In IPL 2023, Yashasvi Jaiswal made 625 runs at a strike rate of 164 – spectacular numbers, undoubtedly, but they tell only part of the story.
Yashasvi Jaiswal had a stunning season even if one goes by conventional numbers. He had the most runs (625) and average (48.08) and fifty-plus scores (six) and fours (82) and sixes (26) for the Rajasthan Royals, and got their only hundred.
His strike rate of 164 was Rajasthan’s quickest among those who faced a hundred balls; and against the Kolkata Knight Riders, he slammed the fastest fifty in IPL history.
While all that makes it an exceptional outing, they tell only part of the story: for Jaiswal’s season was not merely outstanding: it was unprecedented.
The weak spot of an innings
As T20 cricket evolved, batters began to take risks earlier than they did, but they are still hesitant to take on the bowling right from the first over.
Perhaps it has to do with traditional coaching; or perhaps the fact that the first over brings not one but two new batters at the crease; but despite the field restrictions, the first over has consistently remained the lowest-scoring in the entire innings.
The over-by-over scoring in the 2023 IPL has followed a pattern that has remained a constant in the IPL, or even all Twenty20: caution in the first over, acceleration during the powerplay, stock-taking once the field spreads out, and acceleration through the rest of the innings.
There have been standalone exceptions to this, but over a reasonable large number of matches, the pattern has held. As is evident, even in the seventh over – Twenty20’s version of the F5 button – the scoring rate is quicker than in the first over.
Even in the 2023 IPL, teams have scored at 6.10 in the first over. For the seventh over, that number reads 7.28.
Bowling sides have often taken advantage of this. In the IPL, the Royals – Jaiswal’s franchise – were among the pioneers: across the 2009 and 2010 editions, they asked Yusuf Pathan to bowl the first over of an innings 11 times.
The idea might have been to push opening batters – used to facing pace first up – to get an over of spin before the attack began. That way, one of the four overs from the weakest bowler would have been out of the way without fuss.
As the graph above shows, the first over is when the batter is least likely to attack. In the 2023 IPL, Jaiswal turned the tables by taking on the bowlers without the intention to get ‘set’.
Jaiswal plundered runs from the very onset. In fact, his first-over strike rate across IPL 2023 has been 175 – slightly higher than what he managed over the rest of the innings. No one else has even managed a strike rate of 130 in the first over.
Not only has Jaiswal scored at a rate substantially quicker than anyone else’s but he has also faced the most first-over balls (63), though Wriddhiman Saha (61) and Virat Kohli (56) have also crossed the 50-mark.
Off the 63 balls he has faced, Jaiswal has put away 19 for fours and four for sixes, which amounts to 102 in boundaries alone. And despite the hitting, he has got out only once inside the first over. For perspective, Saha and Kohli, the only others to have faced 50 balls, have got out three times each.
But all that is about the 2023 season: where does Jaiswal stand when pitted against the first-over hitters of other seasons?
Jaiswal not only tops the list: he has been six percent quicker than Virender Sehwag in 2010 and 11 percent over KL Rahul in 2018, the next two names on the list.
Adam Gilchrist in 2009 is the only other batter to have made 60 runs at 150 in the first over in a single IPL season. And apart from Gilchrist, who matched Jaiswal’s 110 runs, no one has made three-figure runs in the first over.
It is not a one-off either, for in IPL 2022, Jaiswal had scored 51 first-over runs at a strike rate of 159. That also brings us to the question of the best batter in the first over in the history of the tournament.
Jaiswal has struck at 150 in the first over of the IPL. Sehwag (128) is the only one to have scored at over 125, while seven others make the three-figure list.
It is not a flash in the pan either: only 20 batters have faced more first-over balls than his 193 in IPL history, but only seven have gone above the 300-mark.
For years, the bowlers typically have had the buffer of the first over before the onslaught began. Jaiswal is set to push them out of that comfort zone.