T20 has brought plenty of innovation to the game, not least in the kind of shots batters attempt as they look to target every part of the ground and beyond. Which one makes your eyes pop?
With due respect to MS Dhoni, Suryakumar's twist on the helicopter shot, the "helicopter flick", just might be more spectacular than the original. Suryakumar uses his wrists expertly to manipulate the ball to midwicket rather than long-on, and always brings a bit of swagger to the shot. The best version of his helicopter flick came during the fourth T20I against West Indies earlier this year in Florida. He walked across his stumps to an Obed McCoy delivery and casually flicked it for an 80m six
, somehow ending up with both feet in the air. It was audacious. It was so
It was a shot made famous initially by Kevin Pietersen, but few of the current generation hit it harder or further than Maxwell. As for many modern batters, to him it is just another shot, and when he is in form, it means he can access any part of the ground, especially against spinners, although he can play it against fast bowlers too. One particular execution of it, against Kuldeep Yadav, went 100 metres
into the stands in an ODI at Manuka Oval in 2020
. It brought to life the debate about whether the Laws need to be amended for when a batter effectively ends up mirroring their traditional stance. "It's up to the bowlers to combat that," Maxwell said. "The skills of bowlers have developed. The way batting is evolving, bowlers have to evolve in the same way. They're having to come up with different change-ups and different ways to stop batters, and with the way they shut down one side of the ground and whatnot."
In a decade's time, when we are all living in the metaverse as virtual avatars whose physical attributes have been bought in cryptocurrency, I'm spending all my dough on Rashid's right wrist (how come there isn't an NFT for it available already?). Its strength is apparent from the speed at which he can flip it over to magic a legbreak into a googly, but it is his "snake shot" that makes you want to X-ray his hand to check for elastic bands and titanium screws.
The snake shot, christened so by Rashid himself, is a variation of the helicopter shot. The bottom wrist whirrs in an upward arc to lift a full delivery, but in Rashid's version it then snaps back into place, taking the bat with it, leaving an impression of a snake striking at its prey and then recoiling - there is actually a video on YouTube
that shows Rashid playing the shot on one half of the screen and footage of a snake strike on the other to illustrate the similarity.
Rashid can play the shot with almost no backlift. He hit one off Alzarri Joseph
in the 2020 CPL
that looked similar to an ice-hockey slap shot: he began with his hands low and flicked his right wrist over his left to send the ball over square leg before bringing the bat back to its starting point.
In the 2022 IPL, he produced the shot several times
, most notably in a match-winning knock against Sunrisers Hyderabad
. Even as Pietersen, no stranger to batting innovation, implored Rashid to complete his follow-through on commentary, Rashid seemed determined to win some sort of competition with himself for the six hit with the least displacement of a bat from its starting point.
If the beauty of the original helicopter shot lay in its extravagance - Dhoni's bat travelled with such force above his head it often looked like he would topple over - the snake shot is minimalism at its most powerful.
I am not rating this shot on its effectiveness or logic because frankly I don't know how it will work out. I have seen it only twice, and Pope has played it only a handful of times: against Rashid Khan and the ones I watched against Shadab Khan
in the Vitality Blast. I am rating this because it is true innovation, in that I can't imagine anyone has done it before him.
Pope almost seems like he is walking at the legspinner but it is just one step of the back foot moving in front of the front foot. It is then that he plays the sweep. The actual sweep is played in the orthodox direction, just in front of square.
It possibly helps him get his foot outside the line, possibly gets his foot closer to the ball, but Pope says he doesn't know why he feels comfortable playing that sweep to legspinners. "I couldn't even tell you why, it's such an instinctive thing," he said to Wisden Cricket Monthly. "It just went through my head and I was like, 'That should work.'"
Old-school mantras tell you a short ball angling into a batter at 145kph leaves them with just two options: duck under it or take the bowler on with the hook. But Suryakumar Yadav does not believes in arcane rules. He's instinctive and calculating all at once, and with hand-eye coordination to die for. His ability to pick the length early and get inside the line without losing his base allows him several options. The first is the full-blooded hook, which he memorably executed off the first ball he faced in International cricket, off Jofra Archer. It sailed way over the long-leg boundary. The second is the scoop. He watches the ball right till the end and, as it almost passes him, brings his wrists into play to hit it fine, between the wicketkeeper and short fine leg. Then there's the ramp directly over the keeper's head to short deliveries bowled outside off. The position of his head is beside the line, allowing him to watch the ball until the last moment, before the late twirl that sends the ball sailing over the ropes.