The sixes have been bludgeoned rather than timed in the on-going Indian Premier League. And there has been a flurry of them.
The ball too has travelled long distances; beyond the stadium on occasions. From Glenn Maxwell to Kieron Pollard, big hitters have dented bowling figures and egos.
Yet, with modern bats, batsman-friendly rules, and shrinking grounds, has the concept of six-hitting been actually diluted?
The Hindu caught up with some prominent cricketers to seek answers.
Former India pace ace Javagal Srinath said: “You have 10 wickets to get and there are only 20 overs. The batsmen start with a huge psychological advantage. Everything favours the batsmen, from the bulkiness of the bat. They, consequently, have been emboldened. Now you have a Tillakaratne Dilshan scooping the ball over the ropes. The rate of scoring in cricket, across formats, has become quicker.”
Srinath also indicated that the quality of bowling might have come down too. “(The development of) Batting and bowling are inversely proportional,” he said.
Former India all-rounder Robin Singh, a telling hitter in his time, said: “The batsmen have more licence to play shots these days. It’s a mind-set thing. Batsmen now attempt to hit sixes in practice sessions. In my days, the emphasis was on playing along the ground in the nets.”
Asked about sixes being clobbered off deliveries that were previously considered hard to hit — such as the yorker outside the off-stump — and from different lengths, Robin replied: “There’s a lot more technology being used to study different balls, and come up with responses. There’s a lot more emphasis on execution. The batsmen also undergo gym training to further improve power-hitting.”
Being the batting coach of the Mumbai Indians, Robin has seen the likes of Pollard from rather close quarters. “He (Pollard) backs his ability. Don’t forget that, since there are only 20 overs, the ball remains hard and travels quickly off the bat all through,” he said.
Former Indian off-spinning great Erapalli Prasanna believed the spinners still have a chance. “If the batsman tries to hit you out for a six, as a spinner you have an equal opportunity of getting him out,” he said.
“You need to beat the batsman with either flight or with spin, or a combination of both. Many of the present-day spinners are not imparting sufficient revolutions on the ball,” said Prasanna.
He also spoke of the mind-set of a spinner. “These days, spinners, wrongly, seek to only restrict in Twenty20 cricket. They should attack the batsmen. If you pick wickets, the run-rate goes down automatically. Even if the bats are so good and the boundaries short, you can still fox the batsman with your skill.”
Among the spinners in the present edition, Prasanna said, R. Ashwin and Sunil Narine were performing better than the rest.
Former India paceman Venkatesh Prasad lamented the lack of quality in bowling. “If you are talking about Indian pacemen, the standards have come down, in terms of variation and execution,” he said.
“Many of the Indian pacemen do not send down an effective yorker. And they change their length too soon. I mean, if a good delivery is struck for a six, there is no need to alter length. You need one good stock delivery, one effective variation,” he said.
While much has been said about ‘Super Bats’, former India fitness trainer Ramji Srinivasan threw light on another important factor — bat speed. Power packed willows are not the only reason for even mis-hits clearing the ropes. Bat-speed contributes too.
“There are specific drills for wrists, forearms and shoulder. How the batsmen transfer their body weight to the bat is crucial. The focus for Twenty20 cricket is on high-end explosive speed,” he revealed.
Sixes have the crowd on their feet. These are days though when the odds favour the batsmen; rather overwhelmingly.