IPL's shadow

CSA T20 Challenge was overshadowed by the IPL

A dark tower at the Wanderers on Wednesday night represented the men’s T20 Challenge for CSA for twenty-five minutes. A unexpected blackout occurred on one of the stadium’s lighting pylons, ending the semifinal game between the Lions and Titans. The game was already difficult to watch, even before the lights went out.

Thankfully, they recovered quickly enough for the Lions to win by eight wickets. In the Sunday final at the Wanderers, they will take on the Dolphins, who defeated the Warriors by five wickets at Kingsmead on Thursday in the other semifinal.

The 55 league games of the competition were spread out over 45 days. 22 of those matches—less than half—were only shown live to SuperSport’s small viewership. Five times in a single day, four games were played in addition to the three that were going on at the same time. There were two on eight other days. A single game was played twice a day. The focus was hazy.

And then there’s the season. The competition took center stage in South Africa for 14 days prior to the start of the IPL, beginning 28 days after the SA20 final. For the past 36 days, or nearly three-quarters of T20 Challenge’s life, the world’s most glamorous, brilliant, and memorable cricket tournament has completely eclipsed it in the public’s mind.

Due to the attendance of the majority of South Africa’s box office players, the IPL has the attention of the intended audience. That only partially explains the scattering of fans at T20 Challenge matches. The competition has far too frequently failed to produce cricket that its audience, inspired by what is being broadcast from India, would think is worth watching, especially from a batting viewpoint, which is another reason for the small attendance figures.

In the T20 Challenge, teams have been eliminated for less than 100 points six times, however totals of 200 or more have occurred four times. Teams have reached 200 in 22 of the 41 IPL games so far, and they have only been knocked out in double figures once. The T20 Challenge has seen three century and two undefeated efforts in the nineties. Nine hundreds have adorned the IPL. And that’s all the more so given that the South African competition has 16 more matches than the Indian spectacular.

The fact that the load is distributed among 13 grounds has improved the IPL pitches. The number of venues used has only ever been as high as in 2014 and 2015. The assistant coach of the Lucknow Super Giants, Lance Klusener, told Cricbuzz, “The surfaces here are very flat, so there’s no seam movement and not much turn, and there’s very little swing and lots of dew.” “The outfields on our comparatively small fields move really quickly. You can achieve high scores by including the world’s finest hitters. Additionally, the impact player rule means that a lot of teams have an additional batter.”

Ashwell Prince, who represented South Africa with 119 caps in all competitions, would agree. He is in a good position to provide an informed opinion on both competitions because he is a passionate IPL fan and a television pundit for the T20 Challenge. “The impact player has made a big difference, particularly for the guys who bat early in the innings,” Prince stated to Cricbuzz. “Nobody is being cautious in an attempt to get off to a good start. Although it’s an extended batting line-up, I’m not saying that everyone is playing carelessly; rather, they are erring on the side of aggression rather than caution. The brains of batters are now free.”

The top impact batter of the year is Jos Buttler. For the Rajasthan Royals, he has amassed 285 runs in seven innings, 142 of which came after he was twice substituted into the starting lineup. The second time was on April 16 at Eden Gardens against Kolkata Knight Riders, where he opened and amassed an undefeated 107 off 60 balls. In the 13th, Rajasthan, needing to reach 224 to win, collapsed to 121/6. Without Buttler’s effort, they probably would have lost. With 189 runs scored by their impact hitters, Rajasthan leads the league. Top in the standings, too.

However, this may involve more than only impact players. “Our pitches are tired; it’s wintertime, so the ball isn’t coming onto the bat,” Prince stated. “You’re not seeing as many runs for that reason alone. The way our players apply themselves might be improved, and the scores don’t have to be as low as they are. It appears that not one hitter is willing to work his team into a competitive score. Everyone aspires to lead their team to a score that is competitive.

“But, because the pitches aren’t as excellent as the mindsets want them to be at this time of year, you need to be flexible. With the intention of attacking every bowler in every bowling line-up, the guys will take the field. However, the surfaces aren’t making that possible. A lack of flexibility is causing teams to be bowled out for small totals.

Sometimes it’s difficult for batsmen to put their egos aside, especially in Twenty20 cricket. A score of about 145 or 150 might be competitive given the circumstances, therefore you should adjust to play that type of cricket. However, if you wish to play a different style, you’re charged 100, 115, or 120. It’s not as glamorous to smash the runs, so people don’t get in and, for example, run the runs.”

Prince proposed a theory to explain this tendency: “Let’s imagine you play a match-winning innings and score 60 off 50 balls. That kind of innings is not what players want to see in their stats. It lowers your strike rate if you have to repeat that two or three times during a campaign. Playing that approach could help your team win games, but it will make it harder for you to get drafted in the upcoming major competition.

Franchises assess your total and conclude that you are scoring runs. However, your strike rate is only 135 when you score them. That is not high enough. You are not wanted here. While their strike rates are better, some players are not scoring as many runs as others. That has become a major consideration in the minds of contemporary players because those are the men they desire.”

There are several differences between the T20 Challenge and the IPL. Prince listed a few of them as follows: “The IPL players are more skilled players overall. However, we’re also discussing improving our comprehension of the game. We are discussing mentalities. The world’s greatest players are these ones. They participate in the IPL for that reason.

“It would be difficult to post the kind of scores we’re seeing in the IPL, even with impact players in South Africa. Pitch conditions in South Africa give bowlers more. Perhaps the pitch has extra bounce or lateral movement, or perhaps the surface’s inherent irregularity gives the bowler something to work with.

“The surfaces in the Indian Premier League are so superb that an eight-ranking player doesn’t have to play himself in and find the pace of the ground. You can begin swinging with two or three balls. You are aware of the height and speed at which the ball will approach you.

“As a batter, it takes longer to make decisions when you’re playing on a pitch that is jumping more or behaving inconsistently. Matthew Hayden did a great job describing this on commentary. You can’t swing as forcefully as you can when you’re trusting the bounce and the tempo when you commit to the stroke later. On a South African pitch, you can’t swing as hard as you could on an Indian Premier League field.”

The fact that both the T20 Challenge and the IPL follow the same format is their only similarity. It is just as difficult for the latter to be perceived as it is for the former to be invisible. notwithstanding the absence of light.