Decoding T10 cricket with Amla, Sammy, Fleming and more

Hashim Amla plays a cut Getty Images

For most, the Abu Dhabi T10 is a learning exercise. It is a young tournament, with a format still learning how to walk. There are some, such as three-year veterans Eoin Morgan and Darren Sammy, who can draw on T10 muscle memory but, largely, the teams are learning on the job.

It makes for intriguing viewing, especially seeing how the eight captains go about maneuvering their sides through blink-of-an-eye cricket.

Some things are a given: win the toss and put them in, bowl into Abu Dhabi's slow pitch and make batsmen hit to the bigger boundaries square of the wicket. But many other aspects are brand new.

Karnataka Tuskers captain Hashim Amla put it like this after his debut: "By and large the game just goes on… the decisions are made for you."

It's easy to see what he means, the three-game match-days moving at such a pace that they can appear to drift by without your full knowledge, each fixture blending into the other upon reflection at the close.

It requires a captain's full attention, such is the significance of every ball as T10's fine margins are heightened by the large gains of every dot ball, every six and every wicket.

"Every ball is an event, which I really like. It can swing around so quickly," Delhi Bulls coach Stephen Fleming said. "You've really got to be as accurate as you can for those 60 deliveries and small mistakes are going to count."

One man fully embracing the challenge of captaincy is England international Dawid Malan. "It's good fun, I absolutely love it," he said. "I love the challenge of trying to be one step ahead, of thinking ahead. It's just about staying level and being as consistent as you can."

Malan, who leads the Qalandars, knows that "bowlers win you games, batsmen set you up" and so do his counterparts, with the importance of your performance in the field so vital in professional cricket's most condensed format.

"I try and speak to [the bowlers] and [tell them] just bowl your best ball," Team Abu Dhabi's Moeen Ali said. "I try and just make things clear for the bowlers, something I've been doing at Worcester and it works quite nicely."

Northern Warriors captain Sammy agrees, saying that T10 is "not a game you think too much" about until you've got the ball in your hand.

"I think when you're in the field, as a bowling unit, that's when the thinking really comes in because if you have five or six specialist batters, they're supposed to bat 60 balls for you," he said.

"For us, I won't dwell on [the result] too much. If we had two or three days in between games, then you could sit down and discuss. We need to be positive and think of the next game."

It raises an interesting point as to how teams analyse performances while learning the sport as they go, as well as instilling a team ethos and camaraderie in such a short period of time.

The games come thick and fast during a 29-match, 10-day tournament and with players flying in just days out from the first ball - and even halfway through in the case of those involved in the recently concluded Afghanistan vs West Indies series - it isn't easy to create a team environment that breeds unique brands of cricket.

For Fleming, it is a common concern in franchise cricket that, like everything else in T10, is brought into sharper focus due to its compressed nature.

"It's a franchise question every time: 'What do you try and achieve in a short space of time?' And you can waste a lot of time trying to get an environment that is tight."

The former New Zealand captain has quickly become aware of how important a player's instincts and skills are when in the middle. "You pick players from the start that you think will gell, so there's an aspect of that in the draft, and then it's about backing your skills.

"There's not a lot you can do to get a lot of gain out of it. Two weeks is just not enough time so it's really a skill-based competition and creating an environment where the players feel they can be as good as they can be or why you bought them so that's a lot to concentrate on."