Badrinath, Super Kings' go-to man
Balance is S Badrinath's forte on and off the field. When it comes to the topic of him hardly getting a knock for table-toppers Chennai Super Kings in the sixth edition of the IPL, that balance comes to the fore.
"To be honest, it is definitely not easy. To not be able to bat every game [while] playing as a batsman is something that's really not enjoyable," Badrinath said a day after Super Kings beat Pune Warriors. "I think I've got used to it a little bit, even though I would love to get more knocks and contribute with the bat."
"Fortunately, we have a strong batting line-up. We have some of the best Twenty20 batsmen in our line-up, so with the flexibility that we have in our batting order, whenever we get off to a good start, I know it's difficult for me to get a look-in. And I would always put the team's priority over my personal aspirations."
Badrinath, along with captain MS Dhoni and IPL's highest run-getter, Suresh Raina, has been a constant in virtually every Super Kings game. While Raina has batted in 87 innings in 91 matches and Dhoni has played 77 innings in 88 matches, Badrinath has played 64 innings in 87 matches.
The difference is prominent when Badrinath's statistics are compared to players with the most IPL appearances. With 87 matches, Badrinath shares the fourth spot along with Virat Kohli, behind Raina (91 games), Dhoni and Rohit Sharma (88 each). None of these batsmen, except Badrinath, have played less than 75 innings.
At the end of IPL 2011, Badrinath had had a bat in 50 of the 62 matches he played. Last year saw him get nine knocks in 15 appearances while this year he has taken guard in just five of Super Kings' 10 games so far.
These numbers have a lot to do with his role at Super Kings as well. Badrinath has been utilised primarily as a rescue man, someone who walks in whenever Super Kings lose a couple of early wickets.
"Whenever the openers get going, it gets difficult [for me] to get a bat," he said. "During IPL 2009, in South Africa, Matthew Hayden was in such stupendous form that once he got his eye in, he was finishing games for us. That made it difficult for me to get a bat consistently.
"Similarly, Michael Hussey has been in such great form this year that he has been playing the sheet anchor and the aggressor's roles to perfection. And with Dhoni being phenomenal with the bat, I don't mind not contributing in terms of runs to the team's victory."
Against Warriors, he came in to bat after the openers had been dismissed early and his crucial 75-run stand with Raina set up a platform for Dhoni to finish the innings on a high note. Badrinath realises that, more often than not, he will end up being the silent contributor to the cause of the team. With the Super Kings outfit "remaining almost unchanged through the six seasons", players know their roles, with little room for confusion, he adds.
"T20 is a format where the top three batsmen invariably get the big scores," he said. "But even without big numbers, players can make significant contributions. I would rather see Super Kings at the top of the table, instead of batting in every match."
Badrinath, who made his debut against South Africa in 2010, was recalled to the national side for the Test series against New Zealand last year. However, he was dropped without being given an opportunity.
A prolific run-scorer at the domestic level, he entered IPL 2013 on the back of a mediocre season (by his standards), scoring 347 runs in six games at an average of 49.57. The IPL, thus, is the last opportunity this season for him to prove that he is still in form. But the 32-year-old isn't too concerned about it.
"Playing for Super Kings and playing for Tamil Nadu are two different things," he said. "And even though I have been able to get limited opportunities with the bat so far, the IPL isn't over yet.
"As for the Ranji season, it's true I haven't had a [typical] Badrinath season, but the fact that I missed two games due to injury can't be ignored. Besides, I don't understand the double standards that are applied. Why are those who have scored just about as many runs as me without missing a match considered to have had a very good season and why am I told otherwise? Why is it that for Badrinath, a good season means getting a thousand runs and for others, even 500 runs are exceptional?"
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo