IPL 2019: No Longer Just About Slogging and Scoring Quick Runs
When you hear the term 'T20', the mind instantly thinks of a ball flying off the bat and into the long-off boundary. It thinks of cheerleaders dancing just outside the white ropes, their hands coming together every time the scoreboard races ahead. It thinks of bowlers watching with their hands folded across their chests, huffing and puffing as their good balls get nonchalantly dispatched to the crowds. It thinks of spectators jumping to their feet at every ball, unable to control their excitement. It thinks of 120 balls, of which not even a single one can be wasted.
But if you have seen this year's IPL, you'll know that all this is not entirely true.
Of course, there are players who still satisfy all the needs mentioned above and then some more. One only needs to take a look at Andre Russell or David Warner, or to a lesser extent, someone like Hardik Pandya or Shikhar Dhawan. T20 still remains a batsman's game at its very core, with most pitches having an average score of 160 or close to it. But the gap between the two opposing facets of the game has definitely dwindled.
As an example, let us take the game between the Chennai Super Kings and the Kolkata Knight Riders on April 9, 2019, at the MA Chidambaram Stadium. After ensuring that KKR only scored a meager 108 in their innings, CSK did not storm through theirs in return. In fact, they did not even attempt it. In accordance with the philosophy of their captain, they instead took their time and strolled to the target, without a moment's panic.
The key player during the chase was South Africa's Faf du Plessis. On a classic Chepauk pitch that had the highest average turn (3.4 degrees) compared with the others, the opener took his time and stayed through the whole innings to guide his team to the finish line.
Even after the first two wickets fell in rather quick succession, du Plessis, along with another able hand in Ambati Rayudu, displayed calm and composure to get the victory. This was despite Kolkata having the dangerous spin trio of Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla and Kuldeep Yadav, who were all operating at the heights of their powers.
Even when the scoring rate dropped so low that Chennai were close to needing a run a ball, the South African did not lose his mind as so many others would have done. In the end, he ended up with a 45 ball 43, at a strike rate of 95. What is usually considered not good enough even for ODI games these days, was more than perfect.
If you think this is nothing to write home about and that this is common sense, think again. Remember that the Sunrisers Hyderabad did not chase down 136 against the Mumbai Indians because their batsmen kept throwing themselves at the ball. Warner, in all his aggression, decided to take on Alzarri Joseph on his very first ball of his IPL career and triggered the collapse.
Remember that the Delhi Capitals lost to Kings XI Punjab, despite needing only 30 runs off the last 4 overs because Rishab Pant got a little too greedy and wanted to go for a second successive six against Mohammed Shami. Remember that despite winning against Kolkata via the super over, Pant could not help himself from throwing his wicket to Kuldeep Yadav, when all he had to do was take a single.
Remember all this, because these are all examples of batsmen forgetting one important thing - that the game is constantly evolving. T20 is no longer the mindless slogfest that it started as. Sure, there are high-scoring games more often than not, but for every one of those, there is a carefully structured knock like Faf's against Kolkata.
Or MS Dhoni's knock against Rajasthan where he was at one stage 33 off 30 before ending up with 75 off 46. Or when Lokesh Rahul and Mayank Agarwal kept their heads to lead their team to win against Hyderabad.
Despite what the purists believe, this game is more than bat-meets-ball-meets-boundary. The brevity of it also means that it is more unpredictable than what is usually considered. Sometimes, it is the smart thing to knock the ball around to third man instead of the pull-shot you have always wanted. Sometimes, it is the smarter thing to put your head down and wait for the next ball. Or the next. Or the next.
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