IPL 2022: How good is Shimron Hetmyer late on? Should KKR use Sunil Narine as a death bowler?

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IPL 2022: How good is Shimron Hetmyer late on? Should KKR use Sunil Narine as a death bowler?
© Provided by Firstpost IPL 2022: How good is Shimron Hetmyer late on? Should KKR use Sunil Narine as a death bowler?

Delhi Capitals stamped their supremacy in the league with a strong 44-run win over table-toppers at the time, Kolkata Knight Riders, putting on 215 batting first. In the night game, a Marcus Stoinis special wasn’t quite enough as Rajasthan Royals’ debutant Kuldeep Sen held his nerve in a tense final over. The two matches were overloaded with tactical calls and here we discuss a few of them.

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Why Delhi Capitals demoted Sarfaraz Khan and brought Lalit Yadav, Shardul Thakur up the order

Just last game, Sarfaraz Khan had been trusted in the Delhi Capitals XI and put on a fifty-run stand with Rishabh Pant. Against Kolkata Knight Riders, though, he kept getting demoted down the order as Delhi Capitals used Lalit Yadav, Axar Patel, and Shardul Thakur above him.

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Did Delhi Capitals think each of them was a better bet than Sarfaraz Khan at the specific points they walked in to bat? Likely, but the thinking is arguable, given Sarfaraz Khan’s efficiency in rotating the strike and taking on pace. To be precise, Delhi lost wickets in the 14th, 16th, and 17th overs, and Lalit Yadav, Rovman Powell, and Shardul Thakur were the ones coming in at the fall of each of those wickets.

Also read: How abandoning batting inhibitions helped Delhi Capitals beat Kolkata Knight Riders

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This year, Lalit has batted through the middle overs as a support act multiple times and with David Warner ready to take off after a great start, Delhi were possibly looking to compliment him with a right-hander who can stay and rotate strike against spin.

Sarfaraz Khan’s low strike-rate of 107.3 against spin could have hurt him here, but it’s an arguable move given that Lalit himself has a strike-rate of just 63.8 against spin in his IPL career. While Rovman Powell was probably pushed up to take on Narine, who he faces often in other leagues too, it was again flawed thinking with Powell primarily being a pace hitter. Axar, on the other hand, showcased his full range against spinners in 2020 in UAE, when his strike-rate against them shot up to greater than 150. But again, Delhi were looking at just five balls of spin with pacers set to bowl the next four.

The one move they got right was probably pushing Sarfaraz down and using Shardul Thakur, who has a death overs strike-rate of 191.9 in his IPL career, above him to take on pace in the death.

Should KKR use Sunil Narine in the death overs?

Spin in the death overs is a complete no-no in T20 cricket when clearing the legs and taking a swipe is much easier when compared to pace. But this is Sunil Narine we are talking about, the only bowler to bowl a maiden in a Super Over in T20 cricket, to Nicholas Pooran (in the CPL) no less.

Kolkata Knight Riders have one of the worst economy rates in the death overs this IPL season (13.02) and it is down to not having a specialist death bowler. Pat Cummins and Umesh Yadav have shared overs with Venkatesh Iyer and Andre Russell, who is decent in patches, in the death overs. Cummins and Umesh have terrible death overs numbers (economy rates of 11.82 and 14.80 in the IPL since 2020), Russell blows hot and cold and Iyer is still a medium pacer who is a part-timer.

Sunil Narine, on the other hand, has bowled 12 overs in the death in IPL since 2020, and has an economy rate of 8.42. Using him against teams that have death-hitting specialists saved for the death to take on pace might actually work well for KKR, given that most of those players aren’t great at reading mystery spinners.

Why Rajasthan Royals pulled off a move we could see very often in T20 cricket?

“It’s about being Rajasthan Royals. We are always doing something different [laughs]. We were talking about it before the season started. It was a team decision,” Rajasthan Royals captain Sanju Samson revealed at the end of the game when asked about the move to retire out Ravichandran Ashwin. While it must have been a pre-season team decision, it definitely felt like Ashwin’s call out in the middle as he left his partner, Shimron Hetmyer, shocked by walking off after informing the umpires and Riyan Parag walked in.

In the first-ever instance of a batter retiring out in the IPL for reasons other than injury, Ashwin decided to pull the plug on his innings in the death overs after he was pushed up the order ahead of Parag to stabilise the innings. Ashwin had ticked off his task and just chose to pass the baton on to Parag in the death. A batter tactically retiring out was first seen in international cricket in the 2019 South Asian Games when Bhutan’s Sonam Tobgay did so.

It has happened before in T20s with Shahid Afridi doing it in a tour match in 2010 and Sunzamul Islam doing it in a Bangladesh Premier League game in 2019.

It remains a controversial one despite the law well and truly existing in the MCC laws.

What the law says:

25.4.3 If a batter retires for any reason other than as in 25.4.2 (injury), the innings of that batter may be resumed only with the consent of the opposing captain. If for any reason his/her innings is not resumed, that batter is to be recorded as ‘Retired – out’.

It is a move we could see a lot more of in professional T20 cricket. Teams often save their death hitters only to watch the two in the middle struggling to hit big or get out. With one team lifting the cloth off this law, we could see it being used with better discretion by teams going forward.

How good is Shimron Hetmyer in the death overs?

Shimron Hetmyer was used in the death overs role by Ricky Ponting at Delhi Capitals, and it invited wrath given Hetmyer’s efficiency against spin in the middle overs. But it has given as a different avatar of Hetmyer with the batter taking off in the death overs like never before.

In the IPL 2022 season, Hetmyer has smashed 131 runs in 50 balls in the last four overs, striking at a rate of 262. But it isn’t surprising now with his overall death overs strike-rate sitting at 216.8 in the IPL since 2020. His numbers in the death overs in the last four IPL matches this season are 30 (12), 32 (11), 29 (14), and 40 (13).

The West Indian has turned into one of the best death overs hitters in the league. It is also something he showed a flair for in a couple of innings he got to play in the death in the Caribbean Premier League in 2021, scoring at a rate of 238.5.

Did Lucknow borrow MS Dhoni’s chaos theory?

Taken aback by Krishnappa Gowtham and Jason Holder walking in at No.3 and No.4 respectively for Lucknow Super Giants last night? It may not have worked out well, but it has happened in the league before, in 2018. Reduced to 27/3 in a run chase of 154 against Punjab Kings (then Kings XI Punjab), CSK pushed Harbhajan Singh and Deepak Chahar ahead of MS Dhoni, Ravindra Jadeja, and Dwayne Bravo. With the ball swinging around wildly and new ball specialist Ankit Rajpoot on fire, CSK’s move seemed bizarre but it worked as Harbhajan and Chahar counterpunched, and by the time the big hitters walked in at the death, the swing had been dead.

Describing the move then, Dhoni said: “The ball was definitely swinging a bit, especially more for Ankit (Rajpoot) and the other two fast bowlers. In a game like this, you want to take as many wickets as possible when it is swinging. With Bhajji (Harbhajan) or Chahar going in, it creates a bit of chaos. The bowlers all of a sudden start to bowl yorkers, short of length or bouncers. When batsmen are batting, the bowlers somehow stick to a very good line and length.”

Lucknow employed the move last night after Trent Boult sent KL Rahul packing off the first ball of the innings by pushing Gowtham up the order and then sending Jason Holder ahead of Marcus Stoinis, Deepak Hooda, and Ayush Badoni when Gowtham too was gone for a duck. Was Lucknow trying to save their best batters against swing as Dhoni did? Or was it just a case of sending up a pinch hitter?

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