Faltering Kiwis Should Tackle Super Over Jinx With Clear Planning
New Zealand lost two back-to-back Super Overs against India in Hamilton and Wellington respectively.
Virat Kohli is pumping his fists in celebration, the Indian dressing room is overjoyed and the few Indian fans in the stands can be seen frantically waving the national flag. India needed two to win from two balls in the Super Over when Kohli sealed the match with a cross-batted slash for four off Tim Southee on Friday in Wellington.
With so much emotion from one side, you would expect the other side to experience equally opposite reactions. But the Kiwis aren't stone-faced or rejected. Mitchell Santner is seen sporting a smile. Tim Southee just walks back to his mark and takes his cap from the umpire while casually passing a remark or two.
The Kiwis seemed resigned to the fact that Super Overs and them just do not go hand in hand.
“Super Overs certainly haven’t been our friend,” Kane Williamson said after their loss at Hamilton in the third T20I.
This came after a rather nonchalant quip made for fun where he commented that Super Overs shouldn't even exist before quickly adding - "It is what it is. It's good fun, isnt' it?"
At Wellington, it was Colin Munro’s opportunity to pass off a joke. “We are just waiting for that next big tournament [to win the Super Over],” said Munro after New Zealand’s second consecutive meltdown in a Super Over
But he later laughed and accepted - "No just joking. It's just one of those things. Super Over is a bit of luck to be fair."
The demeanor on-field and in the press conference from these Black Caps players suggest that they see no point in pondering long over their wretched luck in Super Overs. There's an evident 'it's just one of those days' acceptance written all over their actions and words.
After four Super Over heartbreaks in six months one cannot really blame them for this mindset. Factor this in. England have played a total of three Super Over matches in total (and won all three).
No other team has played more than two. New Zealand's opponents in this series hadn't ever played a Super Over until a week ago while the Wellington Super Over was New Zealand's fourth in six months and eighth overall across formats.
New Zealand played the first, second, fourth and fifth Super Overs in the history of T20Is. They have been involved in each of the last four Super Overs in International cricket.
There have been 15 tied T20Is decided by a Super Over. The Kiwis have been involved in seven of them with five of them happening inside their country. They have also lost six out of those seven matches. This is in addition to the World Cup final where they did not technically lose, but still lost. Four out of these seven times, the Black Caps made 15 runs or more in the Super Over only to lose.
There's the add-on that in each of the last four Super Overs in the last few months, New Zealand botched up golden opportunities to seal the game in full time to arrive at a Super Over.
If it was Trent Boult’s brainfade near the boundary ropes in the World Cup final, it was James Neesham’s full tosses at Auckland against England and two mind-boggling batting performances from senior players in back-to-back games against India in the death overs.
The Super Over itself hasn't been without drama. Twice in two matches, the Kiwis managed to score 13 or more runs against that man, Jasprit Bumrah. Only once has a team lost after scoring more runs in a Super Over in T20Is - Guernsey against Jersey last year.
That the Kiwis managed to breach a rather good one-over total twice against a relentless machine like Bumrah is no mean feat. It's also one reason why they might want to put down their Super Over issues to sheer bad luck.
But if it’s not the batting that has floundered, where have the Kiwis lost matches? The uncomfortable answer lies in their senior most pacer who was their skipper on Friday night at Wellington.
Tim Southee has bowled in six of the eight Super Overs [7 in T20Is and one in the ODI World Cup final] that New Zealand have been involved in. He did not play the World Cup final which means that on the seven occasions he was available in the team for a tied game to be decided by a Super Over, New Zealand have used him in the one-over shootout six times.
His returns? A pretty good six runs on the first occasion against Australia at Christchurch in 2010 followed by 13 off 5 balls against Sri Lanka, 19 against West Indies in 2012, 17 against England in Auckland last year and 20 and 16 off 5 balls against India in this series.
That’s an economy rate of over 15 runs per over in Super Overs with a fairly large sample size.
Clearly, Southee appears to be the wrong choice in Super Overs. Contrary to present day death bowlers who have an array of variations ranging from slower bumpers to knuckle balls, Southee's primary weapon is the old-school yorker. Excellent when executed right, but the execution has been way off the mark with only two yorkers bowled in these two Super Overs this series.
The Kiwis should be questioning their thinking of going with Southee as their Super Overs bowler. Sure, he is the most experienced of the lot, but with a woeful array of weapons up his sleeve, should they have changed their plans at Wellington at least?
They had Hamish Bennett and Scott Kuggeleijn in their ranks on Friday with both presenting fairly good claims for coming good in a one-over game.
If Bennett has excellent control over his knuckle balls, Kuggeleijn is a decent death overs bowler himself.
The inability to close out these Super Overs should be put down to poor planning and execution rather than ill luck. If anything, each of these last four tied matches in six months have presented New Zealand with scenarios before the Super Over from where they could have sealed the match in one ball - be it taking a catch, bowling a good final delivery or finding the gap for a brace instead of slogging out.
That their T20I mindset is itself flawed is pertinent to this discussion. The likes of Ross Taylor and Tim Southee are weighing the team down in a format that has moved on from its early days as a shorter version of One Dayers.
It’s time for New Zealand to move on too and make a few bold decisions to overturn their Super Over hoodoo.
(Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket writer. He can be reached at @imRohit_SN.This is an opinion piece. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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