Self-evaluation the key to Gayle and Steyn's success in T20
There is no question about it. Twenty20 cricket is a game of confidence. When we look at the way Chris Gayle bats in T20, this point is brought home forcefully. Gayle is by far the best batsman in the format today. Or then take the case of Dale Steyn, easily the best fast bowler in all forms of the game at present. They not only make the games fun to watch, but they also make the playing of it look easy because of their supreme confidence.
Though it may look like they play effortlessly, the fact is that Gayle and Steyn have worked very diligently and sincerely at getting their game to a level where they can play instinctively. Just like a good surgeon makes a complicated procedure look a matter of daily routine to the uninitiated, players like Gayle and Steyn, confident players, make cricket look easy and fun. But there is great deliberation and thought involved in their success.
First of all, for any player to be confident, it is important for him to have the basic skill set to be successful. After working at getting the skills to perform under pressure, it is vital to trust what you have trained. Otherwise it is like owning a Ferrari but not being confident enough to drive it in traffic. When you know that you have the skills necessary to face bowlers like Steyn or for bowlers to be able to bowl to batsmen of Gayle's capabilities, it becomes important to know your own game. This means keeping ones ego aside and being clear about the limits of your capabilities; and then staying within those limits.
This is where the mind comes into play. When we watch Gayle bat initially, he is quite content, contrary to the needs of T20 cricket, to just spend time on the pitch and even let balls go to the keeper. This is because he knows that even with his ability, and even for a batsman of his stature, it is important to gain judgement of the pitch and the bowlers. He is confident that once he spends enough time in the middle, then who is bowling to him doesn't matter. The same holds true for Steyn. We always see him get comfortable at the crease by bowling proper conventional stuff. Good line, good length, like he would do in a Test match. And with the movement that he gets at high speeds, it seems as if a batsman is playing for survival even in a T20 game.
As a batsman, in T20 cricket, it makes everything simple if you start to middle the ball right from the beginning. It instantly puts the fielding side and also the bowler on the defensive. For a bowler, the ideal outcome when he bowls in this format is to be able to bowl a couple of dot balls and so put pressure on the batter. Players who know this fact are usually the ones who are more experienced. The majority of players doing very well in T20 are very solid Test cricketers like Gayle, Michael Hussey, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahela Jayawardene, Steyn, Jacques Kallis, Azhar Mahmood and Virat Kohli, to name a few. Apart from these proven names, cricketers like Dinesh Karthik and Ajinkya Rahane are consistent too. For them, being with the Indian team for a period of time is a big confidence booster.
India's up and coming youngsters like Unmukt Chand need to realise that the IPL for them is a very real stepping stone to international cricket. Right now, they should learn to ignore the things that go on in the periphery and to focus solidly on getting to know their own game and gaining experience. This for them is the time to quietly build self-confidence, which comes from working on the basic skills, and then learning to trust those skills under pressure. Because as shown clearly by Gayle and Steyn, confidence in one's own ability and being able to know how to get the best out of yourself is the difference between doing well and being very successful.
More about Hrishikesh Kanitkar
Hrishikesh Kanitkar is a former Test and ODI player for India, and a veteran batsman on the domestic cricket circuit. He captained Rajasthan to consecutive Ranji Trophy titles in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
- + Ashes: Australia getting a dose of their own treatment
- + India have disposed of Zimbabwe in predictable manner
- + Zimbabwe tour a big shot for upcoming Indian cricketers
- + Tough to step into captain's shoes
- + India have bound a winning unit in England
- + Indian cricket needs a strong Champions Trophy
- + Rajasthan Royals must rise above spot-fixing mess
- + Big bats haven't been given enough room in IPL 6
- + Sehwag and Gayle are crucial to the IPL's success