IPL: New age batting making the sport a baseball clone

The record for highest total has been overhauled five times already in 2024 season. More may follow

Jonny Bairstow in action at Eden Gardens on 26 April (photo: BCCI)
Jonny Bairstow in action at Eden Gardens on 26 April (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

It finally took Sam Curran, the stand-in skipper of Punjab Kings, to put the increasingly manic run-fests in IPL 2024 into perspective. ‘’Cricket is turning into baseball,’’ the young English allrounder said as his team, led by an incredible hundred from Jonny Bairstow, set a world record T20 chase (262) at the Eden Gardens on Friday night, 26 April.

Bairstow, for whom it was a back-to-the-wall situation after a prolonged lean patch in the England shirt as well as this IPL, simply stood and delivered for his unbeaten 108 off 48 balls while the unheralded Shashank Singh showed a great deal of maturity and skillsets as a finisher for his 68 off 28 balls in taking the red shirts home with eight balls to spare.

There is no taking away credit from this pair for not letting the tempo slacken under extreme heat, not to forget opener Prabhsimran Singh’s role in the powerplay as well, but this phenomenon of tall scores in this edition is on the verge of reducing the game into a charade.

 Just ponder this: Royal Challengers Bengaluru’s 263 for five in 2013, which had been the highest total in an inning in IPL till the beginning of this season, has been already breached five times this season with Sunrisers Hyderabad perched at the top of the heap with the highest ever total of 287 for three. While such batting efforts have revolved around some incredible bouts of hitting, it has had a domino effect on the bowling averages with an economy rate of 6.50 or seven being considered good ones while it has gone up to double figures for a lot of them.

Shreyas Iyer and Sam Curran pose for a photo during an IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings at Eden Gardens on 26 April
Shreyas Iyer and Sam Curran pose for a photo during an IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and Punjab Kings at Eden Gardens on 26 April

Well, has it actually helped in making IPL for better viewing? Not quite with a cross section of IPL followers, be it the pundits or the fans on the street, being vocal that it has become a predictable and boring exercise of swinging the bats at everything – with the impact player rule meaning the batters, especially the openers, not averse to throwing their wickets for the sake of a resounding start in powerplays.  

 What is it actually making so much of a difference? Curran says: ‘’Loads of different things, guys can hit balls for long periods of time, the coaches, training, the dew, dot balls become wide after reviews and you get the extra ball.’’

Point taken, along with the legendary Sunil Gavaskar’s plea of increasing the boundary sizes at the grounds to give the bowlers a better chance of getting the batters caught at the deep. ‘’Look at this ground today,’’ Gavaskar said in Hyderabad recently: "There is enough space to take it back a little more by a couple of metres. It can prove to be the difference between a catch and a sixer.’’

The extraneous factors, along with the improvisations in shot-making – have made it virtually impossible to contain the batters. Even five years back, the switch hits of AB de Villiers aimed to destroy the line of the bowlers or the helicopter shots of M.S. Dhoni to neutralise the yorkers held us in awe, but a whole range of 360 degrees shots have now been added to it.

However, this is not to exonerate the bowlers who have been found wanting to deliver in challenging conditions – last night’s game at the Eden being a case in point. Opting to chase, Curran employed four seamers (including himself) during the powerplay against the free-stroking Phil Salt and Sunil Narine but all proved equally guilty of bowling too full and being wayward – only to get walloped in the process.

‘’When you’ve to chase 200-plus, you’ve to take risks in the powerplay. (How to approach such a chase?) Try and whack it as hard as possible (laughs). It was a case of if it’s in your area you go after it. We wanted to lose as few wickets as possible,’’ said Bairstow, who took debutant Sri Lankan Dusmantha Chameera and Harshit Rana to task to set the early tempo.

 The 93-run stand in Powerplay between Bairstow and Prabhsimran must have helped create some conviction in the Punjab camp of going all the way. They eventually bettered South Africa’s 259/4 against the West Indies in March last year. In IPL, Rajasthan Royals held the previous record for chasing down 224 against KKR at Eden recently, equalling the record they had set against then Kings XI Punjab in 2020 in Sharjah.

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