted in 35-year-old left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar. Even India have a specialist in Stuart Binny.

The Karnataka all-rounder, whose performance for the Rajasthan Royals caught everyone’s attention, can make a crucial difference to former champions with his big-hitting lower down the order and useful medium pacers. Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina aren’t exactly T20 specialists but its the format both the left-handers, out of ODI set-up, are deemed more suited by the selectors.

Over the next three weeks, it’s these big hitters and unorthodox bowlers that are going to be in the limelight.

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