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Ten ways T20 has changed since the last World Cup

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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.

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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.

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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

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The Chicago Cubs ‘Waiting’ on Cody Bellinger for Serious Contract Talks

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Introduction

The Chicago Cubs are one of the most successful teams in Major League Baseball (MLB) history, having won three World Series championships in the last century. However, the team has struggled in recent years, failing to make the playoffs in each of the last three seasons. To turn things around, the Cubs are reportedly interested in signing Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger to a long-term contract. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the Cubs’ interest in Bellinger and what it could mean for the team’s future.

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Who is Cody Bellinger?
Cody Bellinger is a 26-year-old outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was drafted by the Dodgers in the fourth round of the 2013 MLB draft and made his debut with the team in 2017. Since then, Bellinger has established himself as one of the best players in the league, winning the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2017 and the National League Most Valuable Player award in 2019. He is known for his power-hitting, speed, and defensive skills, and is widely regarded as one of the top players in the game today.

Why are the Cubs interested in Bellinger?
The Cubs are reportedly interested in signing Bellinger to a long-term contract because of his talent and potential. Bellinger is still young and has several years of prime playing time ahead of him, which makes him an attractive target for any team looking to build for the future. Additionally, Bellinger’s versatility as an outfielder and first baseman would give the Cubs more flexibility in their lineup and defensive alignments. Finally, Bellinger’s power-hitting would be a welcome addition to a Cubs team that has struggled to score runs in recent years.

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What would a contract with Bellinger look like?
It’s difficult to say exactly what a contract with Bellinger would look like, as it would depend on some factors, including the length of the contract, the amount of guaranteed money, and any performance incentives. However, it’s safe to say that Bellinger would command a significant salary, given his talent and potential. Some experts have speculated that a contract with Bellinger could be worth upwards of $300 million over 10 years, which would make him one of the highest-paid players in MLB history.

What are the risks of signing Bellinger to a long-term contract?
While signing Bellinger to a long-term contract would undoubtedly be a major coup for the Cubs, risks are also involved. For one, Bellinger has had some injury issues in the past, which could be a concern for a team looking to invest heavily in him. Additionally, there is always the risk that a player’s performance could decline throughout a long-term contract, leaving the team with a large financial burden and a player who is no longer producing at a high level.

Conclusion:
The Cubs’ interest in Cody Bellinger is a sign that the team is serious about turning things around and competing for a championship shortly. While there are risks involved in signing Bellinger to a long-term contract, his talent and potential make him an attractive target for any team looking to build for the future. If the Cubs can sign Bellinger, it could be a game-changer for the team and its fans and help bring another championship to the Windy City.

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Rapid Recap: Bears Fall to Packers in Season Finale

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Introduction

The Chicago Bears faced off against their rival team, the Green Bay Packers, in the season finale of 2023. The game ended in a 17-9 loss for the Bears at Lambeau Field. This was the second time this season that the Bears failed to score a touchdown, managing only three field goals by Cairo Santos. The team was limited to 192 yards and 13 first downs.

Despite the Bears riding a wave of momentum, winning four out of the last five games, they came out flat in the season finale. The game was much worse than the final score indicated, with the Packers dominating the field. With this loss, the Bears suffered their 10th straight loss to the Packers, which left many fans and analysts wondering what would happen next for the team.

The Rapid Recap of the Bears’ loss to the Packers in the season finale provides a summary of the game, team performances, and player spotlights. It also offers a reflection on the season as a whole. Here are the key takeaways from the game and the season as a whole:

Key Takeaways

  • The Bears failed to score a touchdown for the second time this season and were limited to only three field goals.
  • The team came out flat in the game, despite riding a wave of momentum, and suffered their 10th straight loss to the Packers.
  • The season as a whole was a disappointment for the Bears, leaving many fans and analysts wondering what happens next for the team.

Game Summary

The Bears faced the Packers in the season finale on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Despite their best efforts, the Bears failed to score a touchdown for the second time this season, mustering only three Cairo Santos field goals while being limited to 192 yards and 13 first downs.

Key Moments

The game was characterized by a lack of offensive firepower from both teams. The Bears’ defence kept them in the game, but they were unable to capitalize on their opportunities. The Packers’ defence was also strong, limiting the Bears to just 9 points.

Scoring Drives

The Bears’ only points of the game came from three field goals by Cairo Santos. The first came in the first quarter, the second in the second quarter, and the third in the fourth quarter. The Packers scored two touchdowns and a field goal, with their final touchdown coming in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.

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Turning Points

The turning point of the game came in the second quarter when the Packers scored their first touchdown. From that point on, the Bears were playing catch-up and were unable to mount a comeback. The Packers’ defence was too strong and the Bears’ offence was unable to get anything going.

Overall, it was a disappointing end to the season for the Bears. They finished the season with a record of 5-12 and will be looking to make improvements in the offseason.

Team Performances

The Bears closed out their 2023 season with a 17-9 loss to the Packers, failing to score a touchdown for the second time this season. The team’s offence was limited to only 192 yards and 13 first downs, with Cairo Santos scoring all nine of the team’s points with three field goals.

Offensive Highlights

The Bears’ offence struggled throughout the game, failing to score a touchdown despite multiple opportunities. Quarterback Justin Fields completed 16 of 32 passes for 163 yards while running back David Montgomery rushed for only 58 yards on 18 carries. Wide receiver Darnell Mooney led the team in receiving yards with 55 on five catches, but the offence was unable to convert on key third downs throughout the game.

Defensive Standouts

Despite the loss, the Bears defence had a strong showing against the Packers. Linebacker Roquan Smith led the team with 12 total tackles, including one tackle for loss. Defensive end Khalil Mack also had a solid game, recording six total tackles and one sack. Safety Eddie Jackson added six tackles and one pass deflection, while cornerback Jaylon Johnson had four tackles and one pass deflection.

Overall, the Bears’ defence played well enough to keep the team in the game, but the offence was unable to capitalize on their opportunities. The loss to the Packers marked the end of a disappointing season for the Bears, finishing with a 6-11 record.

Player Spotlights

Impact Players

The Bears’ offence struggled to put points on the board in the season finale against the Packers. Cairo Santos was the only player to score for the Bears, kicking three field goals. On defence, linebacker Roquan Smith had a strong game, recording 11 tackles and one sack. However, it was not enough to stop the Packers’ offence.

Packers running back Aaron Jones was the standout player of the game. He rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown and also caught five passes for 30 yards. Jones’ performance helped the Packers secure a 17-9 victory over the Bears. Wide receiver Davante Adams also had a solid game, catching six passes for 77 yards.

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Injury Updates

The Bears entered the game with several key players listed as questionable due to injuries. Linebacker Khalil Mack was listed as doubtful with a knee injury and ultimately did not play. Cornerback Jaylon Johnson was also listed as doubtful with a shoulder injury, but he did play and recorded three tackles. Tight end Cole Kmet was listed as questionable with an ankle injury, but he played and caught one pass for 10 yards.

Packers’ quarterback Jordan Love was listed as questionable with a thumb injury, but he was active for the game and served as the backup to starter Aaron Rodgers. Wide receiver Allen Lazard was also listed as questionable with a hamstring injury, but he played and caught one pass for 11 yards. The Packers did not suffer any significant injuries during the game.

Season Reflection

Team Progress

The Chicago Bears’ 2023 season was a mixed bag of ups and downs. After finishing the 2022 season with a disappointing 6-11 record, the team showed improvement by finishing with a 9-8 record in 2023. However, the Bears’ inability to win against their divisional rivals Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings ultimately cost them a playoff spot.

The Bears’ defence was a bright spot throughout the season, finishing the year ranked 6th in the league in total defence. The unit was led by linebacker Roquan Smith, who had a career-best season with 117 tackles and 5 sacks. The defensive front was also impressive, with Akiem Hicks and Khalil Mack combining for 12 sacks.

On the other hand, the Bears’ offence struggled for consistency throughout the season. Despite the emergence of rookie running back Khalil Herbert, the Bears’ passing game was inconsistent, with quarterback Justin Fields showing flashes of brilliance but also struggling with turnovers.

Looking Ahead

As the Bears head into the offseason, they will need to address their offensive struggles if they hope to make a playoff run in 2024. The team will likely look to upgrade their offensive line, which struggled at times to protect Fields. The Bears could also look to add more weapons on the outside to complement Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney.

Defensively, the Bears will need to address the impending free agency of key players like Hicks and Eddie Jackson. The team will also need to continue to develop young players like cornerback Jaylon Johnson and defensive lineman Bilal Nichols.

Overall, the Bears have shown progress under head coach Matt Nagy, but there is still work to be done if they hope to compete for a Super Bowl shortly.

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Football

A Tale of Two Teams: Michigan State’s Disastrous Defeat at the Hands of Michigan

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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.

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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.

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