I purchased my first computer game in over ten years not long back.
It was Grand Theft Auto 5.
I rarely play these things, but my kids have convinced me via a swathe of impressive YouTube videos that we had to own it.
So now we do.
The game is unbelievable. It’s much shinier, faster and deeper than the original Grand Theft Auto I grew up playing as a child. Like most things, it has evolved. Much like an axolotl, except that Grand Theft Auto can’t swim or walk on land.
Anyway, one brilliant feature of Grand Theft Auto 5 is that via cheat codes, anyone can dominate the game. Hit a few keys in a predefined sequence and “BOOM ” …. you are invincible or you have all the weapons or you have conjured an army tank to fall from the sky.
These cheat codes are easy to find online. They are no longer a secret or a mystery. Even novices like myself know where to find them and how to use them.
T20 cricket was born about five years after the Grand Theft Auto gaming franchise came to exist. Unfortunately, its cheat codes haven’t all been revealed to the world.
But we know some of them.
We know a batsman must strike in the 130+ range.
We know that dot balls mean something.
We understand the importance of the wide yorker and are starting to believe that the spinner cheat code is probably the most powerful one.
However, we still haven’t quite discovered the latest cheat codes for wicket keepers. Not in this format anyway.
Some think they know it, but they are hanging on to a code that is now redundant.
That’s the one where you pick the best batsman you can who holds the gloves as a secondary thought. You pick an Akmal brother or perhaps Sangakkara or McCullum or Buttler.
Unfortunately, the makers of the game put this code in as a bear trap. It doesn’t actually help you win. But it makes you feel like your team is strong when in fact, your team has a gaping hole in it.
Amazingly, Australia may have recently uncovered the real wicket keeping cheat code.
That’s the one where you actually pick the best wicketkeeper you have in the country and bat him at 8 or lower. His batting is a bonus. It is not a prerequisite.
It is almost back to the future in its beauty. Jack Russell would approve.
The old cheat code assumes that T20 is all about batsmen hitting home runs. It isn’t.
Like all forms of cricket, it is the bowlers who win you matches. They create the pressure. They take the wickets. They remove the threats.
Given that, and working within the parameters of only 120 deliveries an innings, every chance and half chance has a heightened importance.
Miss a stumping in an ODI and you have time to recover. Same in a Test match. Miss one in a T20 match and two overs later you may have conceded another 30 runs and with it the match.
The importance of holding onto every chance in T20 is multiplied by the fact that time is not on your side.
That same time factor also plays another role. It creates an environment where it is unusual for a team to be bowled out. The guys batting 8,9 and 10 rarely get a decent hit.
If that’s the case, does it matter if your wicket keeper isn’t the greatest of batsmen? Does he really need to be Adam Gilchrist? Why can’t he just be the fella who behind the stumps is cleaner than Mother Theresa’s ethics?
Australia have recently replaced a good striker / poor keeper in Wade with the man with the best hands in the land. Peter Nevill will likely bat at number 8 in the ICC World Twenty20. It is feasible that he could play the whole tournament and will not face a ball.
That’s ok, because it makes sense that big hitters like Faulkner and Coulter-Nile bat ahead of him.
But he will get batsmen out where others may not have. Those half chances are more likely to stick. Opposition wickets are more likely to fall.
What value should we put on that?
Compare that with how India will play the tournament.
Dhoni is no longer the country’s best gloveman, but can still hit a ball as hard as anyone. Do India really need another slogger? Does it make them stronger?
Australia have stumbled onto this new T20 cheat code. One of the last to be unlocked.
Time will tell whether it is one that actually helps the team win more games.