cricket:image:1430433 [1400x934]
cricket:image:1430433 [1400x934] (Credit: BCCI)

Atl tico end season with win over Real Sociedad

Yashasvi Jaiswal is back. He will say he never went away, and his strike rate will agree. But for a run machine, IPL 2024 was lukewarm. Before Monday night.

Coming into his eighth game of the season, Jaiswal had scored 129 runs striking at 145.78, but only averaging 17.28. He was getting starts but was usually guilty of going too hard at the ball, losing his shape and his wicket in the process. He had failed to make it out of the powerplay six times out of seven, falling to pace on every occasion. Not having a fifty was also concerning, especially with everything being looked from a T20 World Cup point of view.

Should India take him to the World Cup? Should Rajasthan Royals think of giving him a break? Should Jaiswal change his approach? Is it a form slump?

On Monday, against one of his favourite IPL opponents, over 88 minutes and 60 balls, Jaiswal answered at least some of the questions: there was no form slump, and no need to change his approach. In Jaipur, Jaiswal hit his second century against Mumbai Indians in three innings, finishing with an unbeaten 104 at a strike rate of 173.33. And while the finishing was top-notch, the pacing of his innings was what set it apart.

Jaiswal had a strike rate of 110 in the first ten balls of his innings.

That went up to 180 after 20 balls.

By 30 balls, he had got to his maiden half-century of the season.

What had changed was how Jaiswal was allowing the ball to come on to his bat rather than go after it. He struck five fours and a six in the powerplay, all with the flourish and timing we are accustomed to.

"It's more the Yashasvi Jaiswal we know. I think he took his time early on, played some conventional shots and then we all know what he could do," Wasim Jaffer said on ESPNcricinfo's TimeOut. "He has everything in his armoury, but he just needed a little bit of time to bat out of that powerplay, which he did. Those failures helped him to realise that this is how he needs to approach a T20 innings."

Jaiswal scored his first boundary, a straight six over Gerald Coetzee's head, on the first ball of the fourth over. Coetzee didn't take to being treated like that kindly. What followed were four searing back-of-a-length balls bowled at around the 150kph mark. Jaiswal was rushed into a pull on the fifth ball of the over, with the top edge just clearing the wicketkeeper.

But it was the final delivery of that Coetzee over that would have pleased Jaiswal no end. A 151.1kph bolt was delivered around the length area on off stump. Jaiswal just stood tall and punched the ball through covers. #Jazball was on.

"I really enjoyed [batting] from the start, and I was just trying to make sure that I was watching the ball properly and playing my cricketing shots, which I think I did today," Jaiswal said after on the official broadcast the game. "I really enjoyed it, I really loved it. I am trying to keep doing what I do. Some days are tough, and some days are good. I was just playing - that is all. I didn't have anything in my mind."

He had a slice of luck when on 50, as Nehal Wadhera shelled a simple catch at long-off, and Jaiswal knew it was his night. No Mumbai bowler was spared - not even Jasprit Bumrah - as Jaiswal heaved him away for six over deep square leg followed by a four to fine leg. He was lethal against spinners, collecting 47 off 25 balls at a strike rate of 188, while he struck at 162.85 against the quicks.

It took Jaiswal 59 balls to reach his second IPL century, and as he removed his helmet and thumped the air, there was relief written all over his face. Three balls later, Royals had registered their seventh win of the season.

"He is the most exciting young player in world cricket at the moment. There are a couple out there, and he is right at the top of that conversation," Tom Moody said. "[An] all-format player, how he has grown so quickly, from his Under-19 journey to international cricket to IPL stardom is quite remarkable. It is a privilege to watch. Some of those cover drives today were right out of the top drawer."

And how did the team engage with Jaiswal when he was not among the runs?

"I don't think he needs anyone. He is always filled with a lot of confidence," Royals captain Sanju Samson said. "We knew that it is just a matter of one game. I think the way he batted in the powerplay, he was calm, composed and he knew that things are under control. We knew in the dugout that he is playing some [nice] cricketing shots today and he will be fine today. Really happy for him."

Rohit Sharma ended on the losing side but was one of the first to congratulate Jaiswal after the game. His runs are great for Royals, but also for India, after all. After an uncertain start to his season, Jaiswal will hope the worst is behind him, and that can only mean a stronger Royals unit. That's ominous for the other teams.