As the top four teams in the Indian Premier League standings play for a place in the final on June 1, it's time for the big hitters to come to the fore.
It's not all about the batting, of course. A stingy economy rate can reap rewards too. But it's the swashbuckling batsmen that put the runs on the board in T20, and they are gearing up to end on a high.
With just Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians left in the final stage of the season, here's a lowdown on the top batsmen for each team.
|IPL Playoff Fixtures and Bracket|
|Qualifier 1||May 28||Kings XI Punjab vs. Kolkata Knight Riders|
|Eliminator||May 28||Chennai Super Kings vs. Mumbai Indians|
|Qualifier 2||May 30||Loser of Qualifier 1 vs. Winner of Eliminator|
|Final||June 1||Winner of Qualifier 1 vs. Winner of Qualifier 2|
1. Robin Venu Uthappa, Kolkata Knight Riders
India's right-handed batsman is not only the biggest run scorer in his team, but also the whole of the IPL, racking up 613 runs in 14 innings, with a batting average of 47.15.
The feat is even more remarkable considering Uthappa was bounced around the order for the first five matches of the season and was bowled for a first-ball duck in the last of those. Uthappa was then given the chance to open the batting and the rest is history, as Amitava Das Gupta of The Times of India explains:
In nine matches since he took charge at the top of the order, Uthappa hasn't failed even once, notching up four fifties with his lowest score being 40. And significantly, Uthappa has broken new ground by becoming the first KKR batsman to scale the 600-run peak in a single edition of IPL.
The only downside for Uthappa is that he is the only Kolkata batsman in the top 20 of the batting rankings, per ESPN Cricinfo, and that carries with it huge responsibility.
2. Dwayne Romel Smith, Chennai Super Kings
Right-handed opener Smith tops the charts for Chennai with 535 runs in 14 innings and is second in the overall rankings. The West Indies international, who has a batting average of 38.21, became the first batsman to record five fifties in the IPL this season, but he is not just a big hitter.
He can also dig in and occupy the crease, as he proved in a four-wicket win over Eliminator opponents Mumbai Indians earlier in the season. Smith scored a 51-ball 57 to lay the foundation of the victory despite not being at his best. It was a stand lauded by his skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who told reporters:
"Smith batted more patiently than usual, recognising his strong areas, and capitalising on them. He set up the run chase for us."
Smith much prefers to smash sixes, however, and he has hit 34 so far, a total more than twice that of Uthappa.
3. Glenn Maxwell, Kings XI Punjab
Australian right-hand batsman Glenn Maxwell, who has racked up 533 runs in 13 innings so far this season, per ESPN Cricinfo, edges out South African David Miller as Kings XI's leading batsman. Between them they have accumulated almost 1,000 runs for the league leaders.
Maxwell tops the charts with 34 sixes thus far this season and a batting average of 41.00. Although he is yet to make a hundred, he has come close on numerous occasions, scoring 95 twice. However, the middle-order slogger has struggled, relatively speaking, in the latter stages of the season and appears to have developed an Achilles' heel, as Tashi Lundup of the Indian Express explains:
"The Australian has been cleaned up by leg-spinners in this period. Starting with Bangalore’s Yuzhvendra Chahal, Maxwell has fallen to Piyush Chawla, Imran Tahir, Amit Mishra and Shreyas Gopal."
However, he's still assured of his place in the IPL team of the season. Few would bet against him getting that hundred before the season is out.
4. Rohit Gurunath Sharma, Mumbai Indians
Left-handed Kiwi Corey Anderson may have got the headlines recently for an unbeaten 95 off only 44 balls as Mumbai secured a playoff place in the final league game of the season, but it is skipper Rohit Sharma who leads the team in runs. His 370 runs in 14 innings leaves him way down the overall IPL list in 12th, but that is largely down to a horrific start to the campaign for his team, who suffered five back-to-back losses.
However, Mumbai are back in form, and it's often left to Sharma to finish off the good work of his team-mates at the tail end of the innings. A spectacular 40 from only 19 deliveries against Rajasthan Royals last week is proof.
The right-handed batsman is a calm and important influence on the team, as well as the scoring.
There will be plenty of fireworks as we head toward the IPL final, and the destination of the trophy could well be decided by the big hitting of one of these four men, all of whom are hoping to go out with a bang.