Who says T20 is a young man’s game?

The brilliance of a Kallis or a Tendulkar is proving that there is no substitute for class and experience even in T20.

By Wasim Akram

It’s been a fascinating first week in the Indian Premier League. I have relished the superb experience so far, something that I never imagined. Watching IPL games on TV and being part of a high-profile team are entirely different feelings. And being part of Kolkata Knight Riders has been terrific so far.

Cricket, in any form, is a great leveller. You win one day and you lose another. Your plans work one day and the next day you go bust. This has been Kolkata’s story in the first three matches. Two greats win followed by a big defeat against Chennai at home. It was disappointing for sure, but then it’s just the start of a long tournament.

To be part of Kolkata has been tremendous. The boys are responsive, they want to work hard and play some tough cricket. These are good signs and more importantly, Sourav Ganguly is eager and extremely involved. When a captain is in control of things, even the most difficult of situations can be solved. Ganguly just needs one good knock to push himself more.

Against Chennai, we lost the match in the last five-six overs when we bowled. Chennai skipper Dhoni played an amazing knock and in T20 one good innings can change the fate of a contest. While batting, some of our plans didn’t work and hopefully, we will learn from the mistakes and move on.

It was good to see Shane Bond eager to play despite jetlag. The Kiwi pacer showed what he is capable of. Except a bad last over, Bond was good and he should play a bigger role in our next matches. Chris Gayle will be a good addition to the team before our next game against Rajasthan in Ahmedabad on Saturday. Gayle is a match-winner and he will surely be one of our four foreigners in the XI.

But I have been greatly impressed by Angelo Mathews. He is extremely talented and the Lankan lad has all the ingredients to become a top class all-rounder. He has introduced a new delivery to T20. He bowls the “slow bouncer” with telling accuracy and consistency. This can become a killer ball and a delivery trademarked by him, just like the Dilshan’s ‘Dilscoop.”

The first week’s competition has broken a myth of sorts. If any one said T20 was a young man’s game, I don’t agree. Having seen the action from close, players like Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis have proved that there is no substitute for class and experience. There is an incredible buzz when they go out to bat. There is great anticipation when Ganguly goes out to bat. There is great hope when Shane Warne comes in to bowl. They are the heroes of the game and will remain so. The youngsters have to really earn their space in cricket’s folklore.

Every time at the toss, the captain is asked what is a winning score? I think the question should now be reframed to: What is NOT a winning score? Teams are still unsafe after scoring 200-plus scores. This is just mind-boggling. But I am not surprised. Teams are learning to play T20 cricket and the days of 140-150s are seemingly passé. Thank god, I am not bowling these days!

(Former Pakistan Test skipper and www.espnstar expert Wasim Akram is the bowling coach of Kolkata Knight Riders)

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