Very often when a team is sailing against the tide, it needs only one inspirational change from it’s leader to reach the shores. Over the years, cricket has witnessed moments when one decision from the person at helm has created magic and changed the entire course of the match.
Some of those moves are very well known to everyone as they get discussed on a regular basis. Be it Dhoni’s decision to come at 5 in the 2011 WC final or Arjun Ranatunga deciding to explore Sanath Jayasuriya’s abilities at top during 1996 WC,they all paid rich dividends to their teams at the biggest stage and hence,people are pretty much aware of them. Here,we are going to look at some of the less known tactical masterstrokes coming from the captains.
Don Bradman reversing the batting order
On the New year’s day during 1937 Ashes, Australia led by Bradman failed to use the most of the batting conditions on Day 1 which wasn’t helped by the weather either. It rained on second day and given the fact that pitches used to remain uncovered in that era, batting became as difficult as getting out of the bed on a winter morning. Australia declared and invited England to counter those difficult conditions.
England too took a risk of premature declaration when they found batting beyond difficult in those conditions. It was then when Bradman thought something highly out of the ordinary. Will you risk opening with your 10 & 11 on a tricky pitch? Guess most of the sane minds won’t but Bradman did. He reversed the batting order to protect his main batsmen so that once sun bakes down the pitch making the conditions easier, they can have enough batsmen to make use of it. Bradman himself came at 7, normally he used to bat at 3 and scored 270 which is till now the highest individual score at that number. Australia went on to win that match and the Ashes by 3-2.
Kane Williamson surprising India
During WT20 2016, when Indian batsmen were practicing in nets for their opening game against New Zealand, their main concern was to counter the threat of Boult and Southee. NZ captain Kane Williamson decided to drop both of them from the match leaving everyone open-mouthed. The spin friendly pitch at Nagpur did help him in making his mind but playing three specialist spinners against India doesn’t always go well for the visiting captains. This one went though, as New Zealand bundled out India for only 79 winning the match by 47 runs. What was the collective figure of those 3 spinners? 11-0-44-9 !
MS Dhoni’s straight as an arrow field for Pollard
Former Indian captain MS Dhoni’s bold and innovative tactical changes are often the talking point of the town. Over his captaincy career, he has taken a numerous of gambles which have worked for him as well. One might say if a gamble works, it all comes down to the luck and that would be a fair argument too but to take a gamble, you also have to think out of the box.
This example from the 2010 IPL final is not a gamble but a display of pure strategical ingenuity. When Pollard walked in during the chase, MI required 55 runs from 18 balls. He started hitting from ball one and thrashed Bollinger for 22 runs to bring the equation down to 33 off 12. In the next over, a low full toss from Albie Morkel was hit straight over his head in such a ferocious way that Morkel ducked for cover. That’s when Dhoni decided to put a fielder behind the umpire, between mid on and mid off. 3 balls later, Pollard was caught by Hayden at exactly the same place and CSK was able to win their maiden IPL trophy in almost unchallenged way (in the final).
Azharuddin trusting Sachin Tendulkar with the last over
When the last over began the game had swung decisively in the favour of South Africa. In the Hero Cup semifinal back in 1993, India only had 6 runs to defend in the final over. At this time, India still had 8 overs of their main fast bowlers left. As much as we’re going to give credit to Azharuddin for the game changing decision of bowling Sachin Tendulkar in the last over, what was the point of having 8 overs of main bowlers left in such a close encounter?
Anyway, when the crunch moment came, Kapil Dev and Srinath had couple of their overs left while Salil Ankola had 4 but either they were reluctant to bowl the final over or Azhar’s faith in them had evaporated. He turned to Sachin and handled him the responsibility to defend just 6 runs in the final over of a semifinal.
“I was standing in the deep and I don’t know exactly what the conference among the Indians was all about. But it seems Tendlya (Sachin Tendulkar) was keen to bowl the last over. There was lot of dew on the wicket and Tendlya is very difficult because he bowls all kinds of deliveries. ” – Salil Ankola, India
- 1+run out, Dot, Dot, Dot, 1, 1
This is how final over went like as Sachin conceded just 3 to book India a final ticket much to the jubilation of a passionate Eden crowd. To Tendulkar’s credit, he showed remarkable guts in taking the ball to bowl the final over.
Sourav Ganguly – Waqar Younis combined brilliance
When India lost Sehwag in the all important India-Pakistan match at Centurion in 2003 WC, the score read 53-1 with India still needing 221 to win against a pace attack comprising of Wasim, Waqar and Shoaib Akhtar. In walks Sourav Ganguly at 3 with a lonely slip waiting to grab anything coming his way. Waqar (captain) at the top of his bowling mark signals to add another slip which way a ploy to ensure Ganguly notices the change. It was a combination of captain and bowler brain working at the top level which helped him remove Ganguly for a golden duck with an incoming ball hitting his pads as the left hander played for an away going ball knowing that an extra slip has been put on. He was simply tricked by a smarter brain at that particular moment.
But this wasn’t it. Ganguly while walking back to the pavilion gestured to stop Dravid or Yuvraj from walking out to bat. Ganguly wanted to maintain the good run rate in order to chase a big total. Dravid wasn’t the ideal person for that cause. Yuvraj was, but with the world’s 3 best fast bowlers(Wasim, Waqar & Akhtar) belted all over, there was high chance of spin being introduced anytime, which was not Yuvi’s strong preference so consequently, he went for Mohammad Kaif which was a bold decision in such a high pressure game. Kaif provided stability in the middle while Yuvraj and Dravid gave final touches to that difficult yet elegant chase. Ultimately, Ganguly, the captain had the last laugh.