The primary grouse against T20 cricket is that it is a batsman’s game, which is also the reason for its popularity.
I have yet to meet someone who appreciates a T20 game where one team is bowled out for a 100-odd total and the opposition struggles to chase the same.
Let’s admit one fact – there is a sadistic pleasure in watching bowlers get mauled by men with bats which would rival the maces used at the Colosseum in ancient Greece. Test cricket may be a rich man’s game of chess, but T20 is WWE – the newest form of entertainment.
Keeping all this in mind, one is slightly surprised why the Champions League T20 is yet to get off the blocks, considering the fact it is the sole true-blue “international” T20 tournament after the ICC World T20.
Of course, one could attribute this to its bias to the BCCI (4 IPL teams does not maketh a tournament “global”), or due to the fact that it is scheduled in the international calendar after the end of a long and tiring season for most.
The very reason therefore, why the CL T20 is alive, is the odd spurt of batsmanship that reinforces the follower’s interest in the game. MS Dhoni played one such knock yesterday in his hometown of Ranchi.
We look at 5 other knocks that have helped to put the tournament in focus since its inception.
1) Kieron Pollard (Trinidad & Tobago vs New South Wales, Hyderabad 2009) – 54 (18b, 5 x 4s, 5 x 6s)
This was the innings that set up Champions League T20 as a tournament and Kieron Pollard as a player to reckon with.
Pollard had made it to the West Indian setup in World Cup T20 earlier the same year, but had failed to display any of the potential firepower which he had used to storm the barns in Caribbean domestic cricket.
Thus far in the tournament, he had not exhibited any special powers and when Dwayne Bravo fell with T&T still needing 80 off 7 overs, many in Hyderabad would have taken the game to be over.
Not Kieron Pollard.
After Denesh Ramdin had provided a spunky start to the rest of the chase, Pollard went into auto-blast mode as he sent Moises Henriques high and far into the night sky on his way to a swashbuckling 54 off only 18 deliveries with 5 sixes.
In the end, T&T reached him with more than an over to spare. It wouldn’t be long before T20 franchises around the world picked up the Pollard trail.
2) Ryan ten Doeschate (Otago vs Perth Scorchers, Jaipur 2013) – 66 (26b, 3 x 4s, 6 x 6s)
ten Doeschate has often been regarded as the best player not to have played Test cricket in the modern era and he has somehow preferred that to a Test cap with South Africa or England.
Earlier in the same tournament, he had extricated his team from a spot of bother in the qualifying stages. This time though, his captain de Boorder and Neil Broom had done the job beforehand and when ten Doeschate came in, he was given a stamped and signed license to kill.
He went into slam-bang mode from the first ball and ended up with 66 off 26 balls with 6 sixes. Dropped catches were not even a blip on the radar as Otago raced from 76 in the 10th over to 204 in the 18th over, en route to a massive first innings total of 242.
In the meanwhile, Broom helped himself to a hearty 117 off 56 balls.
3) Kieron Pollard (Mumbai Indians vs Guyana, Durban 2010) – 72 (30b, 1 x 4s, 9 x 6s)
A season after his blitzkrieg 54, Pollard was back as a marauder – this time for Mumbai.
His debut IPL season hadn’t gone to plan, although most of the criticism was labelled against Mumbai for using him too low in the batting order.
Taking time to settle down, Pollard teed off after Dhawan was dismissed with the score reading 98 in the 15th over. From that point onwards, Mumbai added 86 more, out of which the likes of Tiwary, Rayudu and Duminy made 18.
Out of Pollard’s ten boundary shots, only one didn’t land over the ropes. Guyana were battered so hard that they could not even fight back and they ended up on a limp 153.
4) Chris Gayle (Royal Challengers Bangalore vs New South Wales, Bangalore 2011) – 92 (41b, 8 x 4s, 8 x 6s)
If Kieron Pollard is on the list, Christopher Gayle cannot be too far away.
Gayle hasn’t made the tournament as close to his heart as he has done the IPL, but he has come up with occasional performances that make the crowd sit up in awe.
A few days prior to this match, Bangalore had scampered to victory against South Australia, thanks to a last ball sixer by the unheralded Arun Karthik.
It was the first time an Indian side had beaten an Australian side in the Champions League. Lightning was to strike in the same place twice.
This time, it was that dominant Aussie side of New South Wales. They too had powered themselves to a 200 plus total thanks to a turbocharged century by David Warner. But they forgot Chris Gayle was watching.
With Virat Kohli and his massive willow for company, Gayle proceeded to dissect the NSW bowling all too brutally with 8 towering sixes. Mitchell Starc was toyed around with; Steve O’ Keefe pummelled. The other national prospect Pat Cummins managed to take all the wickets that fell, but not before leaking 45 runs.
With around 40 runs left to be chased, Gayle got bored and presented his pad to Cummins rather than his bat. The finger was raised and a century missed, but Gayle couldn’t have cared – he leads the T20 century count leader-board by a big margin.
5) Ross Taylor & JP Duminy (Royal Challengers Bangalore vs Cape Cobras, Bangalore 2009) –
The combined sides of Western Province and Boland call themselves the Cape Cobras after the dreaded yellow serpents of their homeland, but their bowling attack had their teeth broken by the mighty blade of Ross Taylor on this day.
With Kallis, Uthappa, Dravid and Kohli back in the pavilion at 115 in the 16th over and with no specialist batsman to come after his partner Manish Pandey, Taylor tore into the Cobras’ bowlers with a calculated assault.
The last five overs yielded over 60 runs out of which Pandey made a run-a-ball 10. Future South African superstars Vernon Philander and Rory Kleinveldt were made to look like candy shop salesman doling one sweetmeat after another. Taylor hit 4 sixes on his way to a 24-ball 50 and the total of 180 put up by Bangalore seemed unbreachable…
…till Duminy came calling. His was the best 99 not out you would see in most forms of cricket – a potent act of defiance by a member of the underdogs with their backs to the wall in the lion’s den.
Negotiating the wily swing of Praveen Kumar, Duminy took to the military medium pace of Vinay Kumar and Virat Kohli as the Cobras delivered the fatal kiss of death to the Royal Challengers in a thrilling last over.
The 5 sixes studded knock would go down as one of the most definitive innings in a future version of “Upsets for Dummies”.