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Shahrukh Khan, the famous name who’s much more than a one-hit wonder

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Shahrukh Khan is a name that has its own following in India and across the globe. But it seems the actor has to make way, for there’s a new SRK in town.

After an intense bid that saw cricketer Shahrukh Khan’s price go up to INR 5.25 crore during the IPL 2021 auctions, Punjab Kings co-owner and Bollywood actress Preity Zinta went up in jubilation and exclaimed, “We got Shahrukh!” Most knew exactly why she was chirpier than ever — Shahrukh, the actor, and Zinta had created many magic moments on-screen with their nonchalant chemistry, and bagging Shahrukh, the cricketer, was a reunion of sorts for her.

The ones without a clue, however, could just have assumed that the hysteria was reserved for snapping up a mighty talented player, who had created waves in domestic cricket in the last few seasons. They wouldn’t have been wrong.

So, who is Shahrukh Khan?

When Shahrukh heaved a short ball by Venkatesh Iyer towards deep midwicket for a six to hand Punjab Kings a win by the barest of margins against Kolkata Knight Riders earlier this year, ending on 22* off just nine balls, all scrutiny was on the franchise for not giving him a consistent run in the UAE-leg of the tournament.

In the India phase, Shahrukh ended with knocks of 6, 47, 15*, 22, 13, 0, and 4 but while the numbers are unappealing, factors such as his entry point and strike-rate need to be considered as well. In the seven games, he ended with a strike rate of more than 130 three times, including striking at 300 against Delhi Capitals, when he took just five balls to make 15.

Shahrukh had displayed that he isn’t just a big-hitter against Chennai Super Kings when he dug deep to score a 36-ball 47 after his team had collapsed to 57-6. The player steadied the ship and was batting at 27 off 23 at one point before teeing off in the end to take them to a score of 106, which had seemed improbable at one stage.

Despite performing in his limited chances, he was benched for the first three games that PBKS played in the UAE. When he was finally given an opportunity, he immediately put on that show against KKR, which was followed by a knock of 16 in 11 deliveries against Royal Challengers Bangalore. His initial omission was straightaway questioned, and it continues to leave fans in wonderment every time Shahrukh plays a knock for the ages, as he did during the SMAT final on Monday, hitting a last-ball six to take Tamil Nadu to their third title.

In 50 T20 matches, the batter has scored 547 runs at a strike rate of 136.40. In wins, the strike rate increases to 144.84, which goes up to 145.55 in chases. It indicates that Shahrukh has the tendency of raising his game in pressure moments, performing when the chances of success are tougher.

He first displayed his potential in the SMAT earlier this year in February, a tournament where he only needed four innings to get IPL teams interested. The middle-order player started the tournament with 12 in four balls and carried on to get an unbeaten 18 in just 10 deliveries against Odisha. In the quarters, when Tamil Nadu were struggling at 66-5 in 13 overs while chasing 135, Shahrukh was the saviour, scoring 40* in 19 deliveries with the help of five fours and two sixes. He played another defining knock in the final, scoring 18* in seven balls to further show his temperament in tough phases.

What has worked for Shahrukh over the years has been the ability to identify his role based on his strengths, and work towards polishing those strong points. A natural hitter against pace, he realised the need to bulk up and work on generating power if he wanted to smash the quicks in the death constantly. He got together with strength and conditioning coach Azhariah Prabhakar, who helped transform Shahrukh from a plump and chubby youngster to a formidable presence at the crease.

Dinesh Karthik, his skipper in Tamil Nadu, too has played a huge role in Shahrukh’s rise. A reliable finisher himself, Karthik wanted to groom a youngster to take over his role in the side. The wicketkeeper would challenge Shahrukh with match scenarios during practice, giving him a specific number of runs to get in fixed deliveries.

The simulation during nets has helped Shahrukh emerge as one of the best batters at the death from India. In the last five overs of an innings, the player has a strike rate of 179.20 in all T20 games since January 2020, scoring 224 runs off 125 balls in 14 innings. In the last two editions of the IPL, his strike rate of 161.02 in the death overs is the fifth-best among India middle-order batters who have faced at least 50 deliveries. He has a slightly better strike rate than his mentor Karthik, who is just below him on the list, striking at 160.67 in the last five overs of the competition since 2020.

Working on his muscles to smash the fast bowlers at the death is also working wonders: he has a strike rate of 192 against right-arm fast bowlers since January 2020 in all T20 games, and 171.9 against the left-armers. Not the best striker against the slower bowlers, Shahrukh has been asked to face plenty of spin in the Tamil Nadu nets, as the team looks to make him an even bigger threat.

With India struggling to find finishers who can replace Hardik Pandya in the side, Shahrukh has emerged as a strong candidate to take over the job in the next few seasons. By ending up on the victorious side more often than not, he has displayed that there is plenty to be excited about, the least being the possible presence of two superstars by the name of Shahrukh Khan from India. No pressure, kid! None at all!

 

The post Shahrukh Khan, the famous name who’s much more than a one-hit wonder appeared first on Wisden.

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