On a frantic day in cricket on Wednesday, we witnessed absolute carnage hard hitters bring to the game. In the modern day, very few batsmen have successfully established themselves with the tag. With the ICC World Cup 2019 a few months away, the art of hard hitting will be a crucial factor in England and Wales. A hard hitter win you matches. They steal the thunder at any given time after getting set. It’s mayhem on the pitch.
On Wednesday, there were three vital innings from three of the dangerous batsmen in the game. Firstly, England’s wicket-keeper batsman Jos Buttler lifted the side on a record-breaking day with a magnificent 77-ball 150 against the West Indies in the fourth ODI. Secondly, in the same encounter, 39-year-old veteran Chris Gayle almost got his side past the line with a powerful 162.
Thirdly, on a different continent, Glenn Maxwell’s effortless massacre (113*) helped the Aussies trounce India in the 2nd T20I in Bengaluru.
On a single day, we witnessed three magnificent tons. This was absolute brutality of these batsmen, who came in and showed their prowess against the white ball. Going into the World Cup, England, Windies and Australia could benefit immensely, given the impetus these batsmen can produce. Hard hitters are absolutely needed in today’s cricket as it lifts the side and helps them stay in matches.
All three of Buttler, Gayle and Maxwell showed their strengths in counter attacking teams. There were shades of AB de Villiers in all of these three in different ways. Hard hitting does one more thing. It helps a team notch several records. Here we look at the trio and what they can offer in the global event. Also how the Indian cricket team misses someone of this calibre. But will it matter? Let’s find out.
Gayle has peaked at the right time
In the first ODI against England, Gayle laboured at the start before going on to smash a 129-ball 135. The 39-year-old southpaw took his time in the middle after not playing much cricket since a while. That innings helped Gayle and his confidence. What followed was a knock of 50 in the second ODI and then a blockbuster 162.
The veteran looked to be among the runs from the very beginning in the fourth ODI. It was the need of the hour as England set a target of 419. Gayle looked set and in no time he started to get going. What followed was an enormous 14 sixes from his bat. It was clean hitting of the cricket ball. Vintage Gayle as we might refer as.
Gayle used his power to great effect and toyed with English bowlers. He surpassed 10,000 runs in ODI cricket (10,074) and got to his 25th career ton in the 50-over format. The legend helped Windies get to 389 as the hosts almost pulled off an incredible chase, only to lose by 29 runs. Gayle has peaked at the right time.
One more ODI, and then the ‘Universe Boss’ will shift his attention to the Indian Premier League. He will hope to maintain his fitness levels and go absolute bonkers to stay in sync. Windies need someone like Gayle. The young side will rally around him and his starts for the team becomes so crucial. Windies will also be bolstered by another big hard hitter in Andre Russell.
Gayle’s mantra is to hang in the middle as long as possible and then once he has gauged the bowlers, it is absolute mayhem.
Jos Buttler has risen to a champion striker
England’s Jos Buttler can be termed as a champion striker, whose vision is spot on. The right-handed batsman adds so much vitality for England in the middle. His role as a finisher suits the side perfectly. Buttler’s versatility and knack of playing special innings, will give the number one ODI side in the world a lot of cushion.
England are outright favourites going into the World Cup. Their batting looks top notch and Buttler’s presence makes it even pleasing to the eye. On Wednesday, Buttler was at his brutal best with his 12 sixes – the most by an England batsman in ODIs. He absolutely hammered the full deliveries and the low full tosses.
Buttler came to the crease at 165-3 and started off in a relatively reserved manner before exploding at the end of the innings alongside skipper Eoin Morgan. His hard hitting skills came to the fore as the Englishman raced from 50 to 100 in just 15 balls. He also took 31 deliveries in total to go from his half-century to 150.
It was like De Villiers a few years ago against the Windies. Buttler is massive and he brings that attribute of snatching the game away at any given moment. His batting makes England look so much better. Buttler brings so much to the table. “Buttler is like a champion racehorse, once he gets in his stride, he’s magnificent to watch and when you’re at the other end watching it, it’s really incredible,” said Eoin Morgan after England’s win.
Maxwell’s overall package makes him a real deal
Glenn Maxwell helped Australia win a major bilateral T20I series after smashing a 55-ball 113*. It was one of the greatest T20I innings in a long time. His unorthodox style, coupled with superb execution and a sense of maturity helped the Aussies draw so much confidence. Maxi may be unpredictable and inconsistent at times, but now we are slowly getting to see him become more mature.
He made it necessary to stay along right till the end and win the match for the visitors. There was a change in his shot selection and it was more of substance. Like Gayle and Buttler, when Maxi gets in flow, he can be a force as destructive as any. He is also a live wire on the field, besides being a useful bowler as well.
In Visakhapatnam, the all-rounder was out trying to hit a wide leg-spinner, yet he hit those same deliveries to and above the fences with ease in Bengaluru. He smashed the low full tosses and the higher balls were clubbed with a lot of ease. His array of shots make him different. From sweeps to the switch hits, Maxi changed the complexion of the match.
His presence for Australia serves them well. He can bat anywhere in the middle and Australia need to utilise him wisely. The World Cup is an essential platform for Maxi to come to life. His application makes him a prime finisher. He can soak in the pressure and like any hard hitter, he knows when to accelerate.
India lack a genuine hard hitter
India have been a strong side that into the World Cup as one of the favourites. India’s strength has mainly been the impact of the front three batsmen. They have a lot of class in the ranks. The middle order boasts of utility players and plenty of experience to get the side past the line.
India have its share of match-winners in MS Dhoni and the pocket-sized Kedar Jadhav. But what the team misses is an out and out hard hitter, Dhoni was known as one back in his prime. But his role has changed. So a lot of this will depend on Hardik Pandya. The all-rounder has the promise, but he is far off from someone like a Gayle, Buttler and Maxwell.
India’s overall strength in departments make them a team to watch out for. That will hand them the onus, but when it comes to hard hitting exploits and taking the match away in a flash, the absence of a hard hitter will hurt them. India lack that spunk of someone like a Buttler especially down the middle order.