Debunking the T20 myth
The only time Kane Williamson fidgets at the crease is when he is about to face the bowler. His feet flit across, his bat quivers restlessly, and his head appears to be jumping out of his helmet. But that’s about it. As the ball reaches his bat — seldom with him does the bat reach out for the ball — he is a man transposed. He is still and serene, the feet and body in perfect harmony, as he coaxes the ball to his mind’s whims. (Results | Fixtures | Points Table)
Like his first boundary of the day, wherein he just glided the fullish delivery past point. In principle, it was a quintessential, limited-overs stroke, just opening the face of the bat and using the bowler’s pace. But Williamson’s biggest gift is in imbuing such mundane shots with rare artistry, those dexterous wrists discreetly caressing, than bunting the ball. In that sense, he transcends T20 batting, more than perhaps fellow galacticos — Virat Kohli, Steve Smith and Joe Root.
He stroked five more boundaries and as many sixes, but seldom ever did he resort to anything banal, or rather the same strokes that might have looked banal did not so when authored by Williamson. He sashayed down to spinners, kneeled down to slog them. backed away to pacers, scooped them over fine leg. But none of them looked wee bit ugly. In the end of it, he fell 11 runs short of what could have been the most beautiful IPL hundred after Rohit Sharma struck the last of his third.
Importantly, it won his team the match. More importantly, it debunked the perceptions of his limitations as a T20 batsman. There is nothing to suggest he is a constrained force in the shortest format — he is ranked the third best T20 batsman in the world, has a T20 hundred to his name too. Maybe, the strike rate of 118.55 is unflattering.
It was not that SunRisers Hyderabad think tank were cynical of his T20 skills, but couldn’t quite fit him into the side, juggling as they did with their overseas entities. Of course, David Warner and Rashid Khan are indispensables. To a lesser extent, Moises Henriques, who had figured pre-eminently in their triumph last year. They seemed to put infallible trust in Ben Cutting, and even when they disposed him, they preferred Mohammad Nabi, what with his supposed all-round utility.
Williamson’s IPL past was not encouraging either — the previous eight matches had yielded him only 155 runs at a woe-begone strike rate of 114.81. In that sense, Williamson was an experiment, which in hindsight beget instant dividends. While it can be perceived as a measure to stabilise the top order, he demonstrated he can seamlessly fit into a destroyer’s garb. Throughout his match-defining partnership with Shikhar Dhawan, a naturally aggressive batsman, Williamson was the enforcer, while Dhawan was happy playing the support cast to perfection. Williamson began sedately, furnishing further credence to the stereotype, but as his knock wore on, he debunked all pre-conceived notions of him. And SunRisers won, despite their destroyer-in-chief, Warner, failing.
Each of the quartet brings with him a specific remarkable quality. Steve Smith brings incandescence, Koli exudes ruthlessness, Joe Root ushers in cheerfulness. And Williamson brings peace. It is as if he takes with him to the ground a slice of a pastoral countryside with him.
Iyer fifty in vain
Among the panoply of young batsman Rahul Dravid’s team flaunts, Shreyas Iyer is the most watchable. A reason why there is an elegiac gasp each time the Mumbai youngster fails. A reason also why each of his failing is frustrating. As was the case with his Iyer in his first two outings this season. Against Punjab, he was flippant, against Kolkata Knight Riders he has unfortunate. Both when he had looked destined to produce that high-definition knock.
On Wednesday, he almost did. He composed a thrilling knock that blended imperceptibly with technical brilliance, only that it came for a losing cause. In isolation, dissected from the outcome, Shreyas will give his team plenty to cheer about. The most encouraging feature of his knock was the way he attacked Sunrisers’s leg-spinner Rashid Khan. The latter’s googly isn’t hard to decipher, but it’s hard to punish, a reason he has been raved about.
But Shreyas nonchalantly stepped out to him, and despite his flattish trajectory found enough elevation to smear him for a brace of sixes, the first over long-off and the next beyond midwicket. If you’d seen him on the domestic circuit, you wouldn’t be surprised at all.
But in end, it proved a task too steep for him. And strangely, the perfect man for such smash-and-hit tasks faced not a single delivery. Chris Morris, that devilish destroyer of the cricket ball, came out to bat with just a ball remaining. And Delhi requiring 17 runs. He didn’t face a single delivery, and might have walked back wondering what what damage he could have inflicted on Sunrisers Hyderabad. A rare strategic lapse by Dravid.