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Match Analysis

Finisher Shahrukh embraces T20 attitude as he repays Punjab Kings' faith

He does not have a remarkable individual record in the role and will want to take this performance as a launching pad for something special

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
During the innings break, M Shahrukh Khan was interviewed by the official broadcaster. He ended the interview by rubbing his hand on the grass and showing the camera "quite a bit" of dew, which had made batting easier as the game progressed. He expected a straightforward chase after the Punjab Kings bowlers - thanks in no small measure to his two-take catches at the boundary - had restricted hosts Lucknow Super Giants to 159.
The ground staff must have run the rope and undertaken other dew treatments during that break, which resulted in the pitch retaining some of the difficulty at the start of the chase. Almost an hour and a half later, Shahrukh walked in with 38 runs still required in 4.1 overs and four wickets in hand.
Ravi Bishnoi, for some reason underutilised by Super Giants behind the two fingerspinners Krishnappa Gowtham and Krunal Pandya, was using the bigger leg-side boundary beautifully with his natural turn in to the right-hand batters.
Shahrukh does not make sense if you look at traditional metrics. He has never scored a fifty in T20 cricket. Yet this was his 24th IPL match in two seasons and a bit. He has played 45 other matches. He averages 19.02 and strikes at 130.87. His average innings is a 14-ball 19. Yet he gets picked by his state side and his IPL side regularly as a specialist batter.
That is hard data. Visual data of Shahrukh suggests a batter who bats lower down the order, doesn't get many balls to face and tends to go for it from ball one. Yet, if that doesn't translate into cold numbers, it points towards execution inefficiency.
Ball one on the night for him was from Mark Wood, who at that point had figures of 2.5-0-16-1. He had time to visualise it because the previous wicket had brought on a time-out. Shahrukh's response was just a natural reaction to the ball. It was in the slot, it deserved to be hit, and he hit it over long-on for six. It is credit to him, and the team management, that Shahrukh had no encumbrance that might come with an unremarkable individual record.
Shahrukh told the same commentators later that all he wanted was to be blank and react to the ball, which is what he trains for. "I just wanted to keep my mindset really simple," Shahrukh said. "I just wanted to react to the ball. I think my practice is paying off. I am reacting properly at practice to each and every ball I play. That's the reason it's paying off here."
Shahrukh said his starting point is to hit straight, and if the ball is not there, still try to hit it but adjust accordingly. "[That's because] I am powerful," he said. "If I go too cheeky, I don't think it will work for me. So, I just have one thing on my mind. I look to play straight. If anything is here and there, I try and adjust. It's good that it's paying off, though."
To his credit, Bishnoi - bowling the last over because he was not introduced until the 15th over - bowled such a length that Shahrukh could neither hit him down the ground nor go inside-out for five of the six balls he bowled to Shahrukh. It was to what would be the last ball of the match Shahrukh managed to go to wide long-off, the shorter side.
Shahrukh's 23 off 10 drew praise from Player of the Match, Sikandar Raza, who got frustrated with Bishnoi's bowling and ended up holing out. "When I got out, there were a few demons in my head," Raza said. "Credit to Shahrukh for the way he finished the game. It would have been nice to get a fifty but had we not won, I don't think I would have felt this good. Much, much credit goes to Shahrukh for finishing the game the way he did."
It will be a moment of relief for Shahrukh that he has managed to carry his side through to a win. He has won only one Player-of-the-Match award. For an IPL team to be backing him so, Shahrukh surely has the skill and the attitude for this format? He will want to take this performance as a launching pad for something special because this format and IPL teams aren't really known for patience.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo