New Delhi: Big-hitters like Chris Gayle have long hogged the Twenty20 limelight but this season’s Indian Premier League has proved that elegant, old-school batting is just as important in cricket’s shortest format.
South Africa’s Hashim Amla has been delighting cricketing purists by racking up large totals with his conventional style of play while Kane Williamson of New Zealand is also showing there’s more to T20 than power.
“T20 is not about sixes... T20 is about making sure that there are no dot balls [deliveries on which no run is scored] and both these batsmen have made sure that there are very few dot balls,” Indian batting great Sunil Gavaskar told AFP.
“Playing the ball according to its merit and keep the scoreboard ticking is the key. That’s how they have been more successful this year.
“You look at the entire T20 game and you will see that any time there will be more boundaries than sixes. And you can hit the boundaries along the ground, you can hit them one bounce into the fence,” he added.
Amla has amassed 315 runs in eight matches for Kings XI Punjab, including a maiden T20 century — one of four tons to have been hit so far in the tenth edition of the IPL.
The 34-year-old right-hander, famed for his classic stroke-playing, has also notched up two half-centuries and has been instrumental in putting his team in contention for a play-off place.
Amla has recorded 12 sixes and 32 fours while maintaining a strike-rate of 140.
Williamson has accumulated 228 runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad in just five matches, including a sublime match-winning knock of 89 against Delhi Daredevils.
The 26-year-old New Zealander has hit just 17 fours and nine sixes and has kept his run-rate, which is above 160, topped up by his ability to sneak in quick singles and twos.
“I think it’s a big myth that T20 is just for power-hitters. Even players like [India legend] Rahul Dravid and Amla have a fairly impressive white-ball average,” Dileep Premachandran, editor-in-chief of Wisden India, told AFP.
“If you look at Amla’s significant innings in this IPL, there have been big hits as well. Most of these batsmen have enhanced their repertoire significantly,” Premachandran added.
The success of Amla and Williamson this season has overshadowed the performances West Indies’ Gayle and Proteas ODI captain AB de Villiers, who usually dominate coverage of the IPL with their big-hitting antics.
The pair have failed to fire for a struggling Royal Challengers Bangalore side this time around with Gayle totalling 152 runs in six matches and de Villiers 196 in seven.
Left-handed Australian David Warner is still flying the flag for the powerful hitters and leads the runs table with 489, but the exploits of Amla and Williamson show that the graceful shot-players can also thrive in T20.
“Players like Amla and Williamson should not be branded and said that they can play ‘X’ form of cricket,” former Indian women’s captain and IPL commentator Anjum Chopra told AFP.
“It was only a matter of time before they established themselves as a force to reckon with in the IPL,” she added.