If you want the big guns to fire, roll them out at the beginning. Notwithstanding the new ball or the fielding restrictions during Powerplay, opening batsmen have made it count so far, largely influencing the outcome of matches.
The top five scorers in this IPL are all openers. Heading the list is Chris Gayle, who continues to amaze with his stadium-clearing ability. Close on his heels is Ajinkya Rahane, who has hit the maximum number of fours (63). Delhi boys Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag have had a cracking IPL so far, with Sehwag scoring five consecutive half-centuries. And despite the Deccan Chargers floundering in most matches, Shikhar Dhawan stands out for his contribution as an opening bat. His is the only bright spot in an otherwise sorry report card for the Hyderabad team.
It's all about Gayle
Opening batsmen have also hogged the limelight when it comes to stitching partnerships. Sticking to a fixed opening pair has worked for teams like the Royal Challengers Bangalore, who have four 100-run partnerships against their name.
At the other end are teams like the Pune Warriors, who have repeatedly tinkered with their opening pair with little outcome. There have been 13 century-partnerships and 12 of them feature an opening batsman. Here too, Gayle takes the cherry by featuring in two of them.
On the flipside, a steady start has become important, given the pitches are generally on the slower side and tend to worsen. Last week's marquee clash between KKR and PWI is a case in point.
Gambhir scored a quick 56 and KKR raced to 98/0 in 10 overs. In the next 10 overs, however, KKR could only score 52 runs after Gambhir and partner Brendon McCullum were quickly dismissed. “The pitch was at its best and the ball was hard so it wasn't difficult for me to get going. But it was difficult for the batsmen who followed me. I don't blame them,” said Gambhir.
Gayle too revealed a new side to his batting when on Wednesday he decided to stall Malinga’s initial burst. He made up for a slow start and scored a match-winning 82 off 59 balls. Royal Challengers owner Vijay Mallya later said on TV that he had advised Gayle to try and bat for at least 15 overs. If Gayle does so, records may be rewritten.