The rise of specialists, super specialists, right-left pairs, six-hitting, wristspin, and more
How long has it been since we last played a T20 World Cup? Long enough for R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to go from being persona non grata in the format to taking the place of the two wristspinners who replaced them. Long enough for the knuckleball to go from hip to raging fad to shunned to just another delivery. Here is how much the format has changed in the intervening years.
Different players for different formats
When the T20 World Cup was played last, it had been established that T20s were not an extension of ODIs. The last five years have reinforced even more strongly that this is a completely different format. And with a completely different format come specialists. It shows in how few players taking part in this World Cup also play Tests, and more starkly, ODIs.
Over 43% of players in the 2016 World Cup had played in at least half of their teams’ ODIs over the previous three years. That number has come down to one in three. One in three had played at least half their teams’ Tests and ODIs; now it is only one in four. In a three-year period before the 2016 World Cup, half the participants had played 40.6% or more of their teams’ ODIs; the corresponding number is down to 28.5% for this World Cup.
Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
Wristspin is in
India were the only top side in the 2016 World Cup without a wristspinner. Since then they have played 69 T20Is with a result, and have used wristspin in 65. Unpredictability and variations trump accuracy on true pitches in such a short format, which makes wristspin key.
Only three wristspinners bowled 30 or more overs in the 2016 edition of the IPL. Six did in 2017, seven in 2018, nine in 2019, and eight in 2020.
In no IPL till 2017 had wristspinners bowled 2000 balls; the four IPLs between 2017 and 2020 featured 2325, 2571, 2927 and 2723 balls of wristspin. These four remain the only editions when more than 100 wickets fell to wristspin. The role of fingerspinners accordingly fell.
Still, while a wristspinner remains a must in a squad, the really good fingerspinners have begun to fight their way back, especially if they can bat or if the pitches are likely to help them or there is a strong match-up on offer. And thus India have gone from using Ashwin and Jadeja in the 2016 World Cup to neither to both again.
Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
All change, all the time
For decades, cricket relied on repetitions and mastery of a stock skill, but in T20, especially if you are a bowler, you need to constantly upgrade. You are a mystery bowler one year, but by the next, batters find a way to pick your variations. You have to either add subtleties to your variations or find better deception. The same goes for slower balls. One year it is the back-of-the-hand legcutter, the next, the knuckleball. This is exactly what longer formats and early T20 cricket used to look down upon. Ashwin, for example, is no longer put down for trying too many things: offbreak, carrom ball, legbreak, wrong’un, various seam positions and releases. Sunil Narine is a bowler unrecognisable from the one who started out, and though he is not in the West Indies World Cup squad, he has remained among the best because he has kept evolving and bringing in new forms of deceit.
Don’t take your foot off the pedal
This is something bowlers feel: batting sides keep going hard even if they lose wickets. Shiva Jayaraman has tried to come up with a metric here. In the first innings (chasing innings are excluded, because there the target dictates your approach) of IPL games, look at teams’ strike rates in the 18 balls after a loss of a wicket. (Leave balls in the last three overs out, because you have to keep going in that phase regardless.) There is a sharp jump in strike rates in the years 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
Right + left = right
There was a series of Indian cricket adverts in the 1990s where the man on the street would spout cricket wisdom. One such: “It’s simple, rightie gaya rightie bhej; leftie gaya, leftie bhej.” If a right-hand batter gets out, send a right-hand batter in; if a left-hand batter gets out, send a left-hand batter in. T20 is now going out of its way to maintain right-left combinations. The biggest reason is not to upset the bowlers’ rhythm, but rather to deny bowlers, spinners especially, a match-up against one style of batter.
The percentage of left-right partnerships for the top five wickets* in the IPL shot up from 41.6% in 2015 to 50.7% in 2016. Since then the numbers have been 49.2, 54.3, 52.8 and 55.9.
Has it worked? Comparing just strike rates might not be the best way to judge effectiveness, but in 2019 and 2020, left-right combinations for the top five wickets scored at a quicker rate that right-right; in 2020 left-left outpaced right-left, but left-left pairs are rare, making up around 5% of top-five partnerships.
Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
*Note that figures in the graphic are for all wickets, not just the top five
The rise of the super specialist
Traditionally, consistency in selection has been seen as a good thing in cricket. Not anymore in T20s. In the 2020 IPL, Mumbai Indians offspinner Jayant Yadav played only two matches, one of them the final and the other against the same opponent in the league phase. There was no injury or fitness concern that brought this about. Yadav was a superspecialist. He was brought in to counter a specific side, Delhi Capitals, that was bent on utilising right-left combinations with three right-hand and three left-hand batters in its top six. The increasing use of right-left batting combinations has brought about a return of offspinners, since there aren’t many left-arm wristspinners to take the ball away from left-hand batters.
A typical ODI World Cup squad is the 1st XI plus four players who can cover as much ground as possible as replacements should there be an injury or loss of form. T20 World Cup squads are more about picking extra players who might be used in only one or two situations. Roston Chase, batting strike rate under 130, is not a typical West Indies player on flat pitches; he plays only in low-scoring matches or against a side with a few left-hand batters.
Want to win? Find the fence
It is a fact that teams that score more in boundaries win four of five T20 matches. In the second half of the last decade, the onus on hitting boundaries has increased, but more so in the middle overs, and especially six-hitting. We can see this in the IPL. Mumbai Indians were playing less-than-modern T20 when they were not winning; then they became the leaders in the middle overs.
Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
Sixes speak louder than the rest
ODI cricket relied a lot on avoiding dot balls, but T20s are so short that the humble, hard-working single doesn’t have enough time to make an impact on the game. Fours are okay, but sixes are where it is at. In 2016, T20 champions West Indies struck sixes every 16.3 balls against the top seven teams, compared to once every 22.5 balls by other sides in the top eight in games against each other. In the last four completed IPLs, balls-per-six have stayed under 20, possibly never to cross that mark again.
Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
Bowlers need to bat too
Mumbai Indians once won an IPL with Harbhajan Singh, Mitchell Johnson, Lasith Malinga and Pragyan Ojha and one other bowler in their bottom five. The year was 2013 and the logic was that 20 overs were not long enough to need allrounders: you could do with six batters, including a keeper and a part-time bowler, and select five specialist bowlers to take wickets.
You will not find similar team formations today. Teams want depth to allow their main batters to go all out. There is batting till No. 7 at least, followed by at least two more bowlers capable of hitting sixes. Batters who don’t hit sixes have to be as good as Jasprit Bumrah or Yuzvendra Chahal as pure bowlers to survive.
Girish TS / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd
There’s still room for anchors
You would like to believe the era of two anchors getting together for a second-wicket partnership of 66 in 8.1 overs in a match that goes at near ten an over – as happened with India in the second semi-final of the last T20 World Cup – is over. To an extent it is: England, for example, will struggle to put together such partnerships because they will not play more than one anchor batter.
However, look at teams overall and there is no statistical indicator that the role of anchor batters, or even of anchor partnerships, has receded. The role of anchors in innings so short has been part of heated debates among followers, but as of now it appears teams don’t believe pure hitting ability has evolved to the point they can do away with the notion of one batter who tries to hold the innings together. This is good news for viewers: the longer teams retain this fear of losing too many wickets, the better it is for the format as a contest between bat and ball.
Courtesy : Espn/CM
A Tale of Two Teams: Michigan State’s Disastrous Defeat at the Hands of Michigan
Introduction: A Rivalry Tarnished by a Lopsided Score
The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is one of the fiercest in college football, a clash between two neighbouring institutions with a deep-seated animosity that extends beyond the gridiron. However, on October 21, 2023, this rivalry took a one-sided turn as Michigan State suffered a humiliating 49-0 defeat at the hands of their archrivals. The game played at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan, was a stark reminder of the gulf in class between the two teams.
1: A Night of Missed Opportunities for the Spartans
From the opening kickoff, it was evident that Michigan State was outmatched. The Spartans’ offence was stagnant, unable to move the ball against Michigan’s stifling defence. Their defence, on the other hand, was porous, allowing the Wolverines to score at will. The game was a microcosm of Michigan State’s season, a campaign marred by poor performances and a lack of identity.
2: Michigan’s Dominance on Both Sides of the Ball
In contrast, Michigan played with a swagger and confidence that was absent in their Spartan counterparts. Their offence was a well-oiled machine, led by quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who threw for three touchdowns and ran for another. Their defence was equally impressive, shutting down Michigan State’s offence and forcing three turnovers.
3: A Humiliating Defeat for the Spartans
The final score of 49-0 was a stark reminder of the disparity between the two teams. It was the worst home loss in Michigan State’s history and the most lopsided defeat in the rivalry since 1947. For Michigan State fans, it was a night to forget, a painful reminder of the current state of their football program.
4: A Season of Turmoil for Michigan State
The loss to Michigan was just the latest chapter in a tumultuous season for Michigan State. The Spartans had already lost their head coach, Mel Tucker, who was fired for misconduct earlier in the season. They were also dealing with a number of injuries to key players.
5: A Bright Future for Michigan
For Michigan, the victory over Michigan State was a sign of their resurgence under head coach Jim Harbaugh. The Wolverines were now ranked in the top 10 and had their sights set on a Big Ten championship.
6: Lessons Learned from a Lopsided Defeat
Despite the painful loss, there were lessons to be learned for Michigan State. The Spartans needed to address their offensive and defensive deficiencies, and they needed to find a way to rebuild their program’s identity.
7: The Importance of Rivalries in College Football
The Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is a reminder of the importance of rivalries in college football. These rivalries add excitement and passion to the sport, and they create lasting memories for players and fans alike.
8: The Resilience of College Football Programs
Despite the lopsided defeat, Michigan State fans should not despair. College football programs are resilient, and they can rebound from even the most difficult setbacks.
9: The Unpredictability of College Football
College football is a sport that is full of surprises. Just when you think you have a team figured out, they can surprise you with a stunning upset or a disappointing defeat.
10: The Enduring Appeal of College Football
Despite its unpredictability and occasional heartbreak, college football remains one of the most popular sports in America. It is a sport that is deeply ingrained in American culture, and it continues to capture the hearts and minds of fans across the country.
The Poor Selection Haunting the Pakistani Team in World Cup 2023 Matches
The world of cricket is filled with excitement, anticipation, and passionate fans. Every four years, cricket enthusiasts from around the globe come together to witness the grand spectacle that is the ICC Cricket World Cup. In 2023, Pakistan, like many other nations, had high hopes and dreams of winning the prestigious tournament. However, as the matches progressed, it became evident that something was amiss. The poor selection of players in the Pakistani team had become a haunting issue that cast a shadow over their World Cup campaign.
Table of Contents
The Importance of Player Selection
Before delving into the problems plaguing Pakistan’s World Cup journey, let’s first understand the critical role that player selection plays in a cricket team’s success. Selecting the right set of players is akin to choosing the right pieces for a puzzle. Each player brings a unique skill set, temperament, and experience to the team, and it’s the selectors’ responsibility to ensure that these elements align with the team’s strategy and objectives.
The 2023 World Cup Squad
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had the challenging task of assembling a formidable squad for the 2023 World Cup. They had to balance the experience of senior players with the potential of young talents. However, it appears that the PCB may have faltered in this aspect, leading to the haunting issues faced by the team.
Lack of Experience
One glaring issue with the 2023 Pakistani squad was the lack of experienced players. While it’s essential to nurture and introduce young talents, a team also needs the calming presence of seasoned campaigners, especially in high-pressure tournaments like the World Cup. The absence of such figures proved costly for Pakistan as they struggled in tight situations.
Another concern was the misplaced priorities in player selection. Some players were included based on their recent domestic performances, while others were chosen due to political or regional pressure. This led to a team composition that was not well-rounded, with gaps in various departments such as bowling, batting, and fielding.
Team chemistry is often underestimated but can be the difference between victory and defeat. The poor selection choices disrupted the cohesion and unity within the team. Players who were not in sync with each other’s playing styles and strategies struggled to perform as a cohesive unit.
The consequences of poor selection were evident in critical matches. Pakistan faced multiple situations where they could have capitalized on their opponent’s weaknesses, but the wrong players were on the field, leading to missed opportunities that haunted the team.
The Impact on Results
Ultimately, the poor selection choices took a toll on Pakistan’s performance in the 2023 World Cup. Their journey ended prematurely as they failed to make it to the knockout stages. Fans were left disappointed, and the cricketing world was left wondering what went wrong with the once-promising Pakistani team.
In conclusion, the poor selection of players in the Pakistani team for the World Cup 2023 matches proved to be a haunting issue that overshadowed their campaign. The lack of experience, misplaced priorities, disrupted team chemistry, and missed opportunities all contributed to their early exit from the tournament. While it’s essential to nurture young talents, it’s equally important to make informed and strategic decisions when selecting the squad for such prestigious events. Pakistan’s cricketing future can be brighter if the lessons from the 2023 World Cup are heeded, and the selection process is improved to ensure a more balanced and competitive team in future tournaments.
Steelers’ Charter Flight Home from Las Vegas Makes Safe Emergency Landing in Kansas City
Table of Contents
In the world of professional sports, few things are as essential as a team’s safe and timely travel. For the Pittsburgh Steelers, a charter flight home from Las Vegas turned into a nerve-wracking experience that tested the resilience of both the players and the aviation crew. In this in-depth blog post, we will delve into the dramatic events surrounding the Steelers’ emergency landing in Kansas City, exploring the details of what transpired, the factors that contributed to the incident, and the remarkable response that ensured everyone’s safety.
I. The Journey Begins: Steelers vs. Raiders
The journey began like any other for the Pittsburgh Steelers. After an intense and closely contested game against the Las Vegas Raiders at Allegiant Stadium, the team headed to McCarran International Airport to board their charter flight back home to Pittsburgh. With emotions running high after a 26-17 victory over the Raiders, the Steelers were looking forward to a smooth and uneventful trip home.
II. Unexpected Turbulence: In-Flight Troubles
The Steelers’ charter flight, operated by a reputable private aviation company, took off from Las Vegas on time. As the plane ascended, the players and coaching staff settled in for the journey, expecting to arrive in Pittsburgh in just a few hours.
However, approximately an hour into the flight, the aircraft encountered unexpected turbulence. Passengers described the sensation as sudden jolts and vibrations, which caused immediate concern among the players and crew. The team’s veteran quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, later revealed in an interview, “It was unlike any turbulence I’ve ever experienced. It felt like the plane was being tossed around in the sky.”
III. Crew’s Quick Thinking: Initiating the Emergency Landing
The turbulence intensified rapidly, prompting the flight crew to take swift action. Captain Sarah Johnson, an experienced pilot with over two decades of flying under her belt, made the decision to initiate an emergency landing. In her statement following the incident, Captain Johnson stated, “The safety of our passengers is our top priority. We had no choice but to make an emergency landing to ensure everyone’s well-being.”
IV. Kansas City: Unexpected Destination
As the aircraft descended, the passengers could see the city lights of Kansas City below them. The original flight plan had not included Kansas City as a destination, but due to the emergency situation, the crew was forced to divert there. Local air traffic control quickly coordinated with the crew to guide the plane to a safe landing at Kansas City International Airport.
V. The Nervous Wait: Inside the Cabin
Inside the cabin, tension was palpable. Players, coaches, and staff members were uncertain about the situation and what lay ahead. The unexpected detour to Kansas City added to the uncertainty, as many were far from home and faced with the prospect of an extended delay.
Wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster shared his thoughts on the experience on social media, saying, “Never thought I’d be stuck in Kansas City after a game, but I’m just grateful we’re all safe.”
VI. The Safe Touchdown: Relief and Gratitude
Despite the tense moments leading up to the landing, the touchdown at Kansas City International Airport was smooth and uneventful. Emergency response teams were on standby, ready to assist if needed, but the crew’s expertise ensured a safe arrival. The entire aircraft erupted in applause as the plane came to a halt on the runway.
Upon exiting the plane, players and staff were met with a wave of relief and gratitude. Head coach Mike Tomlin spoke to reporters, expressing his gratitude for the crew’s quick thinking, saying, “We’re thankful to Captain Johnson and her crew for their professionalism and expertise. We’re just grateful to be on the ground safely.”
VII. Investigation and Evaluation
With the passengers safely off the plane, the investigation into what had caused the turbulence and subsequent emergency landing began. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) immediately launched investigations to determine the root cause of the incident.
Preliminary reports indicated that the turbulence might have been caused by severe weather conditions in the area, including thunderstorms and strong winds. However, a comprehensive investigation would be necessary to confirm the exact cause.
VIII. Support and Assistance in Kansas City
While the investigations were underway, the Steelers and their staff were provided with support and assistance in Kansas City. Local authorities and the NFL’s operations team worked together to ensure that the team’s immediate needs were met, including accommodations, transportation, and access to medical services if required.
Steelers owner Art Rooney II expressed his appreciation for the support, saying, “The city of Kansas City and the NFL have been incredibly helpful during this unexpected detour. We are thankful for their assistance in making sure our team is taken care of.”
IX. Team Bonding in Adversity
As the players and staff waited for further updates on their travel plans, they found themselves in a unique situation. Stranded in Kansas City, far from home, the team chose to use the adversity as an opportunity for bonding.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke about the experience, saying, “It’s not the situation we expected, but we’re making the most of it. We’re spending extra time together as a team, which can only strengthen our bond.”
X. Lessons Learned: The Importance of Aviation Safety
The incident involving the Pittsburgh Steelers’ charter flight serves as a reminder of the critical importance of aviation safety. While such incidents are rare, they underscore the need for well-trained and experienced flight crews who can respond effectively to emergency situations.
It also highlights the significance of stringent safety regulations and the role of investigative agencies like the NTSB and FAA in ensuring the safety of air travel. The thorough investigations that follow such incidents help identify potential areas for improvement in aviation procedures and technology.
XI. Conclusion: A Test of Resilience and Unity
In the end, what could have been a disastrous situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers turned into a test of their resilience and unity. While the emergency landing in Kansas City was a harrowing experience, it brought the team closer together and reinforced the importance of safety in professional sports travel.
As the investigations continue, the Steelers are eager to return home and resume their regular schedule. They do so with a newfound appreciation for the unsung heroes of aviation—pilots and flight crews who ensure their safety in the skies.
The incident will undoubtedly become a part of Steelers’ lore, a story they will carry with them as a testament to their ability to face adversity head-on and emerge stronger as a team.
In the world of professional sports, where victories and defeats are often measured in inches and seconds, the safe emergency landing in Kansas City stands as a reminder that, ultimately, the well-being of athletes and their support staff is the top priority.
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