New Delhi:With 576 runs in 11 innings at a strike rate of 157.8, there is no doubt that Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Faf du Plessis has been the stand-out batter of IPL 2023.
In a batting line-up where Bangalore's batting has been hugely dependent on him, Virat Kohli and Glenn Maxwell, du Plessis being the upfront enforcer in power-play has been refreshing to witness, according to former South Africa skipper Graeme Smith.
"He's played so well and been great to watch. He's really upped his aggression at the top of the order. He's 38 right now and is looking very fit and has managed to adapt and keep up with youngsters in terms of the way there is need to play. We spoke about not having anchor batters, and he's turned himself into an attacking, dynamic batter at the top of the order," said Smith, an IPL expert for JioCinema, in a select virtual media interaction.
The statistics also back up du Plessis' transformation into an attacking batter in IPL 2023, especially in power-play. In IPL 2022, his power-play strike-rate was only 104.68, but in the ongoing season, it has jumped to 169.93.
His middle-overs strike-rate in IPL 2023 is at 138.91, before it shoots up to 247.05 in death overs. But what stands out as well in du Plessis' scintillating run of form is his improved strike-rate against spin, which is at 130.53 in IPL 2023, compared to 126.66 last year.
"Plus, he also has added consistency as well, which is terrific. He's been great for RCB; plus his leadership has been good and brings a lot of calmness to the team. So, it's been terrific to watch him," added Smith.
Despite Du Plessis' playing the aggressor role against spinners, Kohli's slowdown post power-play hasn't been brushed under the carpet. It is an area which has been well-documented, seen from Kohli striking at 108.08 against spinners in IPL 2023, bringing his role of being the anchor in the innings under scanner.
Smith feels if Bangalore find more support with the bat, then Kohli can look to up the ante, especially against spinners.
"There's a couple of things that standout for me. The sort of Indian batters around Virat, you just have to look at stats of those who have 1000 runs for RCB, and it's way short. They have struggled to find a number three batter despite trying few combinations and number five-six has been an area of weakness for them," he said.
"A lot of pressure is then put on Kohli, du Plessis and Glenn Maxwell to be the main consistent performers. All three of them have had really good seasons so far and if RCB find some areas of support, maybe that can free up Virat more.
Against spin, we know Virat doesn't really sweep much, he plays generally down the ground. You can probably set some fields and control his boundary count after the six overs and that's maybe an area that he can assess," he added.
Delhi Capitals head coach Ricky Ponting recently called anchor batters a dying breed in the shortest format. As IPL 2023 records a plethora of 200+ totals, Smith believes the game is slowly starting to move on from anchoring the innings approach in T20 batting.
"Look, I agree with Ricky in terms of his sentiment. The only thing I would add is conditions always need to be taken into account. Certainly in India, there is no place for the anchor batter, as seen from the scores in this year's IPL being high with impact players there and sometimes 215-220 has been needed on certain grounds," the former South African captain said.
"The way these games have changed is, powerplay is slightly more manageable because there are more fielders in the ring. It's where the fielders go out and spinners come in, batters like Sky (Suryakumar Yadav) have really changed the game and are so dynamic that they score all around the ground.
They are able to sweep, hit over extra cover � makes it extremely difficult to bowl to them and are mentally looking to take on the game all the time. In India and pretty much around the world, certainly agree, especially with England internationally leading the way," he concluded.