'Outdoor cricket is all about hitting sixes. Indoor cricket is all about the bump shot': Strategies explained
Matches are 16-overs-per side. Teams are made up of eight players. They bat in pairs, facing four overs each. Each time a wicket falls, the team loses five runs.
Runs only count when a physical run – to a “running” crease, 11 metres from where the striker stands – is completed, and added to a set amount – one, two, four and six – for hitting certain areas of the net that surrounds the court.
Play three consecutive dot balls, the batsmen is out, and five more runs are conceded.
All simple enough? Well, the rules are just the start of it. Indoor cricket has a strategy all of its own, and those weaned on cricket’s conventional outdoor format can struggle to adapt.
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“Guys like [former Australia captain] Michael Clarke started playing indoor cricket,” Rohan Nayak, the UAE assistant coach, said. “For us, it is the other way round – like going from the outside into a cage in a zoo.
“For us, it feels like being trapped inside. For them it, is like they have been freed to play their shots.”
Going up against the likes of Australia and New Zealand in their home World Cup at Insportz, Dubai from Saturday, the UAE players have a few ideas to work on.
The “bump” shot
Big-hitting is almost entirely worthless indoors. Middle a slog that would sail for six outside, and the ball will hit the top net, providing a simple catch or run out chance for the fielding team.
“If you think as you do in outdoor cricket, you will be the easiest batsman to get out,” Anis Sajan, India’s team mentor, said. “Outdoor cricket is all about hitting sixes. Indoor cricket is all about the bump shot.”
The canniest practitioners master a shot that bounces over the heads of the close fielders, softly clips the side netting, and gives them ample time to make their ground. Thus, two runs are scored with minimal risk.
“Outside, if you get a half volley, you go for the drive, and aim for the gaps,” Sameer Nayak, the UAE player, said.
“The bump shot is very important. As an outdoor player, if I go for a drive, it becomes an easy catch.
“In this, you have to wait for a fraction of a second, and even a mistimed shot can become a perfect shot.”
Pitching the ball up to entice batsmen to play powerful, but risky, drives down the court is a standard bowling tactic.
“Better to bowl full than short,” Sajan said. “If you play on the back foot, it is easier to play the bump shot.
“The really good players, from Australia and Sri Lanka, are able to play the bump shot on the front foot.
“When you drive the ball, it goes fast to the fielder. They catch it, run you out, it costs you five runs.”
Karan Singh Sandhu, a Dubai-based player who is part of India’s extended squad for the World Cup, says the bowler’s role in indoor cricket is more defensive than in the outdoor game.
“What I have come to understand is that outdoors, you bowl to make the batsmen miss the ball,” Sandhu said.
“In indoors, you are making your fielders play. You get the batsmen to give you the wickets.”
Most wickets are brought about by fielders rather than bowlers. There may be a three-metre “exclusion zone” around the batsman, but the majority of fielders are generally very close to the bat, which demands sharp reflexes.
Much like a catcher in baseball, wicketkeepers only wear one glove, so they can throw the ball to the other end faster.
The close in fielders have to be adept at flicking the ball the way of the stumps by whatever is the fastest means possible.
“I’m sure we can pick up a lot of things,” said Humaira Tasneem, a member of the inexperienced UAE women’s team.
“Like with fielding, picking up the ball quick and throwing it backhanded, unorthodox throwing – not picking it up, taking two steps, then aiming.
“Hopefully we will get new agility that we don’t get outdoors. That is why I was keen to come for this indoor tournament and be selected. We can apply what we are doing here to our outdoor game and improve.”
While not exactly standard practice, “Mankads” do not carry nearly the stigma they do in the outdoor version.
The mode of dismissal where a batsman runs out a non-striker while they are backing up has caused diplomatic incidents in international matches played outside.
Inside, they are justified, to the extent there is even a Mankad caption on the umpire’s scoreboard.
With just 11 metres to complete a run, and with the ball always live, stealing inches can be a profitable business.
Hence the run out is a recognised part of the bowler’s armoury. However, messing it up – ie trying to run the non-striker out while they are still in their ground – leads to two bonus runs being added to the batting side’s score in indoor cricket internationals.