King XI Punjab, has well and truly redefined the way to play T20 cricket. And even after watching that model in play for about 8 games some of the other teams haven’t picked up a lesson or two to adapt and adopt. As a result, their southward journey continues as Bailey and Co, keep toppling the other teams with utter disdain.
So what is this shift?
- Get your best batsmen – your biggest hitters right on top and give them maximum overs to face (and not worry about – whether Bailey is a better technically equipped batsman that Maxwell etc.) – Funny. This isn’t a new idea being tried here – this is exactly what Warney did in the first edition of IPL playing Watson and Pathan in the top 3 – and ended winning the edition. Surprising to see no one repeating that tactic – till now.
- Start the Counter Attack as earfly as possible – if it comes good then we look at 200 or thereabouts, if not there is enough time for the later batsmen to arrest the slide and get to a respectable 150 – 160 (till now that hasn’t happened).
- Add to these, the ability to hit shots 360 degrees (Maxwell, Miller and Bailey) – an art that is paying off big time. The only other players who I have seen can pull that sort of play is AB and Eoin Morgan. Just the sheer array of shots – leaves the opposition at sea, and the intensity of the counterattack is so vicious it numbs the best of thinking minds.
Like many others I too thought initially this to be a flash in the pan, but must admit now (after witnessing more than half of the edition completed), that this is a well thought out Science. George Bailey, is bit of a Gun slinger when it comes to captaincy – he doesn’t go in there with too many “what ifs” in his mind. On the contrary, he smiles his way through (which can be interpreted as a boyish grin to a wry confident smirk) the game rarely breaking into a sweat. He is one of the many Australian cricketers who have spent time in the shadows of mightier colleagues waiting for their moment in the sun (He spent 3 seasons in the CSK dugout playing just 2 games – maybe that’s a reason of the additional fury against CSK in the recent games). So like some of others who have been through similar experience (Hussey, Hayden etc.) he too comes with a matured head, quality game and an ironclad temperament. To add to this his ability to bring out the best from the younger players as a leader makes him a true asset. He caught my attention during the last ODI series in India, which they lost 2-3. But the performances from Johnson, Maxwell, Faulkner and Bailey himself underlined the kind of environment he was able to create for the younger daredevils to express freely. Its no secret that Maxwell expresses more and better under him than any other leader. And now its evident from the way KXIP are enjoying on the field – that players enjoy and thrive under his leadership. This is a great space to be in as a team – when the leader isn’t worried about losing or any other consequence and is unflappable, the team derives an additional (read hidden), repository of energy, confidence and courage. When they started they didn’t look as confident a team, but when I look at them now – they have that sense of self confidence (enveloped by a touch of good cockiness). They have managed to instill a lot of concern and fear in the oppositions, and one can see teams battling those monsters more than focusing on their own strengths.
What can some of the other teams learn from KXIP?
Start thinking like a CEO – Our best Impact batsmen should play maximum balls. Period. Forget seniority, Reputation and all the other horse-manure. This is typically applicable for MI,KKR and RCB. MI especially – they have killed Pollard for 4 seasons now by letting him languish at the lower order getting to play only few balls – whenever due to circumstances (when they lost quick wickets), he has played more overs he ended up scoring upwards of 70. This is a celar example of being totally strategically and tactically numb – I fail to understand what the thought process there is, and what is the value of the galaxy of stars being present, as support staff in that dug out. On my book, Rohit opens and Pollard’s #3 – every game. Rest can figure out how they play around this. This is their best chance to get a decent score in most of the games – rather than fearing “what if we loose early wickets” “What if we need additional poush at the rear end” etc. Same for RCB – De Villiers need to play #3 with Virat as Opener… Rest can go figure. KKR has killed Yousuf Pathan’s Career completely even after Warney taught the world how to use him as a giant force (at #3). At KKR he was relegated to the #6 / 7 to handle the rear end – when he thrives in situation when the skipper backs him with maximum deliveries. Today Yusuf’s confidence is at its lowest ebb (I don’t know what his role is in that team – He doesn’t bat or bowl and misfields). Warney’s Rajasthan Royals had roles fixed for everyone – and Yusuf’s was that of the terminator – who comes in at #3 and decimates the opposition. His job wasn’t to think about holding one end steady etc. – he had to do what Maxwell does for KXIP – The “Big Show”. From being a “:Show Stopper” he is now a “Stopped Show”. But all isn’t lost – he can be revived – Make him play #3, and give him the freedom to be him. We may just see the spark back – for if there is one man who can create the “Big Show” consistently its him.
It will be unfair to not mention Sanjay Bangar here. While Bailey’s over simplified captaincy is admirable, Bangar’s low profile calm presence as the head coach is commendable. He was the brains behind constructing this outfit. He played domestic cricket till last year – and is instrumental is bringing together a highly potent band of T20 experts from around the world and fusing them with some of the sharpest young cricketing talents from India (Sandeep, Askhar, Shivam, etc.). To add to this the way Sehwag, Balaji, Pujara, Murali Karthik have responded to their roles – does speak of his communication ability to extract the best from the seniors too. One noteworthy story about Bangar is his presence in the team during the 2003 World Cup at South Africa. He didn’t get to play any game – But the work he did to motivate the entire team (Especially in that game against Pakistan) won him a place in Captain Ganguly’s heart. A true professional – who never yearned for personal moment in the sun, but tiled hard as a workhorse for the cause of the team demonstrating supreme Work ethic. Its not surprising that he is excelling as a Coach – For me a stellar moment for Indian Cricket. Its time we produced a world class coach – and Bangar, has made a solid start in his Power Play.
In all the 7 editions, I have rarely seen this sort of dominance from any side. So as much as its refreshing, it also has made all of us sit and take notice. As the dust of the madness settles down, the method behind it is increasingly becoming apparent. Hope, this is a method that pushes the T20 science to another unexplored level. Viva KXIP …for demonstrating to the world a classic manifestation of “Growth Hacking”