Wriddhiman Saha went about his enforcer role like a cat on hot bricks. He advanced to Mohammad Siraj and picked up four thanks to an ungainly french cut. Wayne Parnell was given the charge as well, only for the streaky edge to loop over third man. Doesn’t matter how the runs come as long as they keep coming, Saha protested as he left his crease yet again, blissfully unaware that he was running out of luck. A spliced drive brought an end to the fidgety knock sandwiched between two innings hallmarked by economy of movement.
Making contact with the ball from a stable base with a still head position helps achieve control and maximise power in the shot. Ticking those boxes is a challenging proposition when a batter is on the move because the head is among the heaviest parts of the body; its alignment governing to a large extent the sweetness of the connection. Generational talents like AB de Villiers and Suryakumar Yadav can pull it off, but Saha’s struggle demonstrates why maintaining the head position while moving around is not everyone’s cup of tea. Virat Kohli and Shubman Gill thus prefer staying put as much as possible, because giving themselves the best chance of getting the basics right compensates for their lack of big-boy strength.
The master and the apprentice sang from the same hymn sheet in Bangalore, laying a solid bodily foundation and holding their shape to enable clean contact and optimal transfer of energy into the shots. Sample Gill’s lofted on-drive, a gem he unfurled against Parnell bowling from over the wicket. The blade was upright at the interception point to create elevation, with the shoulders rotating vertically as the arms extended through the line of the gentle inswinger.
While that was a purist’s delight, Gill abided by technical principles even when he added a bit of machismo to his operation. For instance, the golf club swing that fetched him six off Vijaykumar Vyshak. The front leg opened up ever so slightly for leverage purposes, the head and front shoulder dipped forward as the hands and bat were taken back and up, and the weight was relayed in to produce a vigorous strike.
Movements, both premeditated and those undertaken upon release, are central to batting in T20s as they significantly bolster the access to vacant areas on the field. Neither Gill nor Kohli is averse to shuffling, in fact they do budge here and there to outsmart the bowler, but the maneuvers are rarely carried out on a whim, as was the case with Saha tonight. When Michael Bracewell stuck to tramline kissers after being swept for a six, Gill, quite intelligently, took a shimmie to his right and fetched the ball from wide of off to deposit a maximum over mid-wicket.
As compared to Gill’s 8, Kohli hit a solo six en route a century that made him the highest ton aggregator in the history of IPL, but razor-sharp judgement of length and an extraordinary eye for gaps culminated in as many as 13 boundaries at his adopted home.
He went deep into the box to punish the drag-downs by Rashid Khan and Noor Ahmed, whom Hardik Pandya introduced inside the PowerPlay once more as Faf du Plessis and Kohli scored a hat-trick of boundaries apiece versus the new-ball merchants. He’d felt compelled to turn to the Afghan compatriots against Mumbai Indians, and Rashid went on to have a cracker of a game. He returned 24/1 this time around, bamboozling the dangerous Glenn Maxwell with a wrong ‘un as Gujarat Titans struck thrice in quick succession to peg the high-flying hosts back.
Mohit Sharma had blazed a comeback trail in IPL 2023. Heading into the last league match, his wickets tally read 17 in 11 matches at an economy of 7.45. He was supposed to further squeeze the run rate and snap up a wicket or two in keeping with the trend, but a lukewarm performance by the experienced campaigner let RCB off the hook. Kohli preponed or delayed the impact in order to thwack good-length balls to the right or left of sweeper cover respectively. He proved the binding glue, stitching mini-partnerships with Bracewell and Anuj Rawat, who had the best seat in the house as Kohli plotted his dealings at the death.
Even though Hardik had frontloaded Rashid, he’d preserved an over for the match-up with Dinesh Karthik, who has been dismissed by leg-spinners on 11 occasions since 2020. There would be pace on the ball at the business end so Kohli refrained from attacking Rashid in the 17th over. Yash Dayal had a tendency of withering under pressure – Rinku Singh cudgeled five sixes on the trot off his bowling to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat – so Kohli knew he would reach for the panic button if big runs are stolen off the first couple of deliveries. He shoveled a length ball over cow corner utilizing the strong bottom hand, and received the gift along expected lines with Dayal dishing out a freebie down leg. 64 came off the last 34 as Kohli ushered RCB to 197, a ‘winnable score’ in his book.
‘’I felt great. A lot of people feel my T20 cricket is declining, but I don’t feel like that at all. I feel I am playing my best T20 cricket again. I’m just enjoying myself, this is how I play T20 cricket. I look to hit gaps, hit a lot of boundaries and the big ones in the end if the situation allows me to,’’ Kohli highlighted.
‘’You have to read the situation and rise up to the occasion when the situation demands, and that’s something I take a lot of pride in doing, and I’ve been doing it for a while now. I feel really good with my game at the moment and how I’m batting out there in the middle.”
In the nascent stages of his innings, an iota of desperation seeped into Kohli’s strokeplay. He tried forcing the issue, vexed by Shami’s tight channel. As he timed a few to the fence and the realization kicked in that he’s better off allowing the ball to come to him, the desire to impose himself that was born out of frustration evaporated to never re-emerge throughout his masterclass. For conventional batters navigating the slam-bang format, less is more when it comes to showing enterprise in the middle.