Fakhar Smash-and-Grab Eclipses Williamson-Ravindra Duet

Fakhar Zaman (Image: TheRealPCB/X)

Bharath Ramaraj at the Chinnaswamy Stadium

It was around noon in Bengaluru and the sun had peeked out. Kane Wiilliamson was about to reach yet another ODI fifty. The stadium seemed almost 80 per cent full and there were enough fans cheering for the New Zealand skipper, with his name written on the back of their shirts. Just that something else made you sit up and take notice.
A busy cop, who was walking back and forth through the stands, had taken a seat to witness the fifty. That made you think of Williamson’s special prowess that caught the attention of not just the spectators but also a policeman, who had seemed disinterested in the action happening in the middle. Maybe the loud cheers for Williamson took him by surprise and he wanted to have a glimpse of this successful sportsman’s art. Whatever the reason, Williamson seems to be loved by everyone in the cricketing landscape, especially in India.
Perhaps his mannerisms and sticking to classical batsmanship is what endears him to a cricket romantic. After every over, just zoom in on Williamson, the batsman. He walks away a tad towards the square-leg umpire, taps the bat somewhere near the middle of the pitch, rubs a little bit of dirt with his shoes inside the crease and then he is ready to go again. It is basically his way of going between switch-on and switch-off modes. Or rather, to be in a meditative state.
And then you focused on his sound defence and temperament. In the 12th over, Haris Rauf banged one short. A batter born in this century might have played with more adventure, employing the hook. Not so Williamson. He kept his eyes on the ball all the way through and arched his back as much as he could to leave it with grace. The watertight defence is blended with a dash of splendour in his strokeplay as well.
That is his technique and method. But what about the casual cricket fan who is more likely interested in taking selfies and munching popcorn, alongside watching a bit of cricket? Maybe his calm demeanour brings a smile to the faces of some. Even at the presentation ceremony of the 2019 World Cup, he had the serenity of a monk amid all the bedlam and chaos. Four years later, when New Zealand slipped to a gut-wrenching loss based on the DLS Method against Pakistan in the 2023 World Cup, he still cut a dignified presence at the post-match presentation.
Alongside Williamson, there was another New Zealander who played an incandescent innings at the Chinnaswamy: Rachin Ravindra. The crowd also took to Ravindra, as for many of them he is a local boy. His extended family stays in Jayanagar, which is hardly 30 minutes away from the stadium. There were enough chants of “Rachin, Rachin” right through his enterprising hundred.
So, compared to Williamson, how did Ravindra go about stroking his third ODI hundred? Although Ravindra is a left-hand batter, he has one similarity with Williamson’s batting – taking a stride forward. Williamson, however, is always ready to shift over to the back foot in order to play shorter length deliveries. Not so Ravindra. He is invariably on the front foot, and that includes while facing bumpers. Probably, the bowler would visualise shortening the length and angling it away from over the wicket to induce an edge. 
Just for a moment, in the 29th over, you wondered whether Ravindra would find himself in trouble. He had prodded forward to a short delivery that had good height on it. Ravindra then stamped his authority by nonchalantly ramping it over the ‘keeper’s head. A thought came to the mind – How did he do it? Ravindra didn’t take even one step back but was still able to pull off a miraculous shot.
Probably Ravindra is blessed with bountiful skills. In reality, more than skills, the secret behind Ravindra’s rise has been hard work in his own practice zones. Just to unearth some evidence about Ravindra’s work ethic, take a trip back to 2017. He had failed in the Under-19 World Cup a year earlier. Despite that, he was back to practicing in the nets in Lincoln. He didn’t stop there as he took a flight to Bengaluru and soon landed up in Anantapur – A place that he has visited since 2013 to hone his skills against spin.
Good judges of the game in New Zealand also say that Ravindra is seen practicing against the Dukes ball during the winter. It can’t be a coincidence that in his first County game for Durham this year, he compiled a double ton. If Ravindra continues to improve by small percentages, he could very well become a successor to Williamson as New Zealand’s next leader.  
On the day, the triumvirate also included Fakhar Zaman. In sharp contrast to the two New Zealanders, Fakhar’s methods are rustic in nature. A mere glance at his grip, and it feels as if he is set to chop some wood with his willow. When Fakhar hangs up his boots, you may not find too many songs of praise written about his career. The back foot ends up somewhere outside the line of leg stump. But if a bowler errs in line and length by a small margin, Fakhar pounces on it in a flash.
New Zealand’s rather motley assortment of bowlers understood that soon enough. He clubbed as many as 11 sixes in total and piloted Pakistan to a famous win. Fakhar also seems to be a man for the big occasion. In the 2017 Champions Trophy final against India, he compiled a game-breaking hundred. Some four years later, he ended up with 193 against the likes of Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada. In the next game of that series against South Africa, he was at it again with a crucial hundred.
Earlier in 2023, his 180 was at the heart of Pakistan chasing down a humongous total against New Zealand. Unfortunately, that was followed by a string of low scores, and he was subsequently shown the exit door. There was a school of thought that, at 33, Fakhar’s days were numbered. But he has once again proved his detractors wrong by bouncing back in style.
By the time Fakhar had smashed his 11th and final six, there was a drizzle at the Chinnaswamy. Soon, that drizzle became heavier. With the resumption of play looking unlikely, it was time to pen down a few words on the three musketeers of the Chinnaswamy. Sadly, two of them had to end up on the losing side, with Fakhar’s axe-wielding approach making the headlines. The bittersweet nature of sport.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *