Chris Gayle and Michael Hussey, the storm and the calm, have grabbed headlines and influenced matches in IPL-VI.
While their ability is undoubted, the fact that they are openers have enabled the two race ahead as the leading run-getters so far in this edition. After all, men at the top of the order have several things going for them in this format. In a 20-over game, the openers, potentially, have the opportunity to bat the entire innings. They also have the chance to pace their effort, consolidate on starts.
And then they are around when the six overs of Power Play with their field restrictions are in play.
On the sluggish Indian tracks, they can, crucially, harness the pace of the ball in the initial overs too.
To be fair to these men, they may also have to counter some early movement for the pacemen. There might also be occasions during a daunting chase when they might have to open out straightaway.
Yet, everything said, the top-order has a definite advantage in the abbreviated form of the game.
This is precisely why most sides have at least two of their best batsmen in the first three slots to make the most of the overs.
Gayle of Royal Challengers Bangalore and Chennai Super Kings’ Hussey are for sure the top batsmen in their sides. Apart from both being left-handed, the two are excellent studies in contrast.
The 33-year-old Jamaican is explosive, can wade into the attack with the ease of a jet slicing through clouds. Yet, Gayle, with 484 runs from 10 matches at 80.66, has mixed moments of caution with raw aggression.
Some might have second thoughts about the word ‘caution’, given his incredible strike rate of 166.89, but Gayle has kept the good deliveries out while launching into the less threatening stuff.
Gayle has smashed a mind-boggling 36 sixes so far, apart from finding the boundary on 43 occasions. In the process, he has dented egos, damaged figures.
Hussey does not demoralise an attack in the manner of a Gayle but slices it open with the expertise of a surgeon.
The numbers tell the story of their methods. The 37-year-old Australian has 445 runs in eight games at a whopping 74.16. But then, he has found the ropes as many as 51 times while crossing it only (in comparison to Gayle) 10 times.
The southpaw has held the CSK innings together, displayed the cricketing acumen to bat differently in different situations.
That Hussey can essay the horizontal bat shots or sashay down the wicket or just open the face of the willow for the jab and the steer forces the opposing captain to think before setting his field.