Virat Kohli and Ben Stokes buck the trend as T20 ‘anchors’ make big impact

T20 cricket is a game of statistics and patterns, with international matches and franchise competitions working together to paint a picture of the best game plan. All of the statistical and tactical analysis around the format boils down to this: strike rates are king. In T20 cricket, averages have a lower weighting than in longer forms of the game, with quick and attacking play typically more beneficial to a team.

That established notion, however, is not universally true, particularly in international events. When it comes to the biggest matches in World Cups, where the pressure is at an all-time high, there is still a place for a very special sort of T20 player. A couple of such players stand out when the dust settles on the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. Their stats aren’t always what a T20 side would be aiming for, and only one such player may be accommodated per XI, two at most.

Thrilling montage from epic MCG finale | ICC Men’s T20 WC 2022

Thrilling montage from epic MCG finale ICC Men's T20 WC 2022

However, players such as Ben Stokes and Virat Kohli have demonstrated that they still have a significant role to play in the format. The unfashionable and much chastised “anchor” hitter retains a role in the sport’s most crucial games. As an example, consider the T20 World Cup final at the MCG. England’s aim was one they were confident of achieving 99 times out of 100.

The pressure in a final, though, is a beast. England needed someone to come up and hold the innings together after losing three wickets and still being a long way from victory. Stokes was brought back into the fold for just this reason. And he executed his duty flawlessly, remaining on the field at the end to score the game-winning runs, and performing the role that his team required.

But in that case, you can never have too many Stokes’. England came close because to a consistent pairing between the 33-year-old and Harry Brook. However, it required unselfish, offensive striking to guarantee that the required rate did not become too high.

Brook attempted but was trapped on the fence. However, Moeen Ali – statistically one of England’s greatest T20 batsmen over the last two years – demonstrated the contrast in approaches that a team needs, scoring at a pace in excess of 140 at precisely the moment his side needed quick runs to relieve pressure. On the big stage, teams occasionally require a Stokes. They also require a Moeen. It all comes down to balance.

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Virat Kohli at his best in WC T20 2022

Virat Kohli at his best in WC T20 20222

In Kohli’s instance, the demonstration of his strength is evident. Kohli was at his best against Pakistan at the MCG, establishing the tone and then bursting at the end to seal the most dramatic of victories. It takes an amazing player to deliver the strokes that Kohli did on that incredible evening, especially against such high-caliber bowling. But that is precisely the point: there is always a place for an exceptional player in a role like that at a World Cup, even if their overall stats don’t match the patterns and current thinking about what constitutes a great T20 player.

To explain their sluggish starts and the pressure their pace of scoring may bring, Kohli and Stokes must ensure they finish the job. That is what distinguishes such players from the rest. When it truly counts, they are more likely than most to see things through to the conclusion. The issue, and the risk of selecting such athletes, is that even the finest players cannot always produce.

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Virat Kohli

A classic example is India’s semi-final loss against England. Kohli’s contribution appears to be enough on paper. However, scoring at the pace he did in the first ten overs, especially when runs were not coming from the other end, put India well behind their target.

He was more than capable of boosting his team to a huge total if he stayed in until the finish, accelerated, and found the boundary with the same frequency he did against Pakistan. But he didn’t, and this is the peril of a modern “anchor”:

They are quite valuable in run pursuit. However, batting first might operate as a handbrake – a needless safety precaution that restricts a team’s potential if the order is rigid. Will such players continue to be selected in the format as it evolves? The evidence from the biggest games and when the pressure is at its peak suggests that Stokes and Kohli will still have a role to play.

Ben Stokes’s ODI Retirement, is not good for England

Ben Stokes ODI Retirement, not good for England

Stokes announced his retirement from one-day internationals earlier this year, citing the arduous effort of playing in three formats as the cause. The 31-year-old captains England’s Test team, which has improved since he took over as captain with Coach Brendon McCullum a few months ago. However, Stokes’ heroics in the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 against Pakistan, where he batted an unbeaten 52 to lead England to their second title in the tournament’s history, prompted calls for him to return to ODI cricket.

Mott talked to the media following England’s World Cup victory in Melbourne and stated his wish to see Stokes return to ODI action for the benefit of the squad.

“When he approached me about his ODI retirement, one of the first things I said was that I’d support whatever decision he made, but I told him he didn’t have to retire, he could just stop playing 50-overs for a bit,” Mott added.

“I’ll let him dust himself off today.” He is his own man, and he will make his own choices. He will always do what is best for English cricket. That was part of his decision to retire from One-Day International cricket. He didn’t think he could give it his all, and he deserves credit for making that decision because he’s such a unique commodity in English cricket. “We want what is best for the entire system,” he added.


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