Chigumbura shows India what they lack

Glenn Maxwell, Shahid Afridi, Elton Chigumbura, Aaron Finch. What's the answer to this connect-the-dots question?

They are the only four batsmen to score 500 or more runs in T20 internationals at a 150-plus strike rate. Chigumbura isn't as big a name as the other three, but he joined their ranks on Saturday, when his unbeaten 26-ball 54 against India lifted his strike rate from 147.51 to 150.59.

With that cut-off of 500 T20I runs, the top ten strike rates belong to three Australians, two West Indians, one batsman each from Pakistan, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and two Zimbabweans, Chigumbura and Malcolm Waller. Interestingly - and we will return to this topic - no Indian is part of this list.

As the table shows, Chigumbura's hitting stats compare favourably with some of the best in the game, but the one number that is truly remarkable is his six-hitting frequency: he clears the boundary once every 11.04 balls, which is the second-best rate in that list behind Chris Gayle.

Chigumbura hit seven sixes in his innings against India - and only one four - and his method was simplicity itself, based, much like Gayle's, on stillness. Not for him the quicksilver darts around the crease of a Maxwell or an AB de Villiers. Instead, he stood upright, bat up like a baseballer, kept his head as still as possible, and established a stable hitting position with small, decisive foot movements. The only premeditated movements he made were to step out of his crease to the spinners or to step back in his crease against the quicks to give himself a better chance of getting under yorkers or low full-tosses.

Otherwise, whether it was a quicker ball from the legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal - clocked at 115kph - that he flat-batted over long-off, or a slower ball from Jasprit Bumrah that he waited for and clubbed over midwicket, Chigumbura was always balanced, with a wide, firm base.

That base gave Chigumbura a source of awesome power, and six of his seven sixes needed no help from the pulled-in boundary ropes at the Harare Sports Club. One of them, a straight loft off Jaydev Unadkat, hit the stadium roof and bounced out.

There are ways to deny Chigumbura, of course. Even Scotland showed this, during the World T20. Chigumbura had struck an unbeaten 30 off 13 balls, with three sixes, in his previous innings against Hong Kong, but found it difficult to counter the wide yorkers that Safyaan Sharif and Josh Davey bowled to him, turning his stillness into a disadvantage by making him reach for the ball.

But the margins are small; bowl a little too close to Chigumbura, or not full enough, and the ball can go flying over long-off. Bowl too wide, the umpire signals wide.

As his hitting record shows - not his batting record, which says he only averages 21.25 - Chigumbura's method has worked over 45 matches, against all kinds of attacks. His record against the traditional top eight - all Test-playing opponents minus Bangladesh - is actually better than his overall record.

His 26-ball effort on Saturday lifted Zimbabwe to 170. Had he scored at the strike rate of his team-mates - who scored 107 between them, off 94 balls - they would have made 145. Had one Indian batsman matched Chigumbura's hitting, they would probably have won at a canter.

But they did not have a Chigumbura in their side. They have never really had one. Applying the cut-off of 500 runs, no Indian batsman has scored as quickly as him, with Yuvraj Singh's 136.95 sitting on top of their strike-rate charts. Lower the cut-off to 200 runs, and only two batsmen, Yusuf Pathan and Virender Sehwag, have scored at a 140-plus strike rate.

India's squad on this tour has plenty of batting quality, but no real T20 hitter. MS Dhoni had the tools to be one in the early part of his career, when T20 was still taking its baby steps, but his T20I record - a strike rate of 121.69, a four every 12 balls and a six every 27 balls - shows he hasn't been one for quite some time. The definition of hitter, moreover, has more to do with approach than ability. Chigumbura's method is based on maximising his six-hitting potential. Dhoni's is based on calculation, hard running, and only really taking high-risk options in the 'slog overs'.

It nearly worked on Saturday, all that calculation and hard running bringing the equation down to 8 off 6 balls.

The method isn't without its merits, especially while chasing, and India, as a team, tend to bat that way, their template retaining an umbilical link to ODI cricket, with a discernible 'middle overs' separating the Powerplay and the slog.

Dhoni put India's defeat down to botched execution of the method, and not the method itself.

"If you lose a wicket you are giving one dot ball and the set batsman is not getting strike," he said. "The batsmen will have to take responsibility. Quite a few of them were set [when they got out]. Especially when you're chasing targets, take it till the end and then look to play the shots. That's what was lacking in this game."

During the World T20, trying to win T20 games by playing cricket took India as far as the semi-finals. The West Indies side that knocked them out had an entirely different approach: they simply hit.

It is a high-risk approach by conventional cricketing logic, which defines 'risk' as the loss of a batsman's wicket. But, as Kartikeya Date's insightful - and widely misunderstood - analysis of the 2016 IPL season suggested, it's not really that big a risk in a format where teams have 10 wickets to lose in 20 overs. A good hitting team will beat a good batting team more often than not.

A hitting-centric approach only works in T20, but given how fast the format is evolving, it might become the only approach that works in T20. When that happens, India will need to find a Chigumbura or two.