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Age and experience not the same thing in T20I cricket

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Age and experience not the same thing in T20I cricket

‘Some things cannot be taught; they must be experienced, you never learn the most valuable lessons in life until you go through your own journey.’ Except that it and several other quotes regarding experience fall flat when the game is cricket- in particular, T20I cricket where it is haywire.

“Experience is not just about playing 40 games but about learning from each of them,” claimed Gundappa Viswanath. And, we are talking about the 70-year-old legend of Indian cricket who went on to play 91 Tests for India and is considered by many as their idol. Very often, in the modern world, we tend to equate wealth with happiness, knowledge to degrees and age to experience when it comes to cricket. When it comes to happiness, it is Finland, who are declared as the happiest country in the World for two consecutive years. While we equate knowledge with degrees, it is almost given to compare how one of the richest man in the world in the past, Bill Gates was a dropout. 

And, we do not learn that age does not necessarily equate to experience in international cricket. If we were talking about any other format that does not have T and 20 next to it, experience plays a huge role. Modern cricket, like any other sport, has evolved and moved on from being a gentlemen’s sport. 

"A gentleman is a man who comes from a family of high social standing," which is exactly with what cricket as a sport started. However, after T20 cricket, it has become a sport for all ages- evidently when an 18-year-old Washington Sundar was picked by India. Since then, India’s approach has been brilliant in terms of picking players, under the age of 30. 

“We definitely have recognized it as something that, if you look at the average age of this team, it's 27 max,” said Virat Kohli before the game at Seddon Park. India does not have an aged played and have not had one since MS Dhoni’s sabbatical from cricket. The reason, fairly simple, the lesser the age, the better the fielding. Also, better the energy, which in T20I cricket is the most important of things. While India learnt it fairly quick, other teams have spent more than enough on presentations explaining that ‘experience,’ is key to T20I victory. Experience is key and no one is even debating that a young and inexperienced team could cause a meltdown. 

In 2016, a Windies team consisting of Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo were influential in taking the team home against a feisty England. However, when they tried to follow the same tactics in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, they suffered at the hands of all teams. With the changing time, it is crucial to understand that picking up players above 35 years, who are baggage in the limited-overs format. 

Crash-forward to 2019-20, the squad from 2016 minus Sammy returned in the familiar outfit, headlined by skipper Kieron Pollard, who himself made a comeback after years. The result was a loss against India, and then they followed it up with a 1-1 draw against Ireland. Yes, we are talking about the 2016 World T20 champions here, after inclusion of an ‘aged’ Dwayne Bravo. T20s and T20Is are two separate ball-games, and West Indies were the first victims, oh nearly first. 

Ahead of the glorious comeback of Pollard and gang, there was Sri Lanka, who assembled their own version- Lasith Malinga and co. It is the year 2019, and we do not have a flying car yet, as promised, but we have Angelo Mathews back as many times as Jesus did in his lifetime. After being dismal in 2017, where he averaged 22.6, scoring just 68 runs four innings. In his comeback series, he conceded 38 runs in three overs, talk about instant impact. Malinga, the most experienced player, or at least, the bowler with most experience conceded 81 runs in two innings. Oh, and, he picked no wickets, a flying ‘duck,’ and a ticket back to the island nation. 

Miles away in the small nation of New Zealand experienced veterans and aged souls, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill were waiting. As Taylor inched closer towards his 100th appearance for the national team, Guptill was slowly sucking the life out of the team owing to his success in 2015. While the 35-year-old from Lower Hutt was itching his fingers before the landmark series. He made a huge impact, I must say, but as an experienced player, did he finish games? A big buzzer, collapsing thrice in three innings from winning position. Three and half hours of travel will next take you to the pristine country of Australia, land to Breaker of Records, Mother of leaves, Steve Smith. While Smith is Bradman-esque in ODIs and Test format, his mediocrity in T20Is are exposed every passing day. 577 runs, that is not Smith’s aggregate in the Ashes, it is the total runs he has scored in his T20I career. An average under 30, a look uncertain and a strike uncharacteristic of a T20I inning, Smith’s disaster will continue till the World Cup in Australia.  

One final hurray:

Amidst the beautiful mountain range of (not New Zealand) South Africa, a Faf du Plessis is still relevant in the South African setup. All of this, when there is Mzansi Super League, where he has done next to nothing with the bat. Experience has to equal to something, not just a place, something to backup, anything to show why a player still deserves a place in the setup. At the moment, nothing is in Faf’s favour. Oh, just a beautiful sight in South Africa (not you cricket). And, back to Asia, feels home, finally. Bangladesh round up the list of ‘experienced players’ in the setup. They are still stuck with a southpaw (not you Shikhar Dhawan) Tamim Iqbal at the top of the order. When you reach lower down the order, you have a Mahmadullah, who is still the skipper. Do I have to add more here? Well, point proven.

Remember where we started, experience is not just about playing 40 games but about learning from each of them, England have done just that. Before their T20I series, they made the bold move of dropping Joe Root from the T20I side. Furthermore, they have probably just sealed the door for the Yorkshire lad to make one final ‘hurray,’ in the T20 World Cup. This time, as a batsman. However, with a young side and a young bowling unit, they have all but shown confidence in youngsters.

What is the lesson that a T20I side can learn from this?

India and England are two of the most favourite teams going into Australia for the T20 World Cup, that experience is about learning from every mistake! If you are any of the other sides in World cricket, learn it from the Blues (minus Sri Lanka) on how to pick a team that could suit the conditions and be experienced at the same time to play International cricket. For all the wise people out there, age is not equal to the experience. It is high time, international teams move on from following Chennai Super Kings’ Daddy Army strategy, it does not work in international cricket.  

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