In Hot Seat, we present our writers with a tricky cricketing situation and ask them to captain their way out of it.
Scenario: South Africa invite your eight-man team and another such to play a match in their new 3TC format at the Wanderers. Batting against the other invited team, you lose seven wickets in your first innings, so according to the rules of the 3TC format, your remaining batsman has to bat alone in the second innings of six overs. There will be just six outfielders, but your batsman has to score only in even numbers (twos, fours, and sixes). He has to chase 54 batting against the current South Africa T20 bowling line-up. Which batsman, past or present, would you like to have take on this huge task?
Deivarayan Muthu: Dinesh Karthik
South Africa’s current T20 attack is packed with pace: Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi. In 3TC, all six fielders are posted on the boundary – three each on either side – so it might not be as easy to clear the fence. You need to find the fence as well as the gaps for doubles and you need to do so against quality pace. Step forward Dinesh Karthik. He has evolved into a short-format finisher and has a superb recent record against pace in T20 cricket – 471 runs off 308 balls in 26 innings over the past three years, at a strike rate of 152.83 and average of 39.25. He has even got the better of Jasprit Bumrah in recent IPLs. South Africa may throw their wristspinners Imran Tahir or Tabraiz Shamsi into the mix, but I’d still back Karthik to manipulate them, line up the pacers, and do it all by himself.
Danyal Rasool: Brendon McCullum
To have a hope in hell of pulling this off – and that is all this team would have – you’d need someone with more than just the ability to bludgeon the ball. They would have to be quick between the wickets, sharp at judging twos in the outfield, and clever enough to make the right decisions when the moment calls for it. Having done well against South Africa in a big game would be an extra bonus. Michael Bevan is an attractive shout, but the strike rate counts against him. For that reason, I’d go for McCullum. He excelled in all three formats he played, so there’s no reason he won’t be able to put his cricketing smarts to great use in this one too. Aggressive with his running and devastating in his strokeplay, he could put South Africa under pressure with a couple of big overs, like he did against Steyn in the 2015 World Cup semi-final. Under pressure, South Africa, infamously, do not thrive, which is where, smelling blood, McCullum would have the best chance to go for the kill. He could spread the outfield with his shot-making and then relieve the pressure with canny twos.
Gaurav Sundararaman: David Warner
If one batsmen has to score 54 runs, he needs to be fit, play spin well, run lots of twos, and have the ability to hit fours and sixes. Warner is the perfect player to achieve all this. He has the game to play spin and pace and has unorthodox shots as well. The altitude at the Wanderers makes it easier to score sixes too. Warner has finished many games, and I expect him to make full use of there being just six fielders with his quick running. Don’t be surprised if he runs five twos every over and finishes the game with a few balls to spare.
Alan Gardner: Viv Richards
There aren’t too many candidates who could handle this sort of scenario, but, perhaps because we’ve been treated to a lot of archive footage during rain breaks in the England-West Indies Tests, the name IVA Richards springs to mind. With that domineering personality, not to mention those lumberjack forearms and shoulders, scoring in even numbers was his preferred method anyway. And he has sort of done it before. At Old Trafford, in 1984, he scored 93 out of 106 in a record-setting tenth-wicket partnership with No. 11 Michael Holding. You’d back him to beat two different teams, wouldn’t you
Shashank Kishore: Virat Kohli
In this scenario, you’d want a mix of the ability to hit big and supreme fitness. Who better than Kohli to tick both boxes? Assuming he has batted through the first six overs to remain not out, you’d think he would have assessed the surface and the attack that is coming at him. That he doesn’t have to worry about farming strike, since he’s the last man standing, could just empower him to play freely. Even if he has to see out Rabada, he still has enough overs to score the runs. When Kohli got 109 off 55 balls against Gujarat Lions at the Chinnaswamy in the 2016 IPL, he hit 68 of those runs in fours and sixes. Wanderers is much like the Chinnaswamy – the ball travels because of the altitude.
Sreshth Shah: Jos Buttler
Buttler has one of the highest boundary-per-ball ratios in T20I and ODI cricket. This scenario requires the batsman to aim for two boundaries and one double every over, which means you need to score off three of the six deliveries in an over. I would trust Buttler to do that. He is also one of the best at using his crease. Given there are only six outfielders, he can create new angles to find the gaps. If it comes to clearing the boundary, few hit the ball as cleanly as him. Remember, the bowler has extra pressure to execute his plans too – because of the three fewer fielders – and a few hits early in the over can scramble the bowler’s brain.