The shortest format of the gentleman’s game is already considered tailor-made for batsmen. Taking it a little further, courtesy the ‘orange cap’ holders from the past editions of the Indian Premier League, it may as well be called an opening batsman’s game.
For aggressive openers, like Chris Gayle – twice, Sachin Tendulkar, Matthew Hayden and Shaun Marsh, have adorned the glamourous stage of the IPL with heaps of runs to walk away with orange headgear in the T20 competition that started off in 2008. Given that all the run-machines, save Tendulkar, are southpaws, and that West Indian powerhouse Gayle is surging up the ladder this year too, calling it a left-hander’s game might not be too far-fetched!
Interestingly, the bowling roll of honour only buttresses that notion. While the stakes have been dominated by the faster men, three of the five bowlers who struck ‘purple cap’ patches in the past seasons have been left-armers – Sohail Tanvir (2008), Rudra Pratap Singh (2009) and Pragyan Ojha (2010), the lone spinner in the group. Lasith Malinga took the honours in 2011 while Morne Morkel did it last time, to even it up a little for the right-armers. But then Tanvir holds the best IPL figures of 6 for 14 while a certain Suresh Raina heads the leading run-getters’ table overall.
As the competition hots up a dozen days into IPL-6, Gayle is the one still going strong, having returned to his six-hitting ways after a relatively cautious start. The Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman has smashed an incredible 143 sixes from 47 innings in his IPL career. Meanwhile, Mumbai Indians’ Tendulkar, after making just 24 runs in the first three matches, sprang to life with an attractive 44 off just 29 balls against Pune Warriors on Saturday.
Former Deccan Chargers players, RP Singh and Ojha – currently with RCB and Mumbai Indians respectively – are among the wickets. But the duo are yet to work any magic, with RP especially having lost his sharpness.
While agreeing that openers have a significant role in the success of a T20 team, former India opener WV Raman felt that it was not just the superiority of their left hand that took these players to the top.
“Just being left-handed is not an advantage,” said Raman who used to be the only left-hander in the Indian team in the late eighties and early nineties.
“The skill level is very important. All of them are experienced players who know the requirements of the game. And Sachin got his runs playing mostly conventional shots. Only (Shaun) Marsh was slightly inexperienced but he too played proper cricket.”
Three of the top performers from the past, all left-handed, are actually missing in action this year. While Aussie marauder Matthew Hayden, formerly of Chennai Super Kings, is hitting out from the commentator’s box these days, his compatriot Shaun Marsh, of King’s XI Punjab, is out injured. Pakistan swing bowler Tanvir, who took the inaugural IPL by storm with his unorthodox action as Rajasthan Royals reigned supreme, has missed out after the BCCI decided not to pick players from that country.