A good length ball is tough to hit, unless of course a desperate swing sends it to the ropes and sometimes over it too.
What does a bowler do when a batsman, like Shane Watson or Chris Gayle, makes a mockery of the length of the ball?
“Bowlers don’t feel bad. We have to prepare ourselves to be punished even off good deliveries,” Sunrisers Hyderabad leg-spinner Amit Mishra summed it up well.
The assault by Watson on Sunday night, a 34-ball 70 with six fours and six sixes, was as clinical a destruction of bowling as can be imagined.
The burly Watson, with strong shoulders dictating the course of the attack, is a fine example of a modern-day batsman. He can play some astonishing shots off deliveries bowled with discipline.
The pull that he executes, generating tremendous power and sending the ball into orbit, is a hit with the crowds. They often get to keep the ball, as one saw at the SMS Stadium.
Watson’s range of shots can leave the best of bowlers exasperated. In Stephen Fleming’s opinion, the best thing, when someone is in a mood like Watson, would be to go to the ‘death’ bowler.
“But Watson in that form was outstanding. The bowlers were dominating. On a flat track you can understand but when the bowlers have dominated for 75 to 80 per cent of the game and you have someone play like that is phenomenal talent. We know he is a very good player but it was an out-of-the-box innings tonight,” said Fleming.
Watson, in the company of Stuart Binny, buried the Chennai Super Kings attack with furious energy that caught the attention of Rahul Dravid.
“He’s been our genuine match-winner. That partnership (with Binny) was truly sensational. It was some of the finest batting I have seen for four-five overs. The way they took on Ashwin, he is a very good bowler, and the batting after that was electric display.”
Dravid continued, “We saw David Miller the other day playing an innings that completely changed the game for Kings XI (Punjab).
Today Watson was equally good and in fact, in these conditions which are not easy for batting with good pace and good bounce in the wicket, he was just superb.”
Watson was not always brutal, not always smashing the ball, in fact making do with a pull here, a hoist there.
He was judicious in picking the length early; an effortless cover drive, a delightful glance and a late steer capturing his controlled aggression.
A Gayle, Miller or Watson on song can make bowlers cringe. But not the paying public; they love this style and the batsmen know it too as they bring unbridled entertainment to the crease, the essence of cricket in the Indian Premier League.