Chris Gayle

DESTRUCTIVE OPENER: File photo from March 2019 shows West Indies’ Chris Gayle celebrating on reaching his half century during the fifth ODI against England, at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground, Gros Islet, St Lucia.

@Caption:—Photo: RANDY BROOKS

In Saturday’s T20 International in Guyana, Pakistan’s veteran off-spinning all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez conceded only six runs off his four overs and earned the “Man of the Match” award after his side held on for a seven-run win over the West Indies.

Yesterday, Andre Fletcher, who was bowled for a “duck” by Hafeez off the second ball of the home side’s chase, hoisted the second ball from the same bowler for six over long-on. That’s how it goes sometime in sport: one day for you, the next day for me…at least in that very brief period of play before the rain swept across the National Stadium at Providence.

There was even time for Chris Gayle, back as opener due to Evin Lewis’ absence (the injury or ailment which forced him to retire hurt the day before was never properly explained officially), to get off the mark first ball when he poked Hafeez to mid-on and took off.

Of course “took off,” in the context of Gayle, is purely relative. But as an insurance company’s popular advertising line goes: you know what ah mean.

More to the point, Gayle’s intent and what appeared to be an attempt to hide a smile on reaching the non-striker’s end, suggests that everyone in the West Indies camp is all too aware of the team’s dot ball percentage, that uniquely cricketing reference where dots are marked in old-fashioned scorebooks to denote a delivery off which no runs were scored.

On Saturday the Caribbean side failed to score off 47 of their allotted 120 deliveries.

That’s almost 40 per cent. Pakistan by contrast had 33 dot balls in their innings of 157 for eight. That’s a difference of 14 deliveries not scored off in a match the reigning World T20 champions lost by seven runs.

Obviously it is simplistic to assume that West Indies would have won just by picking up more singles and two’s. Such an approach might come at the cost of a few of those towering sixes so it’s about finding the balance in not compromising that power-hitting ability but also ensuring, as much as possible, that most of the deliveries which aren’t smashed to or over the boundary bring some sort of run reward.

If you’re tired by now of these constant references about dot ball this and dot ball that, it’s only because it seems so fundamental to any team’s approach to consider maximising productivity off available deliveries in a contest where that availability is just 120.

Some may argue that look, this is the way the West Indies play and it has brought them two World T20 titles with the genuine prospect of a third when the next edition of the tournament is held in 11 weeks’ time in the United Arab Emirates. But even if all the soaring sixes and flashy fours are a trademark of the Caribbean game, doesn’t it make sense to seek to achieve a higher level of efficiency and post even bigger totals and therefore achieve more comfortable victories?

It is difficult to imagine competitors at the delayed Tokyo 2020 Olympics paying scant attention to an element of their particular discipline which would improve performances by even a fraction of a second or maybe a millimetre or two.

Thanks to the very unfortunate situation relating to Michelle-Lee Ahye in the semi-finals of the women’s 100 metres on the track on Saturday, we now have a tangible understanding of the difference just one-thousandth of a second can make.

As the rain kept falling in Providence yesterday and the ground was transformed into a lake, the television coverage showed highlights of earlier T20 Internationals in this very busy international season, including the West Indies’ romp to victory over South Africa with five overs to spare in the opening fixture of the five-match series in Grenada.

In the 15 overs the West Indies batted there were still 36 dot balls, which is exactly 40 per cent. You can argue that such unflattering data is irrelevant in the context of the comprehensive manner of the home side’s triumph.

True. However it’s about developing a habit, of making the pursuit of such scoring efficiency almost second nature to the extent that the fielding side can hardly afford to relax against players who not only possess the power to clear the boundaries at will, but also have the skill and, very importantly, the inclination to keep the scoreboard ticking over in between those spectacular boundary blows.

After that explosive display in the first match, the West Indies went on to lose the series to the Proteas because they couldn’t successfully chase three totals just below 170.

An improved dot ball percentage is no guarantee of greater success but it will reflect a higher level of efficiency and an understanding that singles are runs too.

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