Cricket, a game that is almost 100 years old. A game that is designed to test your patience, your endurance, your stamina, your physical fitness and most importantly your mental strength. In its early days, it took a refinement of very high pedigree to extract what was required to sustain at the highest level. How technically correct you were, how much you could absorb before you start scoring runs for your team. How much can you rebuff your natural proclivity and revere the bowler. But as the times changed, so did the beautiful game, long days passed the baton to limited overs and slowly the game observed a paradigm shift by paving the way for its youngest form- T20 cricket.
And soon the shibboleths were ineffective, iconoclasts turned out to be the new icons of the game. The poise was replaced by the unorthodox; timing gave way to brutality and in all the maelstrom of power hitting, mammoth scores and packed stadiums, a genuine orthodox cricket fan started to miss the usual perfunctory pertaining to the game. That perfect defense, that crisp drive through the covers, that delicate touch to place the ball. And then you see a man who is conspicuously aloof from the crowd if not above, a man who may be two different personalities all together. Someone who attains parity to the most passionate who has played the sport, who craves for challenges, loves to give it back to the opposition both with bat and mouth. But when you have a deeper look, you understand why he pass musters those impossible challenges. When he clambers upon those impossible targets, he looks like someone who has attained intransigence. It’s almost like an unperturbed cascading flow of talent, placid from the core and someone who has a profound knowledge of his game.
But what makes him better from the masters of the era, because there are many who have stats as good as him, right? Because my friend, he is someone who has the capacity to make a genuine cricket fan happy. Ask a man who has witnessed the game in the 60’s whether he would pay to see a Russell in his complete truculent disposition eviscerating the opposition or would he like to see that perfect lofted drive over the covers by Virat Kohli for a four. And there you would find the answer. His game looks to have been picked from the sternest schools of the cricket, fine-tuned and presented in the T20 format. It’s like the perfect bravura of batsman ship that titillates our cricketing gustatory. He can’t reverse sweep, can’t sit and tonk it to fine leg, cant reverse paddle and still is touted as the best batsman in the shortest format. It’s like sweet sarcasm for the minds who orchestrated the format. He has the mental toughness required for the test formats, endurance that you need when you play the limited overs cricket and the fitness that takes you past the line in the T20s.
His stats vindicate his brilliance. The guy averages more than 50 in what is purportedly called the format of specialists and unorthodox. In this year’s IPL, the maestro has gone on to score 677 runs in 11 innings at an average of 75.22. He has scored three centuries in this edition already and it wouldn’t be surprising if he registers a few more beside his name. But more than the talent which is more or less equal at this level, it’s the mind-set that escalates him to another level. He never heads ahead of his game, is impeccable in his shot selection and exactly knows what is required at that moment. He allays the pressure in the dressing room, soaks it in and uses it to fuel himself, to stretch that extra yard and do the job in hand. He is 27 years old, there is a preponderance of cricket that he would go on to play, and thus he would need to prove himself time and again in order to attain that stature of being one of the greats of the game. But just because of how he plays this beautiful game, just because how he brings a smile on the face of the orthodox cricket fan, how he chooses to remain placid among this madness, no matter legend or not, he is certainly a very special player who adorns this beautiful game.