There is something incredible about classical batsmen scoring runs in T20s. This 20-over game, to begin with, wasn’t meant for the likes of Kane Williamson and Hashim Amla to flourish.
As per the conventional wisdom, these batsmen are meant to wear whites, leave everything outside the off stump, wait for the opportunity, and play all their shots along the ground. Hence, usually the classical batsmen strike at 45 runs per 100 balls, or something to that effect.
But now, we see these equations reversing. So basically, one is expected to score 100 runs off 60 balls if one is not Chris Gayle. Think about it, 60 balls are half of the overs of an innings in a T20 match.
In this format, leaving the ball is a crime, and a few dot balls can create a huge amount of pressure. But in the last few days, we have seen Amla showing his class, and Williamson showing how classical batsman can also adapt and own this format.
Their game is still based on solid technique, but they mix it up with a bit of aggression and improvisation. By all measures, having a solid foundation helps to improvise better. A certain amount of work and effort appears to have gone into evolving their game to suit this format.
Especially Williamson, who had a mixed last season and was mostly in and out of the eleven of 2016 IPL winners, Sunrisers Hyderabad. One could make out that he must have taken all the viewpoints and criticism of his batting in his stride, and worked on these areas to score. Even when Amla scored 104 runs against Mumbai Indians, one could see he batted with intent and conviction.
But if one looks carefully, this shouldn’t come as a surprise at all. Virat Kohli , who is probably one of the best batsmen of T20 cricket, will fall into classical player’s category. If we look at Virat Kohli, we can safely say that just by playing accurate cricket, he has a Bradmansque average of 51 in T20 Internationals, and 41 in the IPL and other domestic T20 matches.
And what’s more staggering is that he has scored these runs at the strike rate of 130 plus. Even if you look at Ajinkya Rahane and other successful batsmen like Gautam Gambhir, they have also executed their skills through the conventional route of batting.
Although, there isn’t any doubt that big hitters are more popular and in demand than these conventional stroke makers. Players like Brendon McCullum or Glenn Maxwell engage in carpet bombing to destroy the opposition.
Compared to all these names, players like Amla or Kohli believe in surgical strikes. Their approach in this format reflects their preparation and precision.
They identify their areas, looks for gaps, and don’t miss scoring opportunities. Their batting still relies on good old cover drives and cuts and pulls.
They don’t resort to cheeky scoops over fine leg or nasty reverse sweeps. They believe in charging towards the bowlers than shuffling before meeting the ball. They may not be good for the knock out punch but they will cut the bowlers so many times that eventually they will bleed to death.
The most recent example is the game between India and Australia in the World T20 last year, where Kohli probably played one of the most outstanding knocks in this format. In this do or die game, Kohli got 82 runs off 51 balls to beat the Aussies single handedly. Towards the end, India needed 47 of 24 balls, and Kohli and his teammates took India over the line without any fuss: just by finding the gaps in the field.
So long live the classical style of batting and hope it continues to flourish in the format designed for destroyers.