IPL: For Klaasen, it’s aggression over consistency | Crickit
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IPL: For Klaasen, it’s aggression over consistency

Apr 15, 2024 05:53 AM IST

SRH have given a free rein to their explosive batting unit, and the SA player’s ability to tackle spin equally well has made them more potent.

In this year’s IPL, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) are one of just three teams to be scoring at a run rate higher than 10. And nobody embodies this thoroughly entertaining batting unit better than South Africa’s Heinrich Klaasen, 32, among the most destructive batters in white-ball cricket. He is SRH’s leading run-getter with 186 runs in five games, averaging 62. More eye-catching though are his strike rate of 193.75 and 17 sixes in 96 balls — roughly one every six deliveries. Only Riyan Parag of Rajasthan Royals (RR) has hit more sixes than the wicketkeeper-batter, although the Indian’s 18 sixes have taken 183 deliveries.

Sunrisers Hyderabad's Heinrich Klaasen has been in explosive form in IPL 2024.(AP)
Sunrisers Hyderabad's Heinrich Klaasen has been in explosive form in IPL 2024.(AP)

None of this is surprising. Over the past 18 months, Klaasen has turned himself into a key asset in South Africa’s power-packed middle order. During their run to the semi-finals of last year’s ODI World Cup in India, he returned 373 runs in 10 matches (SR 133.21, Avg 41.44). His IPL breakthrough also came in 2023. Having played a handful of games for RR in 2018 and Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB) in 2019, he thought his chance had come and gone before smashing 448 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 177.08 for SRH last year.

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Klaasen is relishing the free rein given to the Sunrisers batters. “It's been nice and entertaining cricket that we have been playing as a batting unit. It does help when your openers are setting an aggressive tone. It puts the opposition under pressure when they get off to a flier. That has come from Pat (Cummins) and Dan (Vettori) allowing the boys to play freely and aggressively. It leads to a better mindset to just go and hit the ball if it's there to be hit,” Klaasen said in an interview on Sunday ahead of SRH’s fixture against RCB in Bengaluru.

Also Read | The genius of Boom Boom Bumrah in IPL 2024: The most restrictive bowler in most expensive bowling unit

Incumbent on Klaasen while batting at No.5 or 6 is the need to play the big shots almost from the moment he takes guard. The key to delivering as a finisher, Klaasen said, is to not bother about consistency or averages.

“It's a difficult one. You will always be under pressure. For you to find a way of being successful, you've got to be mentally strong,” he said. “It's almost about giving up consistency. The moment you go out there wanting to be consistent, it's going to be difficult. That's not what the team requires sometimes. You've got to be aggressive from the start. It's also about finding that balance of getting yourself in and being quite aggressive. That's the biggest challenge. And then, it is just all about executing. Every day is different. Every scenario is different. But luckily, we have got time from the outside to assess the wicket, what options you are going to use and what the bowler is bowling. There are some benefits but it's a tough job. But it's quite enjoyable when you get it right.”

What is helping Klaasen on Indian pitches is his proficiency against spin. Unlike many of his compatriots who are considered susceptible against the slower bowlers, the man from Pretoria doesn’t get bogged down when the ball turns. Sample his record versus spin in IPL — 370 runs in 199 balls at an average of 92.5 and strike rate of 185.92.

“I grew up playing spin. In my younger days, we had a wicket in club cricket that spun and we played 5 or 6 spinners in high school. I also put in a lot of hard work into it to make sure I have different options and the ability to play certain bowlers. I pick up length a bit differently than other guys because my whole career has been based around good spinners and a lot of spin. It's always enjoyable to take down spinners more than seamers,” said Klaasen.

He is as much at ease against pace. When Sunrisers scored 277/3 in that record-breaking game against Mumbai Indians for instance, Klaasen took 22 runs off Jasprit Bumrah’s 11 deliveries on way to an unbeaten 34-ball 80. While bowlers often talk about needing to be unpredictable in the slog overs, does the same apply for batters?

“Yes and no. It’s about finding a balance of what is working on the day,” he said. “I’ve fallen into the trap of trying to play every shot that you can. That just clouds my mind. For me, it doesn't work. It may work for some others. For me, it is about keeping it simple. Even if the bowler is bowling 10 different deliveries, I know I will be successful if I execute. If they execute, you may have to go to plan B. But that will be your last resort.”

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