IPL 2021: Taking a Single After Hitting a Boundary is Not Sensible Batting Anymore
Often we have listened to television commentators and experts telling about the need for a batsman who has just hit a boundary to take a single off the next delivery and be in the safe confines of the non-striker’s end.
Gone are the days when batsmen hit a boundary and took a single off the next ball. In today’s days of power hitting, where the teams are often decided by the number of boundaries – fours and sixes combined – it is the unconventional method that often prevails, especially in T20.
Thursday’s Delhi Capitals vs Kolkata Knight Riders in which the former prevailed by seven wickets chasing a 155-run target was a prime example of the method teams adopt to win matches.
Going by sheer numbers, KKR had 17 boundary hits (10 fours and seven sixes) totalling 82 runs while DC garnered 23 boundary hits (18 fours and five sixes) for a total of 102 runs. The match was won there itself.
Teams that score the most during Power Plays have the advantage. KKR’s Shubman Gill and Nitish Rana struggled against DC bowlers that they managed only 44 in Power Play while the big-hitting Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan posted 67 in the first six overs in the DC chase. That included an opening over of 25 runs (including one wide) in which Shaw slammed his India Under-19 team-mate of 2018, Shivam Mavi for six fours, emulating fellow Mumbaikars Sandeep Patil (six fours off a Bob Willis over in the Old Trafford Test in 1982) and Ajinkya Rahane (for Rajasthan Royals against Royal Challengers Bangalore’s S Aravind in 2012 IPL), among others.
The inability of KKR to score aplenty upfront has only put pressure on the batsmen that follow, especially the big-hitting Andre Russell, who despite scoring a 27-ball 45, could not give his team the impetus. This was something similar to the previous day’s game in which Sunrisers Hyderabad came a cropper against Chennai Super Kings in New Delhi.
SRH openers David Warner and Manish Pandey may have added 106 for the second wicket but the manner in which the Australian left-hander struggled to put bat to ball despite scoring a half-century made the difference in his team winning and losing. SRH managed only 39 in their Power Play overs for the loss of Jonny Bairstow while Chennai Super Kings’ Ruturaj Gaikwad and Faf du Plessis were quicker to reach 50 without being separated in the first six overs. But, the man who took SRH to a competitive total was Kane Williamson, who took 19 off the penultimate over of the innings from Shardul Thakur.
KKR coach, former New Zealand fast-scoring batsman Brendon McCullum was devastated after the seven-wicket defeat to DC on Thursday night.
Speaking at the virtual press conference, McCullum, who batted aggressively and who amassed 158 not out in just 73 balls in the first-ever IPL match way back in 2008, said people need to get over the mindset of picking up a single after scoring a boundary. He spoke in glowing terms of Shaw and the manner in which he played during his 41-ball 82 with 11 fours and three sixes.
The 39-year-old McCullum, who believed in dealing in boundaries in his career that he amassed 1,552 fours and 398 sixes in his international career, said:
“Prithvi Shaw was a perfect template of how we want to play, have the intent to hit every ball for a four or six when given a free licence. You have to maximise the new ball and the fielding restrictions.
“In T20 cricket, you have to park the old mentality of trying to score a boundary and then get a one. You have to put some pressure back on the opposition bowlers. If you get a boundary, you look for another one and look for another one. If you are able to do that, the opposition bowlers are under immense pressure. It is very difficult if you are not trying to look for those boundaries. It is more an application thing than anything else.”
Shaw picking Mavi all over the wicket in the first over straightaway put KKR on the backfoot. McCullum, though, did not agree that the match was lost in that first over.
“I don’t think it was lost in the first over but it is a huge psychological blow from Prithvi Shaw. I have immense amount of respect for Prithvi because not too many people in world cricket play the game with that sort of approach. He is a real talent. He put us under immense pressure early. Shivam Mavi has been really good for us in a couple of games leading into but he was not allowed to settle. It was a big blow for us but we should have still been able to come back because Andre Russell had plenty of runs for us in the last couple of overs and one big over should not have been a decisive factor. After that over, we took a step backwards and that’s really frustrating because we talk a lot about staying in the contest, about hanging in there and trying to put some momentum back into the game. Prithvi Shaw was outstanding and deserves the accolades.”
Old-timers may look at the batsman protecting his wicket and staying there for long, not risking himself by scoring boundaries in a hurry repeatedly and throwing away his wicket in the process. How often have we seen Rohit Sharma or even Rishabh Pant throw away starts by looking to hit aerial shots, seeking a six but ending up giving a catch in the deep.
Former India leg-spinner-turned-commentator, Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, said what McCullum said was his opinion, but cricket being a contest between bat and ball, bowlers also look at taking wickets with their wiles.
Speaking to news18.com about the theory of taking a single after striking a boundary, the 55-year-old Sivaramakrishnan said: “Is only the batsman playing the game? Are the bowlers fools? Bowlers are also a part of the contest, right? Trying to hit every ball and succeeding happens once in a while. But the conventional way of playing is to see which bowler to target, where to target, what kind of a pitch you are playing on, who is the bowler bowling on that particular day, what is the target you are trying to set depending on the pitch, what is the target you are trying to chase, keeping up with the required rate.
“You might hit a good ball for a four. That is the quality of batsmanship or skill to success. It is not necessary that you have to hit the next ball for a single. If the next ball is a bad ball, you try and hit it for a boundary. I have seen Brendon McCullum playing for Chennai Super Kings, hitting the first ball of the innings straight to deep square leg, where there is only one fielder. You cannot say ‘this is the way I play and this is the way everybody should play. Cricket is played by different people in a different manner.”
Sivaramakrishnan, who two days ago, marked 38 years of his Test debut in the West Indies, played a lead role in India’s triumphant run in the World Championship of Cricket in Australia in 1985, added: “Earlier, when we were playing, we did not take a chance, say in the first two or three balls in an over as a batsman. You waited for a bad ball. If there were five dot balls, then you looked to take a chance if the required rate was high. Now, if you are looking for a big over, you look to attack from the first ball and straightaway unsettle the bowler before he gets on top of you. Therein lies how good a bowler is. You look at the skill levels of the bowler and also his temperament. If a batsman gets comprehensively beaten, they say he must erase from his memory. But, what about the bowler? Same applies to a bowler. If he is hit for a boundary, forget it and look at the next delivery, how you can better the previous delivery. You cannot standardise anything and everything.”
It is more than just hitting boundaries that McCullum and Co. need to look at. Like he hinted, a change of personnel in the coming matches may be a way to bring them back to winning ways. Before that, he may look at bringing his best bowler, Pat Cummins early on and unleash him on the opposition before being put on the back foot. Cummins ought to have opened the bowling rather than come in the sixth over. Whenever the Australian bowled, he picked up wickets. But by then, the match was out of KKR’s grasp.