Last year, when Kane Williamson scored a breath-taking 48-ball 85 in the T20 World Cup final in Dubai against Australia, everyone thought New Zealand’s 172/4 would be insurmountable. After all, a big score on the board in a final is considered a ‘winning formula’.
But in T20 cricket that winning formula doesn’t cut ice. Teams consider having a target in front of them as a better option of winning. It helps them pace their chase better, especially at venues where dew becomes a factor in the second innings. Like in Dubai 12 months back. Despite losing the early wicket of Aaron Finch, David Warner and Mitchell Marsh bided their time, waited for the dew to settle in, and then sent the Kiwis on a leather hunt. They scored half-centuries as the Aussies overhauled the target with seven balls to spare.
It wasn’t just the final. The 2021 World Cup was all about chasing. Out of the 45 matches played in the tournament, 29 were won by the team chasing (65%). The tournament also saw the win-ratio increase in favour of the team winning the toss. Out of the 45 matches, 30 were won by the team that won the toss (67%). The two stats just corroborated the ‘win the toss and elect to field’ norm during the 2021 edition.
The ‘chase to win’ is not really a new trend at T20 World Cups. In 2016, West Indies won the final against England by chasing. In 2014, Sri Lanka won versus India while having a target in sight. In 2009 and 2010, Pakistan and England had emerged victorious after chasing in the final. Only India and West Indies had won the 2007 and 2012 editions after batting first.
Team India prefers chasing
The Indian team has shown a penchant for chasing targets in T20 Internationals. Even though India’s record over the last 12 months has improved vastly while batting first, especially after the 2021 World Cup, chasing remains the preferred mode in crunch matches.
After the 2021 WC, India has won 11 out of 13 games while batting second, giving them a win percentage of 84. 61. In 2022, India is second behind New Zealand in terms of win percentage while chasing. The Kiwis have a 100 percent record whereas India’s is 81.81 (9 wins out of 11 matches). Australia is third on the list with a win percentage of 77.77 (7 wins out of 10).
Even looking at the overall record, India has a win percentage of 74.07 in T20 Internationals (60 wins out of 83 matches). During the Virat Kohli-Ravi Shastri era, chasing was the go-to mantra. That made the team over-dependent on the toss, and it backfired during the last T20 World Cup.
During the Rohit Sharma-Rahul Dravid era, India has fared quite well even while batting first. After the 2021 WC, in 21 matches, India has won 15 while setting a target for the opposition, giving them a win percentage of 71.42.
It may be different in Australia
Chasing in Asian conditions has primarily been easier because of the dew factor. In Australia, where the dew isn’t as pronounced, things might be different.
“If you have a good score in Australia, your chances of winning go up. In Asia, generally you win the toss, you bowl and 70-80 percent of the game is in your bag. Not in Australia, usually. The chase doesn’t turn out to be easy. The ball will do something, there is some help for the fast bowlers, the pitch gets spiced up under the lights. You just can’t win a toss and think the job is done,” former Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-Haq recently said on a TV channel.
“The weather changes (in Australia), it gets cooler in the evenings, and that means there will be some swing. Without dew, the bowlers also feel more comfortable running in fast and try to swing or seam,” fast bowling legend Wasim Akram added.