How To Win The IPL: A Strategic Bible

IPL teams may spend millions of dollars on their teams, but most teams have two glaring areas of inefficiency:

a) purchasing players at auction

b) team selection/in-game strategy

Considering the money involved in IPL, seemingly simple decisions (eg do not make a 39 and 38 year old your opening batsmen) seem to be made according to popular demand as opposed to logic.

What is the logic in spending $725,000 on Ajantha Mendis, the World T20’s leading wicket-taker, and letting him rot on the bench?


1. Break The Back Of The Chase In The PowerPlay

Often, pitches will slow down dramatically towards the end of the tournament, and in previous editions we’ve seen pitches at Eden Gardens, Chennai, and Pune all become more unplayable than the average Justin Bieber song in otherwise simple chases, let alone when eight-an-over needs to be scored.

The best opportunity to score runs on slow pitches is against the new ball, and when field restrictions are such that even mishits will fall safely, often reaching the boundary.

So you want to win the Naked Cheerleaders Drenched In Pepsi League?

So you want to win the Naked Cheerleaders Drenched In Pepsi League?

Therefore, it becomes imperative for batsmen to seize the initiative up front, and put the fielding side on the back foot. Already this season, we have seen batsmen dither in the first six overs of their chases, and as a direct result, their teams have struggled as the required run-rate has either stayed the same or increased.

Chases as low as 115 have been made exponentially more difficult due to hopelessly slow starts.

The message is clear: attack the new ball, or die a slow death.

2. Your Best Batsmen Must Face The Most Balls

Exceptions to this rule are with line-ups such as Royal Challengers Bangalore, where Chris Gayle opens the innings, but AB de Villiers comes in as a finisher at no. 5. Likewise with Chennai Super Kings, where the top order have such good strike rates and IPL nous that MS Dhoni’s position is not usually an issue.

However, for the majority of sides, it is tempting to sandwich mediocre local batsmen in between excellent overseas batsmen, often under the premise of “giving the local boys a chance.”

AB de Villiers has the power.

AB de Villiers has the power.

This tactic rarely pays off and often hamstrings a side by losing regular wickets (and therefore, momentum), thus putting additional pressure on the overseas batsmen.

My advice? Be more ruthless than Sehwag at the self-service buffet and pack your top order with your match-winners: there is little point in having players such as Kieron Pollard and Thisara Perera – players capable of scoring 60 off 30 – coming in with only 10 balls left in the innings.

3. Slower Bouncers Are The New Yorker

When’s the last time you saw a slower bouncer get hit for six?

(And no, Zaheer Khan’s unintentionally slow bouncers don’t count.)

The real deception in the slower bouncer comes when the ball hits the pitch, at which point it grips the surface and loses momentum faster than Inzy going for a third run. This means that the subsequent bounce is slower, and crucially, steeper.

Lasith Malinga: the world's best exponent of the slower bouncer.

Lasith Malinga: the world’s best exponent of the slower bouncer.

Much like a tennis ball’s bounce on clay, a slower bouncer has an element of topspin, meaning that to gain any semblance of power and control over the ball, the batsman must roll his wrists. As such, hitting a slower bouncer for six is a tremendously tough shot, as it requires a momentary halting of your own momentum, meaning that you only get half a backlift’s worth of power in your pull shot.

By the time the ball reaches the batsman, it is the equivalent of trying to hit a shuttlecock for six. The batsman is always early on the shot and has to ‘check’ his pull or hook – those who watch the ball onto the bat will manage to roll their wrists and guide the ball downwards.

The less adept ones [not mentioning any names, Suresh], will continue their blind, wild flail.

If they are lucky, they’ll miss the ball. Often, they will top edge it.

Top edges are extremely common because of the steep bounce, and as such, a slower ball is arguably the best bowler a T20 bowler can have in his repertoire – barring a Waqar Younis-style banana yorker at 150kph.

4. Drop Non-Performing Captains

In this IPL, we’ve seen Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara and Ricky Ponting as captains past their sell-by dates in the T20 format, dragging along their teams with mediocre batting. As they are so-called ‘legends’ with several million international runs, World Cups, and Nobel Peace Prize lectures between them, they are apparently invulnerable to criticism.

Pondulkar are pretty on the eye, but will lose the title for Mumbai Indians.

Pondulkar are pretty on the eye, but will lose the title for Mumbai Indians.

As there are a plethora of viable alternatives for the captaincy in each of their teams, it turns out that these pensioners in particular are essentially just depriving their teams of a quality international player: the balance of each side shifts dramatically if they are dropped.

5. NEVER Bowl Spin At The Death

The obvious exceptions to this otherwise foolproof rule are ‘mystery’ spinners such as Sunil Narine and Ajantha Mendis.

Doubt it? See what happens when a spinner is thrown to blood-thirsty sharks…

6. The “Wickets In Hand Fallacy”

“Sunrisers Hyderabad need 50 runs off 5 balls – but with 10 wickets in hand, they’re favourites.”

Once the first six overs are done and dusted, the value of ‘wickets in hand’ diminishes rapidly, an indisputable fact that has seldom been appreciated by the game’s sages. To a team blessed with quality batsmen, keeping wickets in hand – when the run-rate needs to be increased – should be a quality to be sneered at, not a statistic to be gazed at as if it were a perfect circle.

This rule relates back to a central theme of this IPL Bible: you must maximize your resources.

Imagine having a plump, juicy orange at your disposal, and not bothering to squeeze every last drop out of it?

You’d be pretty disappointed, right? I hope you’d be disappointed.

7. Bowlers Win Matches.

Imagine you’re a batsman on a cricket field with a boundary just 30 metres in diameter.

Even as a village batsman with eyesight Kumar Dharmasena would envy, you would be able to fluke your way to fortuitous runs off the best bowlers in the world, through sheer fortune. Even the most genteel batsmen would find the boundary with tentative pushes, defensive prods, and aerial mishits.

Extend these boundaries by a small amount, double your bat size, and you have an idea of how much the IPL has levelled the playing field for mediocre batsmen.

Chris Gayle may be the most destructive batsman in IPL, but stands less chance of single-handedly winning a tournament than a bowler such as Malinga.

Chris Gayle may be the most destructive batsman in IPL, but stands less chance of single-handedly winning a tournament than a bowler such as Malinga.

Barring the likes of Gayle and Watson, who are capable of scoring centuries with a high proportion of sixes, most batsmen tend to blend into an amalgam of similar T20 styles, with strike-rates of under 130.

As such, it is in fact the bowlers who become the most valuable commodities for their ability to limit batsmen. Bowling in the IPL can often be a more thankless task than doing PR for Oscar Pistorius, and so it has also become the platform where the true cream can rise to the top.

Lasith Malinga, Sunil Narine, and Dale Steyn are examples of bowlers who are a class above in the IPL – these are the men who rarely get hit around the park, and are sure to finish towards the top of this year’s wicket-takers.

This is more of a strategy to pay attention to in the next IPL auction, but the sentiment remains clear: your batsmen will score flashy runs and win the most praise for wearing a ridiculously garish cap, but your bowlers are your real match-winners.

8. Don’t Attack The Best Bowlers

Unless your name is AB de Villiers.

Bowlers such as Malinga will generally have your number if you go after them: be patient, nick singles, and target the weaker bowler. Don’t aim too high against the best.

9. Be The Team That The BCCI Chief Executive Owns.

written by the editor, with thanks to the FDBC and James Marsh

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