Exceptionally good at cricket analysis — this is the phrase that can go into most Indian resumes (football fans though burgeoning are still a minority) and so it is not a surprise that in the aftermath of India’s loss in the WT20 semi-final to the Windies, we have seen a wide range of explanations being offered for the same, the most commonplace ones being the two no-balls and the dew factor. While it is not important to come up with right answer to this question, taking a look at the way we analyze a failure can have a huge impact on our chances for future success. This is where the relevance kicks in for those looking at a CAT retake in 2016.
Analyzing a match versus analyzing our ability to excel in a format
Most of the post-match analysis has tended to focus just on the match itself. What could have gone differently or the key things that could have swung the match our way.
This set of analysts, those who look at the micro picture, do not seem to find anything dramatically wrong with the team and its abilities it was just a question of things not working out on that day. So it would follow that if there was another T20 tournament there is nothing much that Team India needs to change.
To equate it with CAT, such analysis would pit the blame on the performance of that day and that particular paper — if only the DI-LR section was easy, I could have cracked the paper; just a few more questions right in VA and I would have made it; there were questions from areas I did not focus on else I could have cracked it.
But sometimes it makes sense to move away from the one-off case and look at the tournament or CAT prep season as a whole.
What we need to look at post the loss to WI is not whether we could have won the match and hence as the home team become overwhelming title contenders but whether as a team we performed well enough to be the best T20 team in the world. Isn’t that what the cup is all about?
So if we move away from the semis and look at how we performed in the tournament it will be a rather chastening experience —
- lost comprehensively to NZ in home conditions
- won precariously against BD in a match that could have gone either way
- won comprehensive against a PAK team that was in disarray to say the least
- won a tight match against AUS owing to some individual brilliance
What if we lost that BD match and did not make it to the semis? Would our analysis still be the same?
So it was not as if we have a cracker of a T20 team that can lay stake to being the best in the world. The only team that can say that, irrespective of what happens in the Final, is England.
Do we have the skills to be an excellent T20 team
Most analyses of teams tends to focus on performance of players or function of players — batsmen, bowler and all-rounder — but T20 is a different animal altogether and it makes sense to look at it form the skills required for the same — what type of shots should a batsmen be able to play, what type of balls should a bowler be able to deliver?
As far as fielding & fitness go I think we are above par as a team in terms of skills — the relay catch which ended up being a six notwithstanding — but the same cannot be said about our batting and T20 like it or not is a batsman’s game.
The best way to go about analyzing the batting skills required for T20 and the Indian mindset towards it is to revisit the euphoria generated by Virat’s special innings. The paucity of adjectives aside, what struck me was Sunil Gavaskar gushing that he did it with proper cricketing shots, proper cricketing shots.
Now what is a proper cricketing shot? Isn’t that determined by the format of the match? When Sachin Tendulkar burst onto the scene he did what we were not used to seeing frontline Indian batsmen do — loft the ball over the covers. Proper cricket until then was never about lofting the ball over the covers off a pacemen (one was not taught to do that in the coaching clinics). But over the years thanks to one-day cricket it has become a proper cricketing shot, one that Virat deploys exceptionally well.
So what Gavaskar was essentially doing was championing something that he held dear. Would that innings have been less awesome if he played switch hits, reverse sweeps and scoops.
This is where the skills part comes in. This article insightfully observes how M.S Dhoni’s scoop is the one of the rare instances of Indian players executing what has now become de riguer in T20 cricket given that fine-leg is up most of the time.
Add to this the fact that the third-man is also up with players patrolling the boundary in front of the wicket, the switch hit and the reverse sweep become shots that players must have in their repertoire.
So given the way field are placed in the last 5, these two strokes are no longer improper cricketing strokes or strokes that are played only by a freaky genius like ABD, they have become core skills that elite T20 cricketers are supposed to have.
A case in the point is the ease with which top English players do it, a tradition for all practical purposes started by KP (he did it to certain Muralitharan in England, playing in whites).
What other skill should a batsmen in the T20 context, with all fielders patrolling the boundary in front of the wicket, possess? The ability to clear the boundary with ease. In other words we need at least one BEAST who can clear the boundary with ease. We need someone who trades solely in shots beyond the boundary not 1s & 2s & 3s.
After the top three, we have only one batsman who can do it — the skipper, but he is in a way past his prime. The only Indian player who was about pure, clean hitting was Yusuf Pathan but unfortunately it was only occasionally. So, as far as T20 batting goes, we barely have people who fit the bill, especially lower down the order. The entire West Indies lower order is capable of that, even Brathwaite did it in one of the matches to seal victory (I started this piece before the final!) .
The article mentioned above speaks about our conservativeness with respect to team selection when it comes to batting and also offers potential T20 players for the future provided we have the foresight to blood them.
Imagine me rejoicing that my students have solved a problem in the way they were taught at school ! I’d be happier if they consistently made use of answer options to eliminate or guesstimate answers.
The purists are unfortunately barking up the wrong tree — we should not be debating what proper cricketing shots are, we should be debating what proper cricketing formats are since the question of what cricket is, is not an easy one to answer given the number of formats going around.
Analyze your skills for a successful CAT retake
So those of you who are looking at a CAT retake should look at your skill sets vis-a-vis the CAT from a broader perspective than from the narrow view of what transpired on D-day. Ask yourself these questions:
- How good is your reading speed? Is it above 300 words per second. Can you clear the cut-off on the Verbal irrespective of how the paper is?
- How strong are your calculation skills? Were you happy with having the calculator and did you use it or did you rely on your number-crunching skills? Do you view calculations as part of DI-LR or do you view it as integral to DI-LR and QA as well?
- Are you comfortable facing questions across all areas in QA or do you have specific weaknesses or dislikes that can get exposed if the paper does not fall your way?
On a retake do not prepare to somehow clear the test, prepare to develop all the skills required to ace the test, you need to (like the Indian team does) take it to the next level.
On the eve of the IND-AUS match, a few students asked me what I thought would happen. I just said T20 is most unpredictable and we do not have a beast lower down the order, I guess the final vindicated both observations.