Compared to how complex the T20 format is, opening the innings is somewhat an undemanding task for the batsmen. With the field restrictions in place, batsmen can tee off in the first six overs of the innings. Even mishits can fetch them boundaries if they manage to clear the 30-yard-circle somehow. The same, however, might not be the case outside the powerplay overs. But then again, being good at this job is not easy either.
Power-hitting is an art which not only requires brute muscle strength, but also the positioning and shot selection. However, those who have limitations in terms of muscle strength need to find their own way of scoring runs. While there are power-hitters like Chris Lynn, Chris Gayle and Jonny Bairstow who are prolific at the top of the order, there are players like Virat Kohli, KL Rahul, and Jos Buttler among others, as well who depend more on clinical hitting to match up with the power hitters.
Since 2016, the aforementioned players along with others have entertained us with some fine performances at the top of the order in the Indian T20 League (Indian T20 League). So, it is a good time to find out how these openers stack up against each other.
David Warner - In a league of his own
The Australian batsman has been a force to reckon with at the top of the order. No other batsman with 100 or more runs as an opener since 2016 has higher runs per innings (RpI) than Warner. The southpaw scores at a high strike-rate of 146.08 along with having an RpI of 50.72 as well. He has amassed 2181 runs in 43 innings during this period and that includes two centuries and 21 fifties as well. So, he has gone past the 50-run mark every 1.87 innings.
No match for Sunil Narine's scoring rate
The Caribbean all-rounder has the worst RpI (21.12) among openers with 300 or more runs during this period but he has been the quickest scorer among all of them. There is no match to his strike-rate of 183.91. The next best is Buttler with a strike-rate of 157.97 followed by Bairstow with a figure of 157.24. Even though Narine gives no advantage in terms of volume of runs, his scoring rate makes him an excellent asset at the top of the order for Kolkata. He hits a four every 4.31 deliveries, the best among all of these batsmen, and a six every 9.24 deliveries, which is the second-best figure.
Kohli-Rahul and Bairstow-Buttler : Almost mirror-images of each other
All four of these batsmen are very different players with their own strengths, but the numbers of Kohli and Rahul, and Buttler and Bairstow are just marginally different. While Kohli scores marginally higher runs (44.85) per innings as compared to Rahul's 43.09, the latter scores at a slightly better strike-rate of 146.79 as compared to Kohli's 145.87. The same goes for Buttler and Bairstow as well. Buttler has a marginally higher strike-rate of 157.97 as compared to Bairstow's 157.24 but the latter has a slightly better RpI of 44.50 than that of the former's 42.13. Buttler, though, has played 14 innings more and thus has scored 566 runs more than Bairstow.
Chris Lynn a bit overrated?
An RpI of 33.08 and a strike-rate of 143.49 are certainly good figures for a T20 batsman but when you see that these numbers belong to someone like Chris Lynn, they start looking a bit underwhelming. These numbers are really good but when you look at players like Warner, Kohli, Rahul, Buttler and Bairstow beating Lynn in terms of both RpI and Strike-rate, you have to consider that Lynn's status as a T20 player is a bit hyped. That explains the lack of interest in him during the auctions last year to a certain extent. Mumbai bought him at his base price of INR 2 crore without any competition.
Hashim Amla was highly underrated
The South African batsman played the 2016 and 2017 editions of the Indian T20 League and amassed 576 runs in 15 innings at an RpI of 38.40 and a strike-rate of 143.28. And while his strike-rate is almost as good as Lynn, the RpI is even higher. Amla not only beats the Australian batsman in this aspect but is also ahead of other established players like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Quinton de Kock and Shane Watson. Amla was so prolific that he smashed two tons and three fifties in those 15 innings as well.
Rohit Sharma not among the best
Rohit's Indian T20 League numbers as an opener are very surprising. He has amassed 915 runs in 30 innings since 2016 at an RpI of 30.50 and an ordinary strike-rate of 130.16. That's almost similar to Shikhar Dhawan's corresponding figures of 31.71 and 128.74. In T20 internationals during this period, Rohit has been a much better batsman. He is the highest run-getter in T20Is during this timeframe, having accumulated runs at an RpI and strike-rate of 31.51 and 151.12 respectively.
Chris Gayle not the same beast anymore, but still a T20 asset at this age
The 40-year-old Caribbean batsman is certainly not the beast he used to be once. He scored at a strike-rate of 153.98 and RpI of 40.44 in the Indian T20 League until 2015 but that has fallen to corresponding figures of 145.36 and 29.88 respectively since 2016. These figures might not be the same anymore but they are good enough to warrant a place in any T20 side ahead of many other batsmen.
Feature Image courtesy: AFP / Noah Seelam