According to fans of cricket, the shortest format of the game is all about hitting where a batsman likes to go after the bowlers. There is no room for stabilizing the innings. However, the reality is completely different. If someone had told a cricket fanatic few years back that the role of a sheet-anchor is very important in the slam bang version of the game, he would have received a bashing. It is because T20 format is considered to be tailor made for aggressive cricket and there is no place for holding back for few overs. The likes of Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Sunil Gavaskar and many others were considered to be the best in business when it comes to holding up an innings from breaking down after the loss of few early wickets. The role of a sheet-anchor is to offer a solid defence in order to minimize the damage and let the other batsman take the charge of the game.
This definition needs a change and alteration in terms of T20 format but the basic idea remains the same. A team need somebody who holds an innings together for some time if not entirely. It is his presence who allows the dashers to go for big shots while he himself scores at a low pace. But let me clarify that low pace is not actually slowing down as this will derail the winning chances. The strike rate of a sheet anchor is more than 100 and there is no way of compromising with stroke making. If we look at the T20 matches in international cricket and the Indian Premier League, there are lot of examples which showed that the role of a sheet anchor won’t diminish in the near future and such players are here to stay.
The first T20 match between India and New Zealand was a high scoring one of for the home team where Rohit Sharma displayed the importance of keeping his team’s innings together. It was Shikhar Dhawan, who was scoring at a brisk pace, hammering bowlers for regular boundaries. Rohit started his innings cautiously which allowed Dhawan to go for boundaries. He carried on with the same approach for few overs but after settling in, he went on a rampage. He along with Dhawan crafted a match winning partnership and ensured that his team had more than 200 runs on board. The calmness and cool tactics applied by him made things easier for him and he was able to execute his plans with perfection. Apart from him, Virat Kohli also played several match winning innings in the in his career. After losing batting partners cheaply, the Indian captain had built his team’s innings with the help of one and two’s and then went for boundaries in the later stage. Hashim Amla of South Africa is another batsman who is playing the role a calmer in a side full of aggressive and attacking batsman in the batting order.
Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, David Miller are renowned for their exploits in the slam bang version of cricket and this team was in a need of someone who can lead the batting till the end for good amount of time and this is what Amla has done since making his debut. When it comes to New Zealand, Kane Williamson is playing the role of a sheet-anchor. The right hand batsman, who happens to be the leader of the side, has a batting average of 34.50 and a strike rate of 122.31 in the shortest format. We have seen on couple of occasions that he has helped his team in chasing down demanding totals. He has even batted well while posting winning totals on the board. The Kiwis are lucky to have a player like him in the squad who is enhancing his image day by day. Kane Williamson bats at number three and this is one batting position which requires good technique and a will to score on any sort of wicket. It won’t be wrong to say that he is the wall of New Zealand cricket who is breaking records for his national team. Even a team like Sri Lanka is trying to develop a bit of stability in the batting order.
Upul Tharanga and Lahiru Thirimane are getting lot of chances to establish themselves in the batting unit full of natural hitters. Stroke players like Kusal Perera, Dinesh Chandimal, Angelo Mathews and Thisara Perera likes to go after the bowlers but they need someone around who can hang around till the end. Steve Smith and Mohammed Hafeez are playing the same role for their respective team in T20 internationals. The only exception seems to be the World T20 champions, the West Indies. They have packed their squad with hitters all the way. Marlon Samuels has sometime played the role of a sheet anchor but giving him that title won’t do justice to this word.