Cricket: T20 brings out the whackiest batsmen

By David Leggat

With tighter fielding, sixes are best weapon in the short-form game.
Black Cap Colin Munro clubbed 67 off 34 balls with seven sixes against Sri Lanka in Mumbai yesterday. Photo / Jason Oxenham.
Black Cap Colin Munro clubbed 67 off 34 balls with seven sixes against Sri Lanka in Mumbai yesterday. Photo / Jason Oxenham.

When New Zealand belted Sri Lanka by 74 runs yesterday, it shone a light on one of the most important elements for teams seeking success at the world T20 championship.

Left-handers Colin Munro and Corey Anderson respectively clubbed 67 off 34 balls, and 60 off 29.

Munro belted seven sixes and no fours; Anderson hit five along with four fours.

By comparison Sri Lanka managed just two sixes in their entire innings, both from left-hander Lahiru Thirimanne.

All sorts of factors need to be addressed by the big teams at the tournament - death bowling, ensuring there are no dry run periods, getting the batting order right so there's a sting in the tail, if needed.

Add to that slick ground fielding. The days of the boundary riders not diving, fielders allowing sloppy singles inside the circle, are far less frequent than a decade ago.

Certainly the standards have gone through the roof with the advent of T20 cricket, partly as the fielders have had plenty of opportunity to sharpen their skills to help the hapless bowlers serving up cannon fodder for the howitzer-wielding hitters.

So batsmen who are able to reach the boundary can now expect potential fours to be trimmed to twos or singles.

Therefore why not take those boundary fielders out of the equation, as Munro did in Mumbai yesterday?

Former Australian captain and commentator Ian Chappell puts it succinctly: "Forget for a moment the debate over bats improving while the boundaries are shrinking.

"In the prevailing circumstances it makes sense to select boundary-clearing batsmen.

"If you hit the ball in the air, better it lands in the stands than stays within the playing field."

Pretty simple, really.

New Zealand are blessed with heavy hitters.

No one who saw it will forget Martin Guptill planting fast-medium Kane Richardson on the roof north stand at Eden Park during the thumping ODI win over Australia last month.

He has previous for clean, and big hitting, twice sitting balls on the roof at mid wicket at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Munro and Anderson have produced rattling good hitting displays.

Anderson's fastest ever ODI century (since overtaken by South Africa's AB de Villiers) against the West Indies at Queenstown on New Year's Day 2014 - he finished with 131 not out off only 47 balls - included 14 into, and over, the crowd, and six to the boundary.

Munro clinched his place in the squad for India with a 14-ball half century against Sri Lanka at Eden Park on January 10 (seven big dingers and one four) followed five days later by 56 off 27 against Pakistan, where the split was six biggies and two fours.

Note the splits. Time was when batsmen would hit far more fours than sixes. In the shortest form, that's changing.

Teams who don't have long range capability aren't going to figure at the sharp end. India's grounds are not Eden Park straight-hit small, but neither are most of them of Melbourne Cricket Ground proportions.

Of the 10 most prolific six hitters in T20 international cricket, nine will be in India, the exception being the guy on top of the list, just retired New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum.

Australia have two of them, belligerent David Warner and veteran Shane Watson; so do Pakistan, in the ageless Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal.

West Indian Chris Gayle's power has been amply demonstrated over the years and he only needs five to overtake McCullum.

Will the value of a six be further devalued during the tournament? Probably, but that's not a new phenomenon.

The clock on television screens that ticks over with every hefty blow during the Indian Premier League has seen to that.

So stand by as batsmen take part in cricket's equivalent of the baseball Home Run Derby.

- NZ Herald

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