These are very early days yet but it can safely be said that the batting pyrotechnics that one witnessed in the two matches on Sunday has set the pattern for IPL – 12. The shocking low scoring game at Chepauk in the tournament opener on Saturday can be taken as an aberration.
Right from the time Brendon McCullum smashed a breath taking 158 not out off just 73 balls in the very first IPL game in 2008 the premier T-20 league in the contemporary game has been associated with huge hits, breezy hundreds, unorthodox, even outrageous strokes, strike rates of 200 and above and outsize team totals. Even then, some of them are not safe for huge targets have been chased down quite often. Yes, this is the tone in almost every T-20 match but it applies even more so in the IPL given the kind of wickets that the games are played on. The slow surface at Chepauk surprised everyone even if it was not a 70 all out pitch.
The knocks played by Andre Russell and Rishabh Pant symbolized the fare generally provided in the IPL. But a 19-ball 49 at a strike rate of 258 and a 27-ball 78 at a strike rate of almost 289 is superlative even by T-20 standards and it will be something if these feats are matched over the next six weeks of the tournament. But then with so many T-20 specialists around and with the wickets being in favour of the batsmen it would not be surprising even if a strike rate of 300 is reached for an innings of some length.
Of the two knocks Rishabh’s was the one that stood out. Russell has made a name for himself over the years for big hitting, for sixes that are hit out of the ground and for not being overawed by a seemingly insurmountable target as was the case on Sunday. His career strike rate of 140 tells its own tale. Rishabh in contrast is a new kid on the block even though he has already earned a reputation for fast scoring and unorthodox shots. His penchant for the leg side is well known and this was underlined by his pyrotechnics on Sunday when 63 of his 78 runs were scored on that side. The manner in which he hit balls pitched well outside the off stump and smashed them to the on side repeatedly underscored his timing and confidence. In the process he also did his chances of making the squad for the World Cup no harm.