In October 2017, with only a few people on the stands, Glenn Phillips played one of the most significant knocks of his nascent career till then. In Vizag, Phillips scored an unbeaten 140 off 130 balls against a strong India A side that had five international-capped bowlers. In more ways than one, it was to be the beginning of a spectacular journey for the South African-born New Zealand batter.
He was already an international player by then, having made his T20I debut earlier that year against South Africa - but it was in late 2017, Phillips started to dominate the circuit in a phlegmatic manner, which he has continued for the last four-odd years to culminate with an IPL call-up to Rajasthan Royals for the remainder of the 2021 season of the Indian Premier League.
Behind his success lies a very clear and classic understanding of the T20 phenomenon. Even though it all started with the 2016 Super Smash, the New Zealand international can truly thank the Caribbean Premier League for giving him the much-needed stage to grow since he first participated in 2017 as Jamaica Tallwahs’ fifth overseas player, alongside Shakib Al Hasan, Kumar Sangakkara, Mohammad Sami, and Imad Wasim.
In his debut season, he finished as the CPL’s second-highest run-scorer with 457 runs at 41.54 with a strike rate of 146.94. A 63-ball 109 was paired with two more half-centuries and a couple of 40s as Phillips showed the first signs of real potential to become the player he would be in the next few years. In the subsequent years, he became one of the trigger players for the Tallawahs - a side that had the likes of Chris Gayle and Andre Russell, making it one of the hottest sides in the tournament.
However, much before anything happened to his career, Phillips was a diligent and hard-working student, ready to empower himself as a beast waiting for his prey. Former Namibia coach Doug Watson, who had coaching stints with Mumbai Indians in the IPL 2009, gives a sneak-peak to how Phillips grew as a cricketer. Watson has extensively worked with Phillips over the years and understands his batting quite well.
“Glenn is a wonderful man and is very hard-working and puts the team ahead of everything else,” Watson told Cricket.com. “When in the nets, he is not afraid of trying different things, be innovative. When he made his debut, he was so very young but then he learned to deal with that and CPL provided him with that stage to grow.”
It is very much true. Despite having a poor 2021, Phillips still averages 35.04 in his 49-match CPL career, in which he has accumulated 11 fifty-plus scores. Only in 2017 did he average less than 30. An accumulated strike rate of 134.8 talks about a gifted player made for the long haul. “Glenn’s attitude to his own game brought about this success. He became very clear on how he wanted to practice and even became very particular about his weaknesses. It is always wonderful working with him because as a coach, you expect your wards to be at their 100% but Glenn is always 100+10. He never compromises on anything.”
It is a fascinating insight because anyone who has watched the younger version of Phillips ought to witness his struggle against short and back of length balls. However, years later, he averages 58.9 on pull shots and strikes at 276. Despite being a bottom-handed player, he has an average of 71.5 on straight drive and 51 on square drive. He has been able to do that because of the insane hours he has put in, or as Watson mentioned, the ability to “push the envelope without compromising on the very essence of what has made him a gifted player”.
Rajasthan Royals have lost Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, and worse, Jofra Archer to injuries and other issues, and in such a situation, Phillips provides an assurance beyond limitation. To judge his importance to the set-up, here is a pure fact. Even in a year, he looked bereft of ideas, he has nine fifty-plus scores and is averaging 37.26 at a strike rate of 153.6. You really can’t have a better “out-of-form” player to bolster your squad.
However, the sin of the first half wouldn’t really be kind to Rajasthan Royals. They have only six points from seven matches and have lost some of the key players to injuries. There would be no Jos Buttler either to provide the kind of assurance and that puts Phillips’ position in focus. It is over to him to resurrect the campaign and carve his own distinct niche ahead of the mega auction.