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'Nothing but a horses-for-courses strategy': Why England had to turn to Bazball because of its player pool

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Roar Guru
10th March, 2024
9
1130 Reads

Towards the end of the final innings at Dharamshala, Ravindra Jadeja clean-bowled Shoaib Bashir.

However, not realising what happened, Bashir signalled for a review. Everyone around him, including his teammate Joe Root, laughed at this comical scene.

To many cricket viewers, that scene summed up the term “Bazball,” which is a comically defiant mental state when the writing is on the wall.

But is this what Bazball was meant to be all along? My answer is an emphatic no.

Every cricket board and management in the world would love to be able to select a squad from a bunch of super-talented players, like the West Indies or Australia had during their roaring days.

However, talent production within a country has a cycle, and it is not often that great players come in a bunch like they did for West Indies in the 70s and 80s and Australia in the 90s.

Considering this reality of vagaries in talent availability, team managements design their playing strategy according to the available bunch.

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In 2022, Brendon McCullum, Ben Stokes and Robert Key had many Test match players, who were flawed in many aspects – barring the obvious star players like Jimmy Anderson, Ben Stokes, and Joe Root.

The County system was not producing batters like Alastair Cook; it was producing strokeless wonders like Dom Sibley.

With this as their resource availability, the trio had to decide on the best strategy to win in test cricket in the short term.

While they struggled in Test cricket, the English were acing white ball cricket. The white ball team was built with uninhibited hitters for batting and good all-rounders for bowling.

The entire English cricket system adjusted to this need and was producing players who fit these requirements.

So, rather than fighting the system, the trio decided to fit their test strategy too based on the players being produced by the newly calibrated system.

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Thus, Bazball was born – a strategy devised to use the resources efficiently rather than revolutionize the system. It is not a strategy to revolutionize global cricket.

All that talk of Bazball revolutionizing global test cricket is hyperbole. Bazball is nothing but a horses-for-courses strategy that England had to adapt to fit the players at their disposal.

When the English management could not influence the design of the course, as they could have done at home, we saw what happened in the just-concluded India series.

Even though the result of this series was 4 -1, the tourists managed their resources admirably well. The lopsided result reflects that English horses do not fit into Indian courses. But I don’t think that there is anything wrong with the management philosophy.

As we have seen over the years, Test cricket demands players to use techniques adaptable to situations and playing conditions. All the fabulous teams of the past had brilliant players, who could play both defence and offence.

The great South African test team under Graeme Smith had players like AB De Villers, Hashim Amla, to name a few, who could block the whole day or score 400 runs in a day.

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They had great bowlers like Dale Styen, who could demolish batting lineups in alien conditions like the sub-continent.

When you have many players like that, you just tell them to play test cricket. There is no need to mint a new strategy for them.

The great Don Bradman scored a triple hundred in a day in the 1930s; aggressive batting is not a Bazball invention.

If, by miracle, the English system starts to produce Joe Roots and James Andersons by the dozen, England will drop the term Bazball and call it normal Test cricket again.

However, when all they have is a flawed bunch at hand, they will have to ‘Bazball’ their way out of it.

My biggest worry for England is that their system has been so rigged for white-ball cricket that they will have to stick with this style.

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It is not just England; I am seeing Australian test batting going in the same direction as England – a bunch that has great offensive skills but poor in defence. Australia is not producing Ricky Pontings and Mark Waughs anymore.

For all we know, the whole Test cricketing world will be Bazballing in the next few years.

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