To get a half century in the ultra-short format of the game is a huge achievement. To then get a hundred is truly a remarkable feat. In this version, the batter has no opportunity to play himself in, get a feel of the pitch and see what the ball is doing.
He must look to avoid dot balls and if not hit a boundary or a six, he is expected to make every ball count for at least a single. In the process, he attempts to reach out to deliveries he would otherwise leave well alone in the longer form of the game but cannot afford to do so in the T20 format. The batter is not only facing the opposite team’s bowling but also the public perception about his intent and the latter is harder to score against than the bowlers at times.
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A couple of dot balls mean the batter will look to make up for it with a huge swing of the bat or something to show that the previous two dot deliveries were accidents and something beyond his control. In the process, the chances of him getting out increase manifold and smart bowlers know that and bowl accordingly. That’s why to get a half-century is special and a century is simply unbelievably spectacular.
So far in this edition of the IPL, four centuries have been scored, three of which have come from the bat of Jos Buttler and there’s still half the season left. Would he be able to equal the record of Virat Kohli, who got four hundreds in 2016? That was such a phenomenal year for Kohli (973) where he fell short by a few runs to reach the1000-run landmark for the season. Nobody has come close to Kohli’s aggregate from 2016 and David Warner is the only other batter to have scored more than 800 runs in an IPL edition (848 in 2016).
The bowling, too, has been brilliant this season with some youngsters showing good temperament and bowling well in the slog overs from 15 to 20.
This format is extremely harsh on the bowlers as every batter is looking to score off every delivery and so the margin for error is very small. And some grounds are smaller on some sides, making it extremely tough to bowl. A bowler with an economy rate of less than 8 runs per over is doing a terrific job and if he picks wickets then he is worth every rupee spent on him.
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At this year’s mega auction most teams spent big on the fast bowlers, some of whom have barely played a few games for their country. There is Umran Malik, who has been the find of the tournament. Unlike others of his ilk, age and experience, he is not what you would call a tear-away fast bowler. Those types of bowlers are generally all over the place making life hard for the captain to set a field and for the wicketkeeper to gather the deliveries fired this side or the other.
Malik is fast – frighteningly fast – but the best part about his bowling is his accuracy. He hardly ever bowls down the leg-side and is pretty much wicket-to-wicket every delivery. The 20th over that he bowled where he didn’t concede a run and took three wickets will go down in IPL folklore just like the 19th over bowled by another promising pacer, Prasidh Krishna against Delhi. Krishna didn’t concede a run and took an important wicket. There is Avesh Khan and Kuldeep Sen, two other fast bowlers of great potential. India’s fast bowling cupboard is brimming full of talent.
These youngsters need to be looked after and not interfered with too much in trying to teach them various deliveries. At this age – when they are young and strong with no injuries – all that they should do is bowl as fast as they can. At that pace, the ball – be it white or red – is not going to swing much in the air. When it lands on the seam it can move either way and when it does it will be a tough call for the batter, negotiating it at the speed at which it will come off the surface.
Talking of surfaces, the pitches for this edition of the IPL have had a fair sprinkling of grass, which has helped these quick bowlers to often make early inroads. It has also exposed some of the front footers in domestic cricket, who, unable to move back, have looked inadequate against that kind of pace.
Yes, it’s been truly exciting to see these youngsters and if they stay injury free then India will have an attack that can win on any surface in the world.