IPL 2023: Why 200-plus is no longer a par score

A look at Sunday evening's game also amplifies that no team can consider the job done till the last ball is bowled—much in keeping with the age-old cliché about cricket

Wriddhiman Saha (photo courtesy @mufaddal_vohra/Twitter)
Wriddhiman Saha (photo courtesy @mufaddal_vohra/Twitter)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

A 200-plus total, irrespective of the batting conditions, was considered a safe one to defend in the Indian Premier League (IPL) till the other day.

Not any more—given the way things are panning out in the ongoing edition, with as many as six games seeing teams overcoming such numbers for dramatic wins.

This IPL has seen the highest of these high-number chases so far (with the previous best being five successful 200-plus chases in T20 Blast in 2017), the latest one seeing the Sunrisers Hyderabad crossing a 200-plus target for the first time in the IPL to hand an embarrassing defeat to the high-flying Rajasthan Royals.

With 52 of the 74 matches at stake being played so far, this IPL has already seen the highest number of 200-plus totals being scored, bettering the previous best of 18 last year.

The tongue-lashing that Aiden Markram & Co received from their chief coach Brian Lara after their narrow loss in the last game seemed to have worked wonders, as the Orange Army powered through their highest successful chase—their previous best of 199 also being against the Royals in 2019. For those statistically inclined, it was the joint third-highest chase in IPL history—and the highest by any team against the Royals, as it surpassed the Mumbai Indians’ 213-run pursuit at the Wankhede Stadium last week.

Glenn Phillips (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @ImTanujSingh)
Glenn Phillips (Photo Courtesy: Twitter/ @ImTanujSingh)
Twitter/ @ImTanujSingh

A look at Sunday evening's game also amplifies how no team can consider the job done till the last ball is bowled—much in keeping with the age old cliché about cricket. Staring at a target of 41 runs at the beginning of the 19th over, the Sunrisers had a tall order until New Zealander Glenn Phillips proved the game-changer with a 25 off 7 balls.

What is it that’s doing the trick even in the business end of the tournament, where the wickets ought to be a bit more tired and slow for batters? A key factor could certainly be the introduction of the 'Impact Player', which is providing the batting side an extra batter deep in the batting order—despite not having one on the actual team.

‘’The rule is certainly still evolving. But having said that, it has certainly had an impact on freeing up a few of the batters. You can see a lot more 200+ scores this season than perhaps what we saw in the previous seasons at this stage of the tournament. According to me, it's because you have an extra batter and bowler (to get into the playing eleven),’’ remarked Anil Kumble, playing the role of TV pundit this season.

While this looks like a valid argument, the changing template of T20 batting is also offering the teams a big chance to take a crack at the 200 mark more frequently ever before. If a total in the region of 50–60 after the Powerplay was an ideal one before, it has now gone up, with both the openers being given the freedom of expressing themselves—unlike in the past, where one of them would focus on holding the early part of the innings together.  

Ideal examples of the T20 opener—if one looks at the past few matches—include the two keeper-batters Phil Salt of the Delhi Capitals (87 off 45 balls against the Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Wriddhiman Saha of the Gujarat Titans (81 off 43 vs the Lucknow Super Giants). This reinvention of 'Bazball' cricket, which makes dot balls a crime and goes behind just the slashes, scoops and ramp shots, is making even batters of the class of Virat Kohli or K.L. Rahul look inadequate.

Tom Moody, a former coach of the Sunrisers and one of the shrewdest minds of the modern game, pulled back no punches when he said that the T20 game has moved on from the Kohli template.

Commenting on the Royal Challengers coming up short on Saturday, the Australian said: "May be [Kohli] also felt that whilst the other end [Faf du Plessis] was flying along, his role was to feed that other end. But in my view, particularly with the impact player, the game has really moved on from that style of cricket. That’s why we are seeing so many totals go to 200-plus. There is no such role."

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