A little more than halfway into the tournament, and patterns begin to emerge for each team. Sample sizes become meaningful enough for data to come to life. The scorecard tells you more about the games than a match report. Suggestions from coaches come from their laptops as well as their minds. And the game can be broken down into components, each of which can be tweaked, tuned, or tossed aside all together.
For the Rising Pune Supergiant, one component has been consistently misfiring in this tournament: the wides column.
In cricket, the bowler is the initiator of the action, without him, the batsman cannot frame a reaction. So the onus, and the power, of where to put the ball and therefore, what kind of reaction to draw from the batsman, rests with the bowler. But if he bowls outside those white guidelines three feet from the stumps, it is the umpire who reacts.
In the last eight games, RPS have given the umpires much exercise, conceding 44 wides. They have averaged more than five wides per match, which means that they are gifting their opponents almost a run-a-ball extra over every game.
In any sport, you must control the controllables. It is a mantra that you will find on most dressing room whiteboards, whether your local club side or international and IPL teams. It is a mantra that most IPL coaches swear by religiously, especially since they operate in a format where even good balls are routinely hit for six.
T20 cricket is a format where every margin is magnified. One good over is all it takes to put a chase back on track. Three dot balls can change the required run rate from manageable to heart-breaking. A single wicket can turn the course of a match whose conclusion looked forgone. In such a situation, five or six extra runs gifted to the opposition are no small matter.
For instance, Kings XI Punjab defeated RPS in their second game by six wickets, but more importantly, with six balls to spare. RPS bowled nine wides in that game, gifting KXIP nine runs, and taking the pressure off in a moderate chase. At the Wankhede Stadium against the Mumbai Indians, RPS conceded only three wides — their lowest in the season — and won the game by the slender margin of three runs.
A certain leeway for bowlers is understandable. With more and more batsmen showing the ability to play all around the ground, the bowlers are required to bring more variation to their lines, lengths and speeds. Therefore, some margin for error must be granted. Bouncers that pass above the batsman’s head must be viewed more kindly, since it is extremely difficult to control the height. Wides often arise from wide yorkers gone marginally wrong, rather than the complete loss of direction that happened to Shardul Thakur on Wednesday night when he sprayed one down the leg side. Dew is also a culprit, with the wet ball being harder to grip and control, especially while attempting yorkers and knuckle balls. But these conditions affect the opposition as well, and in all but one of their games, RPS have bowled as many or more wides than their opponents.
In comparison, Sunrisers Hyderabad, one of the better bowling sides in the tournament, have bowled just 23 wides in seven games so far. Even that figure is offset by an outlier of 10 wides in one game against Kolkata Knight Riders. They have had three games where they have bowled just one or no wides at all, setting the example for other teams.
Stephen Fleming and the rest of the coaching staff at RPS would be worried by the profligate extras column the team has been lugging around. RPS currently sits fourth on the points table, thanks to a recent string of good results. But if Smith and Fleming entertain any hopes of making the playoffs, this is one area that needs to be addressed. A batsman can convert a yorker into a half volley, and the bowler can be penalised for no fault of his. But a wide, just like a no ball, is completely on the bowling side. And therefore completely in their control to fix.
Add to that, the RPS catching, another controllable, has been marred by the odd blemish in most games. On Wednesday night against KKR, they dropped both Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir, the two batsmen who went on to demolish a chase of 182 like a child demolishes a well constructed Lego. It is yet another aspect that RPS need to work on, and captain Steve Smith admitted as much. “We need to rope in our fielding. It’s happening for few games in a row now. We need to change that.”
These are the two misfiring components that RPS need to tune up before all else.
Published Date: Apr 27, 2017 11:00 am | Updated Date: Apr 27, 2017 11:00 am