Right through the post-match press conference on Sunday, Virat Kohli insisted India were outplayed by Pakistan until he was prodded to say if dew had played any role behind his bowlers failing to pick a single wicket in the second half of the match.
“Small factors like the dew make a huge difference. They outplayed us but with such conditions, you need to win the toss,” he said. Kohli didn’t dwell much on it but dew has indeed become a major talking point at the ongoing T20 World Cup. Save one match where Afghanistan hammered Scotland, no team has won batting first in the event so far (till the England-Bangladesh game on Wednesday).
It’s not the first time that the dew factor has been spoken about. It certainly is not the first T20 World Cup which is in danger of getting heavily affected by it. The 2014 edition in Bangladesh had everyone in a fix. There were teams dipping balls in bucket-full of water during practice to get used to a wet ball. The ICC had imported a special anti-dew gel from India to spray on the outfield in Bangladesh.
Eventually, it boils down to how the cricketers on the field react to it. With cricket becoming a round-the-year sport, there’s no escaping dew at some point or the other.
Scratching the surface by speaking to people closely working with Team India players, TOI found out countering the dew factor has become a part of the curriculum at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru and the routine is carried into the Indian team’s training sessions.
Making sure the ball is not soaking wet
Soaking the balls in water is not the only way of obtaining a wet ball that emulates a ball rolled in dew. The idea is to make sure the bowlers get used to gripping a ball which will be identical to a ball you get in a match where there’s dew. Gripping the ball is the most important thing. You can’t have balls dipped heavily in water. It has to be wet enough, and moist and slippery. One may use some agents to moisturise the ball. A soaking wet ball changes the behaviour of the ball as the leather becomes heavier.
Ideal length changes, fuller length becomes risky
The consensus is that full-length deliveries become the hardest to bowl. The yorkers are most likely to go wrong. That effectively takes out one lethal option now integral to the armoury of any contemporary pace bowler.
So, the lengths have to be pulled back. “With the dew, the ball doesn’t swing anyway. If you are not landing the yorkers, then it’s best you don’t offer full-length balls. Hard lengths become the best option. But you can’t pitch it too short because it sits up. The slower ones back off a length also become hittable because they don’t grip on the surface and skid off at a nice pace for the batters. The good length becomes a tad shorter and more in line of the stumps. If one can master the full-length ball, the batters will be caught by surprise,” says an expert who works closely with the Indian team.
Wrist spinners are better bets
In such a scenario, it is believed wrist-spinners are better bets than finger spinners. The pitch is unlikely to take much turn. The spinners need to get used to gripping the seam as imparting revolutions on the ball becomes very difficult. If the finger-spinner manages to impart revs, then there’s a chance of deceiving the batter in the air or with the arm ball. Hence, the wrist-spinners have better chances to succeed. “The wrist spinner can have the flipper and the top spin going. They can derive extra bounce to keep the batter guessing,” says the expert.
Team India’s options
Team India has one wrist-spin option in Rahul Chahar who has not been at his best of late. Ravindra Jadeja is essential to the balance of the team but relying on him as lead spinner could be risky. R Ashwin is the other spin option besides Varun Chakravarthy who was rendered ineffective with no assistance from the pitch in the last match. However, Chakravarthy’s back off a length deliveries could restrict the batters to some extent.
Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami are best known for hitting the hard lengths. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shardul Thakur rely on swing and slower deliveries.
Kohli insisted his team realizes where things went wrong and the weeklong break would help his team to address the issues. It’s almost certain most of the week will be spent on doing the dew drills in practice.