In-Focus

The Brand of Fearless Cricket – In-Focus

Fearless cricket is what lean patch teams lack and the dominant teams possess as their natural ability. Cricket has always been a sport of brain and brawn. However, there is yet another factor that makes a player more dangerous: the way they express themselves in the middle.

West Indies of 70’s

It was team West Indies of the 80s that brought in a spicy game of cricket. Of course, batting wasn’t called ‘step and hit’ by that time, especially with the thin bats used. But still, the West Indian batters were able to produce nightmares for the opposition bowlers with their bold approach. In fact, their approach got them the momentum building up at just the right time that further made them play ‘the pull shot’ often against the soaring bouncers–a moon-landing job for the other team batters.

“I believed I am the man.”

Vivian Richards had to say this when Virat Kohli asked him about the bouncers of those days in an interview. Here is an insane Viv Richards record that proves the above statement!

On the flip side, the vicious West Indies bowling attack of the 80s and 90s was the most dangerous thing a batter could face by that time. No matter what the pitch was about, the WI bowlers were able to massacre their opponents with their notorious pace and consistency.

This very West Indian kind of approach to the game had left the other teams buried for a long time, especially in Test cricket during 1977-1995.

The Australian Era

Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting at Australian Slip cordon
The famous Australian slip cordon including Ricky Ponting and Mark Waugh

As cricket evolved, Team Australia came on top as they possessed the factor of so-called fearless cricket.

Australians have always been a dominant cricket contingent from the beginning, but the invasion of the West Indies team in the 70s took the limelight off Australia. When West Indies started to see its decline, Australia again came on top with the 1987 world cup win.

One of the hallmarks of sporting giants is making their opponents perform worse – the Australian team never missed doing that from the moment they won the world cup in 1999.

The Australians played with the minds of the opponents. They followed a different pattern which is empowered by their sledging method. Unlike others, Australia used the pre-match press conferences to make statements on the opposition, which slowed the opponents.

At the same time, the Aussie team was filled with match winners. Steve Waugh’s captaincy especially made a strong statement in this cricket world. After Steve Waugh’s era, Mathew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist, Damien Martin, Michael Bevan, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee were led by the world-beater Ricky Ponting.

One thing that was common among these players was their fearless attitude. They strongly believed they were better than any other side. That particular thought made them win the key moments at crucial times in the game. As a result, they won many away series and the three successive world cup winners titles.

Transition of England Cricket

After a shocking campaign in the 2015 world cup, Team England started to build up a fearless team. They were too aggressive for a fifty-overs game. They found that they were finding great results when they started to be themselves in the midst.

Most Sixes in an ODI innings
Most Sixes in an ODI innings

Maybe it was because of franchise cricket that the England players could play all around the globe. Moreover, it fetched them experience through opening up for the modern-day challenges. Fair to say, it changed the dimension of the English team.

If you look at the batting order – Jos Butter, Jonny Barstow, Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes. Each one of them is an aggressive tool for the team. If any one of them can roll up their sleeves on a given day, it favors their side.

As a by-product of this approach, they got 481 runs against Australia in a fifty-over game – the highest ever runs scored by a team in an ODI match.

“When those players are putting you under pressure, it doesn’t matter who you are, you can lose your line and length, and we certainly did at times. I’ve been playing cricket since I was a kid, and that is the hardest day’s cricket I have ever had in my life.” – Tim Paine, the opposition captain.

At its peak, the English team won their first Cricket World Cup ever in 2019.

The Sub-Continental Version

When it comes to sub-continent teams, they always play their game with fewer risks, but there has always been a player or two in a team who bats without hesitation in their mind.

Kapil Dev’s name deserves to be the first on the list for the fearless category of Indian cricket. In those days, Krishnamchari Srikanth had a huge share of credit in making cricket more entertaining for Indian fans by his valorous nature.

In that light, Virender Sehwag was yet another great who completely got to the root of aggression. While Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni were too aggressive at the beginning of their career and became calculated risk-takers as they got experienced. Similarly, Virat Kohli’s fearless cricket created a paradigm shift in how cricket was played to current-gen batters.

Even though India possessed high talents, the intent hadn’t been atop, following the right rituals of the game except that of the 1983 world cup. Particularly in recent times, India’s failures in ICC events had a lot to do with this hesitation to go on with the dominant cricket.

“You have got to go out and express yourself. They (India) have got so much talent. That may be the only thing holding India back in ICC events.” Nasser Hussain said.

Contrastingly, the story has been different whenever India sports the white flannels, majorly because of Virat Kohli’s leadership. It has brought a moral change in the behavior of the Indian team. Team India started to play for results in Test matches rather than playing for a draw. As a result, India are making history with their away series wins in Tests.

Sri Lanka has always been a team that believes and depends on unique talents. Suffice to say that extreme belief took them greater places in ICC events. This type of cricket got started when Arjuna Ranatunga took the captaincy. Moreover, he changed the face of the Sri Lanka team with his fearless leadership.

Why should a batter have a fear factor when he has excellent hand-eye coordination and brutal power like Sanath Jayasurya? He was simply audacious.

Yet another Lankan name that comes easily in this list is Tilakaratne Dilshan- a dasher who went up really well against the new ball. Especially the ‘Dilscoop’ he used to play against lethal pacers needs extraordinary courage.

Most Sixes in ODI Cricket
Shahid Afridi – Record Holder of Most Sixes in ODI
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The rise of Pakistan cricket started in 1991 when they etched their name on the Cricket World cup trophy. The team that attained the title was extremely brave. The revolutionary Javed Miandad and Imran Khan were the crucial factors in bringing up fearless cricket.

Team Pakistan always had batsmen who preferred aggression over sustainability. The major notables are Javed Miandad, Saeed Anwar, Shahid Afridi, Imran Nazir and Abdul Razzaq.

The typical Pakistani pace attack has left the batters under huge threat from then till now. The combination of deadly speed and insane swing made them a hard bullet to catch for any world-class batter. From Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, to Shaheen Afridi, all had the edge over their opponents with their fearless attitude.

Wrapping up!

Even though South Africa and New Zealand have produced extraordinary talents, AB De Villiers and Brendon McCullum were very special with the way they approached the game. They both were the ones who had the most number of shots and the most number of ways to execute them. To add more, that particular characteristic itself gave them a tough heart to take risks.

At present, franchise cricket has brought in diverse demands over the players, which has led the players to walk on the tightrope between fearless and careless cricket. But what’s more fascinating about the current crops is that they are technically strong and extremely fearless.

Eventually, it leads us to a point where the current crops blow hot and blow cold. When it is hot on a given day, they can make cricket look easier.

Fearlessness can be an exciting factor until it supports the team to win, but it becomes a crime when it drops the team down in the contest.

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