At the end of the IPL auction, SRH seemed to have assembled a very capable squad. However, one option very few had taken note of was of a certain South African. Someone who had been raising heads in the domestic circuit for accumulating runs at a brisk rate.
Cut to IPL 2023, and Heinrich Klaasen made his debut for Hyderabad in their fourth game. Since then, he has scored 430 runs at a strike rate of 179 and an average of 53.
After having a fairly decent 2021 and 2022, he seems to have cut a corner in 2023.
While his proficiency against spin is something Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal will testify to, a lot of this year’s riches have to do with his improved game against pace.
Against RCB, we witnessed something similar. He went hell-for-glory against spinners, without really slowing down against pace. In fact, his strike rate of 241 against spin is the second-highest for an SRH batter in an innings (min. 30 runs scored).
This season, he’s unfortunately been the lone wolf in SRH’s pack. No one else comes even remotely close to matching his numbers.
In some sense, SRH’s lacklustre performances have done sheer injustice to Klaasen’s form. Outside the South African batter, the rest of SRH’s batters have scored at a dismal average of 23.5 and a below-par strike rate of 127.
And the game against RCB was no different. While Klaasen notched up his maiden IPL ton, the remaining Hyderabad batters only mustered 77 of 69 balls.
Should RCB have done anything differently?
The wicket-keeper batter seems to favur one side of the ground massively. He has a strike rate of 220 while playing towards the leg side, and it goes down to 140 while playing on the off side.
Despite this, RCB bowlers allowed him to target his favoured side more often than not. 28 out of the 51 balls he faced tonight were played towards the leg side. And of these 28, he scored 69 runs. He scored relatively slower on the other side of the wicket, managing just 35 of 22 balls.
RCB did not make it any easier for themselves by making him face way too many balls of spin. Nearly 60% of all balls faced in the boundary-laced innings were from spinners. He scored 70 of 29 balls against them, as opposed to just 31 of 22 balls against pace.
After losing two early wickets, most batters would look to build an innings and consolidate. Being sent up the order for the first time, Klaasen was having none of that.
He has also scored the most runs in the first 10 balls amongst batters who haven’t gotten out in this phase. Moreover, his strike rate of 165 in the first 10 balls is also the highest for any batter in IPL 2023.
At the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, he once again did not let the scoreboard pressure get to him. He got off the blocks very quickly and reached the 20-run-mark in double quick time.
The spread out fields post the powerplay did not deter him. His strike rate of 175 in this phase is the third-best for any batter, and his average of 98.3 is the best. To be able to score so quickly with such consistency is SKY-esque.
Against RCB, it was a continuation of the same template, as he plundered 59 runs at a strike rate of 184 between the 7th and 16th over, without being dismissed.
While right-arm pacers have gone him out the most (6), he has a healthy strike rate of 166 against them.
Only because there's nothing discernable in terms of weaknesses, we have to bring up how he has fared against left-arm pacers and right-arm offspinners. Against both these types, he has a sub 130 strike rate. But, these numbers come with a huge caveat. He's faced only 17 and 21 balls, respectively, against the two bowling types.
The kind of purple patch he’s in, no specific lines, lengths, or bowling types have worked against him. As Klaasen himself mentioned in the mid-innings break, “The idea is to keep things simple. Keep my head still and my hands still.”
With just a game to go, SRH only have pride to play for. And with the match happening at Wankhede, Klaasen will be smacking his lips to perform an encore.