Introduction Many of us watch cricket matches with great interest and we know that a lot of importance is attached to the toss before the match begins. This is because the captain who wins the toss gets the opportunity to decide whether to bat or bowl first. If the result of the match is not in the team's favor we often hear commentators commenting that batting first or bowling first was a wrong decision by the captain. As cricket viewers we also tend to feel this sometimes that had the team batted or bowled first they would have won. But is there really any logic behind this? All the team has to do is to bowl well or bat well whether they do it first or second. How does winning or losing a toss and batting first or second impact the result of the match? These questions are very valid and truth behind it is that the team who performs well in all the areas like batting, bowling, and fielding wins the match, so winning or losing of toss should not be attached unnecessary importance. But it cannot be denied that sometimes there are some factors which favor the team batting first or second and the cricket team captain who wins the toss should be aware of them to make an informed decision to either bat or bowl first. This will allow the team to extract an extra advantage.
Pros and cons of batting first or second In general, there are some advantages and disadvantages for both batting first and second. One of the main advantages of batting second is that the team has target runs to chase available with them. Based on this target they can plan their batting for the innings and decide their approach. If target runs to get are too high then they can plan aggressive stroke play right from the beginning while if total to chase is low then they do not need to be aggressive and take risks unnecessarily. They can easily take singles and twos with a boundary in between on loose balls to reach the target. Thus the team batting second gets this luxury of a run target to chase in front of them and they can bat accordingly. But sometimes if the target to chase is too high then this advantage becomes a disadvantage if the opposition is bowling well and runs do not come off easily. The required run rate keeps on climbing and ultimately team batting second comes under pressure and they start playing rash strokes and make mistakes which result in loss of wickets. Hence for a team which is able to bat under this pressure and keeps a cool head while chasing a huge target tends to be successful while batting second.
For the team batting first, it is completely different. They have no target to chase in front of them, instead, they need to set a target for the opposition team. So advantage here is that pressure to chase a huge target is not there here and the team can play freely. But disadvantage here is that team batting first needs to think how many runs they can make and how much target they should set for the opposition to have good chances to win. The team batting first has to make all the attempts to set a big target but they have to decide this based on the condition of the pitch. Few cricket pitches may favor bowlers and here setting even a medium target can make the opposition team struggle to achieve it. So a team batting first should wisely read the pitch and see what can be the good run target to set rather than blindly aiming at setting a huge target by showing aggression. This can result in loss of wickets and they may get bowled out for a very small total.
Factors considered while making bat first or bowl first decision So let us try to understand what are the various factors which a captain keeps in mind while giving his decision to bat or bowl first after winning the toss.
Sometimes there may be a breeze blowing in the match which can give help to fast bowlers to swing the ball. Hence depending on which time of the match the breeze is blowing, bowling first or second becomes an advantage.
If there is rain in between the match than the outfield becomes wet and slippery. Due to wet outfield ball may not go to the boundary as fast as in the case of a dry outfield. Hence for the batsmen batting after the rain interruption, hitting boundaries becomes difficult. On the other hand for the fielding side, it becomes difficult to field sometimes as the outfield becomes slippery and the players need to be careful to avoid injuries. So based on when the rain is expected to come, the captain winning the toss needs to think along these lines before deciding to bat or bowl.
Also, sometimes pitches have some cracks on them and as the match progresses these cracks are likely to get wider which may favor bowlers. So here a team bowling second will have more advantage while bowling as the ball will spin more for the spinners due to cracks on the pitch and it may also help the fast bowlers. This is because after one inning is over the cracks on the pitch will be more compared to the first innings. Sometimes these cracks and unevenness in the pitch also cause the ball to keep low and slow and can trouble the batsmen and hence team batting second is again at a disadvantage.
Conclusion So it is seen that there are a number of factors which the captain winning the toss needs to keep in mind before deciding to bat or bowl. Though playing well is the ultimate mantra to win the match but sometimes if these factors are kept in mind they may enhance the chance of a team winning the match. So while it may not directly impact the result it does play a side role. After the toss is done the captain should be ready with his decision whether to bat or bowl. He cannot decide at that time as the decision has to be made immediately. So a sensible cricket team captain will analyze all the possible factors before the toss happens and be ready with his decision to bat or bowl in a most informed way. A casual decision by the captain in this regard may sometimes create a difference between a loss and a win for the team. Nowadays most of the International team captains keep all these factors in mind.
Having said all this, it is important to note that irrespective of batting first or second it is the team balance and the performance that matters the most. Factors discussed in this article do help sometimes so any team will definitely like to take an advantage of it. Sometimes when these factors are very strong and both the teams are equally good then a lot of importance is attached to the toss as the captain who wins the toss may get an edge.
There are many factors which decide this but the main are the pitch condition, weather and following the target.
In spite of so many precautions, it is believed that cricket is a game of chance.