R Mohan

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Sky is the limit for big strikers

Do not be surprised if the 300-run barrier is downed one day in Twenty-20 cricket. For that matter, a total of 500 is a distinct possibility in the now old-fashioned One-Day International played to the 50-overs a team format. What the IPL has shown is an incipient fearlessness to stroke players. Batsmen are prepared to throw the bat at even the good ball, hoping to hack it somewhere for runs. What Sourav Ganguly and Umar Gul showed in the course of the thrilling win they shaped for Kolkata Knight Riders against an asking rate of 14 runs an over was the sky is the limit. The story was repeated by two virtually unknown Rajasthan Royals middleorder batsmen who also made 15 in the final over against Mumbai. Cricket came in for a major surprise when Australia scored 434 two years ago on a pluperfect batting pitch at the Wanderers. Surprise of surprises, South Africa met the target, making 438, on one of the game's most sensational nights of big hitting. Such uninhibited striking of the ball is set to grow with IPL being the pointer. The slowness of some of the surfaces and the reluctance with which the old ball has come on may have cut the average totals down as the competition progressed. The use of spin, more accentuated in India than anywhere else, has actually led to curbing the run rates in the middle overs. If flatter pitches are prepared, totals could be zooming again, more so since batsmen have now learnt the art of picking the variations of pace quickly in flight. In fact, the IPL experience has offered the lesson that the slower one is not necessarily the fast bowler's surprise weapon. Too many of them have been smashed beyond the park. The difficulties of hitting a slow bowler, as best represented in the half tracker that Misbah-ul Haq mishit in the game between the Royal Challengers and Deccan Chargers, have been an intriguing aspect.  Their economy rates may be the same as that of the pacers but they have shown a greater ability to surprise batsmen with their subtle variations.  They have ensured that batsmen have not had it their own way in the first IPL.  The regularity with which the ball is disappearing to the boundary or beyond the 2,000th boundary hit was recorded early this week - suggests that someday in the near future when batsmen come across true pitches they will use their IPL expertise to blast the record books to smithereens.  The number of centuries has been limited to six and there have been a few 90s.  Considering the fact that the first IPL was played in summer, it is on the cards that if the competition is held earlier in the season more batsmen would get past the three figure mark.  The willow wielders would be expending less energy if the conditions were not so taxing.  For instance, Graeme Smith did not make a century because he had lost so much energy in getting into the 90s in Chennai's high seaside humidity.  With the competition set to enter the knockout phase in a long weekend it is unlikely that record totals will be notched up.

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