Twenty20 cricket may be a lot about batsmen laying down the rules with big hitting, but the entertainment quotient goes up many times when it is done innovatively.
The Royal Challengers Bangalore have batsmen with brute force and those who impose themselves with more subtlety. But theirl IPL season opener at home against Sunrisers Hyderabad on Tuesday straightaway made demands on their batsmen.
While Chris Gayle crushes the bowler’s spirit, for AB de Villiers it is about playing shots all around constantly thrilling the crowd through risky, unorthodox shots. But the South African stalwart had not come into the league in a great mental state.
He had failed to set the stands alight in the World Twenty20. Of his 110 runs in four innings, 64 came against Afghanistan. With South Africa’s main batsman failing, the team failed to cross the Super 10 stage.
Skipper Virat Kohli had said on Monday that he would open with Gayle to provide de Villiers the time to settle down and take charge. And that was the case on Tuesday. Still, the Sunrisers pacers Ashish Nehra, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mustafizur Rahman had started well, which called for a more orthodox approach.
There was no lingering tentativeness from the World T20 in de Villiers’ batting. He hammered Nehra for 14 runs in the fourth over as the seasoned seamer lost control. Kohli took his time to settle down, but made sure de Villiers was not deprived of the strike.
RCB have been about notching up huge totals. Tuesday’s 227/4 is the eighth highest in the league. Bangalore own the record (263), but their big guns could not afford to fail on a good pitch.
There were no fancy attempts at scoops or reverse hits. De Villiers played proper shots, almost mirroring Kohli’s approach, even after he was set. Leg-spinner Karn Sharma felt the effect of the famous de Villiers shuffle in the crease, which led to two back-to-back sixes over long-on. But there were no attempts to scoop or reverse-hit.
The medium-pace of Moises Henriques and Ashish Reddy was also dismissed, but de Villiers didn’t try a fancy shot till he was on 75. But the paddle sweep didn’t come off. There was one more such miss, an attempted falling sweep off Mustafizur, which he did not connect. The hopes of a century were dashed when the young Bangladesh pacer got him to miscue a cutter.
But de Villiers and Kohli had by then already set the batting agenda for the season.