Mumbai Indians is the most successful IPL team so far. (Source: BCCI)

We often talk about maintaining the balance in a playing XI. But what does this “balance” actually mean to make an IPL team? Is it about having hard-hitting batsmen in the side? Or having world-class fast bowlers or spinners in the lineup? These are certainly not the answers to this question. Here we discuss having a perfect and balanced playing XI.

There are a number of teams who rely upon having a left-right combination for the opening slot. Not going far away, even the Indian team has been doing so for the past few years. If experiments or injuries are kept aside, Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan have been the first-choice openers for the Indian team.

An IPL franchise must focus on this combination as it makes life a bit tough for the bowling side. They need to rejig the fielding positions while the bowler gets a challenge of tinkering his line and length every now and then. But is the left-right combination the only criteria? The straight forward answer to this is known. With the left-right opening combination, one opener needs to play an aggressive role while the other should be capable of rotating the strike to keep the scoreboard moving.

RCB have never won an IPL trophy. (Source: Twitter)

In fact, the number three and four batsmen should have the same genre of playing as wickets in hands in the last five overs would help the batting side increase the scoring-rate.

These three players don’t need to push the paddle but their major task is to stay at the crease till atleast 15th over to give the middle-order batsmen their opportunities to strike the ball hard. They can score some 30-32 each in 15-balls. They can stay at the crease and score runs while stealing away singles, double and threes without hitting the ball aggressively or in the air.

The numbers 5, 6 and 7 should be the ones with a strike-rate of 150-200 atleast. If the top four players manage to stay at the crease till the 15th over and keep the score around 110-120, it becomes easy for the next three to score runs quickly. With 5-6 wickets in hands, the middle-order gets the opportunity to go free and play aggressive and their natural game. They can keep the scoring rate between 10-15 and easily compile somewhere around 170-180 which is a pretty decent and defendable total at any ground.

Rohit Sharma and MS Dhoni during the toss before the IPL 2019 final. (Source: BCCI)

One of these three batsmen in the middle-order needs to be a seamer too because this adds to a bowling option for the captain. For instance, someone like and Hardik Pandya, Andre Russell or Ben Stokes, it’s pretty easy for the captain to put the onus on them while picking them in the XI. All the three can smack the ball really hard while can bowl too.

Coming down to the bowlers now and this for me is the most important department. A good bowling line up will make you win in any given situation. Do you remember the game between RCB and KKR where the Kolkata side defended some 130 odd and bundled out RCB for 49.

But how do you make a balanced bowling line up because T20 is considered to be a batsman’s game? But this isn’t really true. As quoted in the above instance a good bowling attack can make you win matches anywhere.

R Ashwin dismisses Jos Butler. (Source: IPL)

So, the first focus to have a balanced bowling attack should be a left-arm frontline pacer. A left-arm fast bowler is always a great option to have in any bowling attack and in any format of the game.

In the World Cup 2019, it was only the Indian team that didn’t really have a left-arm pacer. If you remember 2003 World Cup where India ended as the runners-up and 2011 edition where they were crowned champions, left-arm pacers, Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra played a massive role.

Nehra’s spell against England in 2003 while Zak’s performance in 2011 is something that the Indian cricket fans would never forget. So having a left-arm fast bowler is always fruitful.

Coming down to other pacers. A team can have a couple of seamers more to add to the pace attack or might go for one front-line pacer and have two spinners as they would anyhow have three quick-bowlers.

An off-spinner’s place in the playing XI depends upon the condition of the venue and it’s not necessary to play an offie. He can be a handy customer on dry surfaces or the tracks providing some spin. But a leg-spinner is a necessity in T20 or an IPL playing XI.

Mumbai Indians team. (Source: BCCI)

How? A leggie who is tossing up the ball nicely or bowling some good flippers will definitely trouble the batsmen. The batsmen generally have a tendency to come down the track seeing a ball with more flight and hit it hard. That gives the leggie an opportunity to get him out stumped or caught in the deep. Not really taking away an off-spinner’s contribution in a side but if a line can accommodate only one spinner then a leg-spinner should make it in.

One factor that the teams generally miss out while picking up a spinner is how much the batsman playing against him gets deceived with his bowling.

RCB captain Virat Kohli. (Source: Twitter)

For example, if a spinner makes the batsman miss his delivery 7 out of the 10 times or picks up a wicket in these six instances, then he might turn out to be a nightmare for the opponents. Because 70% of 24 deliveries make it around 16.8 balls (almost three overs) that the batsmen either misses or gets out. One such bowler will help the side to keep the scoring rate of the batting team pretty low. For instance, Rashid Khan’s ability to deceive the batsmen makes him a special player. And every dot ball in a T20 game just adds to pressure no matter you are chasing or batting first.

Well, teams and management can have different opinions and have distinguished opinions to make an IPL playing XI.

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