New Chris On The Block

Initially, many Indian fans thought that Chris Lynn, the Queenslander who was a perpetual presence on the bench, or in the medical cabin for KKR, was a rare fielding specialist. He had been around since 2011 in the Indian T20 league – and while we had only heard about his big-hitting exploits in Australia’s Big Bash T20 League, he had only played five games in the last five years in India. He played one for the now-defunct Deccan Chargers, none in a season for Sunrisers Hyderabad, and four in total over three years with the Knight Riders. What was up with this guy? Who was he, and why was he retained by Gautam Gambhir every year, despite seeming to spend most of it out with an injury or as a substitute?

In the first half of the league stages in 2014, Lynn pulled off a spectacular catch against Royal Challengers Bangalore to dismiss AB de Villiers in a crucial game for his team. It was the final over, and they won by two runs. He defied the laws of physics on the boundary line, when he seemed to be suspended mid-air for a few seconds. The commentators coined the term “Lynn-tastic” to describe the miracle. Lynn’s catch was replayed many times over in the season. He became that Aussie who could field, like many others from his generation.

This season, KKR decided to open the campaign by promoting Lynn to the top, and giving him as many balls as possible to prove his fearsome reputation. It was time – he was 27, and had come back from career-threatening injuries twice. He had also made his T20 international debut and played a full series against India the previous year. Not to forget that he made his ODI debut against Pakistan earlier this year, and was to be selected in Australia’s Champions Trophy Squad for June, despite having played just one ODI. His stars were finally on the rise.

Chris Lynn opened the tournament with a brutal assault on the Gujarat Lions bowlers. Scoring an unbeaten 93, he led his team home in a chase of 183 with more than five overs to spare. In the next game, he sped to 32 before being dismissed by Jasprit Bumrah at the Wankhede. He injured his shoulder while trying to take a diving catch during Mumbai Indians’ chase, and was on the verge of being ruled out for the season. But he remained in the dugout for his team’s next nine games, while Gautam Gambhir played around with the batting lineup to all but assure qualification for the team into the playoffs. Lynn has now scored two more fifties since his return in the last two games, though 83 on Tuesday night came in a losing cause against Kings XI Punjab. In the match preceding that, Lynn and Sunil Narine put on 106 runs in six overs of the powerplay against the Royal Challengers, setting the record for the highest-ever PP score in the tournament’s history. 

Chris Lynn has now scored three destructive fifties in four games for KKR this year. He is sure to play their remaining league stage game, as well as the playoffs. He has now replaced Gambhir as an opener, with Robin Uthappa further down at 4. The team has adapted to the modern needs of the game, replacing their most successful opening pair with Lynn and Narine. Lynn is easily the biggest and hardest hitter in the format today, and if not for his shoulder injury early in April, he would have perhaps been this year’s Chris Gayle.

Lynn could well be the Indian T20 League’s star batsman in the few years to come. He could have a say in how Australia’s Champions Trophy hopes play out in England, too, along with fellow hitter Glenn Maxwell.

To put things into perspective, Chris Lynn has scored more runs in four games this season than the top scorer of Bangalore (Kedar Jadhav) and the Mumbai Indians captain Rohit Sharma have in 12. His strike rate is 186 – the highest in the league this season.

 

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