The World T20 may not come down to a mere battle of who bowls and plays spin better, but dew in the late evening games bring another layer of complexity, writes Michael Jeh
Brisbane: Will the World Cup in Bangladesh be perceived as being one-dimensional, only favouring the Asian teams? No way I say. This tournament will have a sting in the tail of the Bengal tiger that may yet surprise even the local teams.
Australia skipper George Bailey
A first glance at the pitch in Mirpur would fuel the conspiracy theories about doctored pitches. It turned big and it turned early in Mirpur. For a pitch that will see a lot of traffic over a few weeks with virtually no time for freshening up, one cannot help but wonder if batting will become increasingly difficult as the tournament reaches its climax. However, pitches that may spin in the afternoon game may change character dramatically at night. Captains need to look up at the sky as much as down at the pitch when they make team selections.
There should really be no excuses. All teams know what to expect and they can choose their best players equipped to thrive in these conditions. Not having quality spin bowlers or batsmen capable of playing with soft hands and steel wrists should be no excuse. The reverse will apply in the 50/50 World Cup next year in Australia and NZ. There are no secrets in world cricket – pick your best squad and let the skills speak for themselves.
This tournament may not come down to a simple battle of who bowls and plays spin better. If all games were played in daylight hours, spin to win perhaps but the late evening games bring another layer of complexity - the dew factor. If heavy dew is forecast, the combinations become fascinating. Even before the toss, team selection becomes a nightmare. Pack your team full of spinners and take a massive risk if they can't grip the ball. Bat first and set a target or opt for the pressure of the chase?
It may well come down to which team has the most flexibility. Do they have bowlers who can bowl fast or bowl cutters, depending on the extent of the dew? Captains need to be trigonometry experts to set field placements for a skiddy outfield or a pitch that turns slowly. Yorkers may be difficult to control and batsmen may need to work unusual angles that don't come naturally.
Spin, the key
Australia looks strong in terms of covering all bases. Their batting is very deep on paper, their fielders are usually athletic with strong arms (keeping the ball off the wet outfield) and they have all-rounders galore who can bowl to the conditions like James Faulkner and Shane Watson who can bowl seam up or cutters.
In Brad Hodge, Aaron Finch, Cameron White and Glenn Maxwell, they have plenty of part-time spin options too. India may need to be similarly flexible with guys like Yuvraj Singh, but who do they have like his namesake Robin, who may be able to switch to medium pace if conditions dictate? Do Pakistan have any part-time medium pacers in the Mudassar Nazar mould?
The umpires too will play their part in ways that may not be obvious. There will inevitably be balls that slip from the bowler's fingers and skirt that fine line above the waist. A crucial no-ball call could change everything. They will have to balance the time limitations and over-rates with sensible allowance for extensive ball-drying.
On turning pitches, without the use of DRS technology, there will be lbw's that may later be shown to have turned more than the width of the stumps. Leg side wides will be a constant factor when the ball is turning big, even when it pitches outside off. High balls may get lost in the lights if the dew is heavy enough to create a fine mist. In slippery conditions, depth perception is one of the most difficult skills to master in all facets of the game, umpires included.
The crowd factor is something else to behold. The locals are intoxicated only by cricket and it's a lesson that should not go unnoticed in countries where excess alcohol consumption can sometimes ruin the day for the genuine cricket fan. Expect the unexpected. Don't write off anyone just yet, especially the teams with all-rounders, who can switch their styles to suit the conditions.
This T20 World Cup may be about more than power-hitting. It may come down to having the depth to play multiple styles of cricket in a 20 over window. It is a measure of the evolution of T20 cricket as an art form that offers so many sub-plots in such a short story!
No of wickets claimed by Indian spinners in two games of the 2014 World T20
Michael Jeh, a former first-class cricketer, will write a fortnightly column for this newspaper