After a convincing win in the first game, the Rajasthan Royals were shocked by Punjab Kings in the first ever IPL encounter at the Barsapara Stadium in Guwahati. Despite the clash being decided by just seven runs , it all seemed over as early as the powerplay itself. Afterall, most Purple Army’s hopes were pinned on one-man alone, as they were throughout 2022 — the talismanic World T20 winning captain Jos Buttler. After setting the IPL last season with a historic run spree that saw several records being broken, the 32-year-old had started off the new season in the same vein of form with a rapid 54 against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, the fact that Buttler was out in the middle in the first place was a huge relief for the Royals supporters, given the occurrings of the previous innings.
Buttler had slit open his left-hand’s little finger while taking a catch in the last over of Punjab’s innings and had to come one-down after not being prepared yet when the time came to open. The news got gloomier for the Royals in the run-up to their next encounter as it felt increasingly likely that the wicket-keeper batter would not be available for their showdown against Delhi Capitals. Yet, in a manner that has become typical of the world-beater, Buttler silently walked out to crease to take charge straight away against Warner’s men on Sunday. And boy did he deliver.
With reportedly seven stitches on his finger, Buttler cut, pull, drove and punched the ball with such elegance it would put a ballerina to shame. His shots were no more than simple caresses of the Kookaburra buoyed by majestic timing, as all bowlers regardless of repute were punished — be it Anrich Nortje, Kuldeep Yadav or Mukesh Kumar. The touch Buttler was in can be understood by the fact that the opener cleared the fence just once in his 79, despite tallying the runs off just 51 balls at a strike rate receding 150. He struck 11 boundaries to keep the pressure on the bowlers, seemingly finding it harder to hit the ball to a fielder than in the gaps.
As is often the case with greatness, it can only be kept at bay with fortune at hand and with aid of something bizarre. Just when the veteran seemed ready to switch gears and pave his way to a fifth IPL century, a Mukesh Kumar yorker that initially was declared a bump ball somehow bounced off Buttler’s willow and made its way for a simple catch to the right-arm pacer. Yet, Buttler had made his statement and done his job with the bat — IPL beware, a new King is in town.