At the end of the sixth over in their game against Rajasthan yesterday, Kings XI were 77-1. It would be easy to pass this off as symptomatic of one of the many warping forces T20 is applying in its first era.
Yet it hints at something more fundamental. In distilling the game down to an extreme form, conventional wisdoms will be challenged. Just as it won't be long until the very fastest spells of bowling come routinely in T20, so the paradigms that have contained the way batsmen bat will shift.
One of the most beloved of those wisdoms, passed down through generations, is to 'play yourself in, son. Have look'. Lara always said, 'the first hour belongs to the bowler'. The first hour? When Sehwag bats, the first ball doesn't always belong to the bowler.
Playing yourself in is a convention from time past, when the game was slower and longer, when conditions and expectations were different. It's also a psychological state: the nerves and fear dissipate once you've batted for a while and have a few runs on the board.
What there isn't, though, is a physical reason why you should have to play defensively when you first bat. If you have the skill and training to hit a ball, there's no limit on when you're able to do it. The brain and eye are more than capable of assessing external conditions immediately, otherwise you wouldn't be able to make the fine motor adjustments needed to play defensively, either.
What's coming is a generation of players with a new skill set and a different expectation of the possible. If they have a look in any format, it probably won't be in the way we know it now.
On Talking and Writing about Cricket
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