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Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith are the most exciting opening combination in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014, writes Nishad Pai Vaidya.
If you had to pick the most intimidating opening combination in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2014, Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum would be automatic choices. To use famous commentators words, it is almost as if you have a cannon that bombards from both ends. Bowlers have a tough proposition when they come against this attacking duo and although Chennai have the most stable batting line-up since the first season, it is this combination that gives them the extra punch going into any game.
McCullum is one of the best batsmen in Twenty20s (T20s) along with Chris Gayle. Playing those brave, inventive shots, he is quite unpredictable. Six years ago, he kicked off this league with a breathtaking 158 not out, an innings that truly showed the world what he was capable of. Since then, he has grown as a batsman in all formats. Though he hasn’t smashed it around in a similar vein, he has smashed the bowling around fairly consistently. Who can forget the fearless scoops off a Shaun Tait bowling at over 150 clicks?
There is more to McCullum now. He isn’t someone who may attack every ball, but picks his opportunities. And, the margin for error while bowling to him is ever so small. Anything with a bit of width, he will take advantage of it by thwacking it to the boundary. He also has this ability to judge the bounce well and can adjust quickly. The knock against Mumbai Indians (MI) showed that he can shift gears at any stage of his innings and watch it through to the end.
At the other end you have Smith, who may not stay till the job is done. But his task is to provide those fiery starts and set the tone for the innings. The great thing about him is that how he has made up for lost opportunities. Against MI, he played out a maiden over upfront, but then hit back with a run of sixes to release the pressure. And, although the other batsmen may tend to struggle on certain surfaces, he will back his plan of attacking the bowling. In the game against Rajasthan Royals (RR), it looked a different pitch while he batted as he kept playing his shots.
Smith was initially labeled as someone who would only target the mid-wicket region. Over the years, he has evolved into someone who targets the areas in front of square. He can smash it down the ground with equal power and clear the infield with ease. He may not be counted in the league of Gayle or McCullum in terms of opening the batting in the format, but he brings great value to the side. In the years to come, he may actually walk into the group of the best T20 batsmen in the world.
Smith and McCullum may face a bigger test when they play in India and will have to open the batting at Chennai, where the surface is slow and conducive for spinners. However, you can expect them to play only one way and that is to take on the bowling. At the same time, Chennai would hope that they do not fail in tandem; else, their middle-order may have a lot to do.
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