New Delhi – A marauding Faf du Plessis and emerging power-hitters including Rinku Singh have helped make team totals over 200 the new normal in this high-scoring edition of the Indian Premier League.
The 38-year-old South African Du Plessis, captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore, leads the batting charts with 576 runs at a destructive strike rate of over 157 and 32 sixes.
This season does not finish until the end of the month but it has already witnessed 30 innings totalling 200 or above.
That happened on 18 occasions in the entire edition last year.
Du Plessis hit 65 on Tuesday and forged a 120-run stand with Glenn Maxwell – but opponents Mumbai Indians still reached the 200 target with 3.3 overs to spare.
This season third-placed Mumbai have chased down three 200 or 200-plus totals with Suryakumar Yadav hitting half-centuries in all of them.
“I have no idea what a safe score is. The last four games we have seen excess of 200 has been scored,” said Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma.
“Most of the teams are taking risks and it is coming off.
“The batters are taking risks and 200-plus scores are being chased.
“The mindset of the batters is to do something special for the team and it is coming off as well.”
Players and pundits say there a few reasons for the tall totals.
IPL pitches are more batting friendly than before to encourage big-hitting and provide more entertainment.
Former Australia batsman and ex-IPL coach Tom Moody says that the Kookaburra balls could have something to do with it because they are not swinging as much.
The nature of Twenty20 cricket is also evolving, with a new breed of specialists.
But the biggest factor behind the skyscraper scores in the IPL looks to be the new Impact Player rule.
It allows a substitute and effectively adds an extra batsman or bowler to the team line-up.
Lucknow Super Giants have led the high-rise war after they posted the second-highest team total since the IPL began in 2008.
They made 257-5 in a 56-run victory last month against Punjab Kings, with West Indies’ Kyle Mayers and Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis smashing 11 boundaries each.
Virat Kohli recently scored a 46-ball 55 in a losing cause for Bangalore and the superstar batsman was criticised for consuming too many deliveries.
Moody called Kohli’s innings “yesterday’s approach or last year’s approach”.
“Now we have an impact player, the game has changed,” the Australian, who took Sunrisers Hyderabad to the 2016 title, told ESPNCricinfo.
“We already have evidence of that with the number of teams who have scored over 200, (it) is a record number of 200-plus scores of any IPL and we are not even close to the finish.”
While the likes of greats Kohli and David Warner have struggled to meet the intensity, left-handed batsman Rinku has come into his own as a finisher this season.
He raised the hitting stakes when he smashed five sixes in the last five balls to pull off a miracle chase for Kolkata last month.
The tournament has witnessed six last-ball finishes this season and Mumbai batsman Nehal Wadhera pointed to the impact sub again.
“The Impact Player rule also gives the batters a bit of freedom to play fearlessly as they know they have an extra batter in their wings,” Wadhera said.
“The rule has also led to more close finishes in the IPL, which we love to watch.”
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