IPL 2023: Breakthrough season for Heinrich Klaasen with 448 runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad. Klassen was the only shining light in SRH batting lineup in IPL 2023.
Klaasen’s 104-run knock in 51 balls shouldering on 8 fours and 6 sixes was just an example of how technically sound he is, especially against the spinners. When the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and AB de Villiers marvelled at his simple and uncomplicated footwork to put him among the best players of spin, he surely has shown the sparks of an extraordinary player against spinners.
But his journey to the IPL hasn’t been straightforward. Let’s see how he has taken time to cement his place in this league.
From RCB, RR to SRH, a merry-go-round journey for Heinrich Klaasen
Heinrich Klaasen came to the limelight back in 2018 just after South Africa’s T20I series against India where the wicketkeeper batter smashed 92 runs in three innings at a strike rate of 191.67. What impressed observers the most was his special quality where he took on Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav with ease that put him a stride forward than the other Protea batters.
Klaasen, surprisingly, went unsold during the 2018 auction of the Indian Premier League (IPL) before he came to the Rajasthan Royals (RR) franchise as a replacement for Steven Smith, who was banned for 12 months following the ball-tampering incident. But Klaasen didn’t have a great 2018 season notching up just 57 runs in four innings at an average of 19 and strike rate of 121.27. As a result, he was released from RR before Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) grabbed his services in the 2019 season but that too didn’t go well as he managed just 9 runs in three innings.
After getting dropped from RCB, Klaasen had to wait for four years before getting his third opportunity when he was picked up by Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) in the 2023 auction at a whopping price of INR 5.25 crore. But again, he wasn’t the first-choice player as Hyderabad went with Glenn Philips in the first few games.
But when he finally got the chance to play, Klaasen didn’t look back as he finished the season as the highest run-getter for Sunrisers Hyderabad with 448 runs in 12 games at an average of 49.78 and a strike rate of 177.08 including two fifties and one marvellous century.
Klaasen’s clear footwork and clarity in picking lengths against spin
Klaasen’s first century this season displayed his marvellous skills against the spinners where he maintained a perfect tempo throughout the innings besides having clarity on picking up the lengths and playing shots. Very few batters in modern-day cricket read the ball from the hand of the spinners like Klaasen has done in this tournament.
Klaasen’s 51-ball 104, his second T20 century, was more special given how the rest of the Sunrisers Hyderabad batting line-up put up just 76 runs off 69 deliveries on a slow Hyderabad surface that was gripping and helping the slow bowlers.
When the spinners bowled him short balls, he was really quick to go onto his backfoot before punching it over the head of the deep mid-wicket or the long-on fielder. That made the spinners bowl in his eye-line to which Klaasen was quick to smash them over deep cover region or using his feet to hit it over the long-off fielder.
The proud applause Klaasen received from Brian Lara in the dressing room just when he advanced down the ground to muscle Harshal Patel over the sight screen to celebrate his maiden IPL century was something really special. Klaasen’s strike rate of almost 191.30 against spin is the second best among batters who have faced at least 50 balls this season after Jason Roy’s 204.68.
Klaasen a shade apart from poor SRH batting line-up
The South African just looked totally different from all the other batters of the Sunrisers Hyderabad camp. SRH flopped collectively as a batting unit. From their very first game, where they found themselves at 131/8 against Rajasthan Royals, they never looked set throughout the whole season. Even when Klaasen came into the side, he was pushed down the order before they realised his worth against Delhi Capitals when on a tough surface, Klaasen took them home with a 19-ball 31.
Even in their defeat against Gujarat Titans, Heinrich Klaasen was outstanding in his 44-ball 64 run knock that kept them in the run chase for a significant time. And his century against RCB was just an example of how beautifully he has performed in this season. After Klaasen’s 448-run season, the next best aggregate total for SRH is Rahul Tripathi’s 273 runs in 13 games at a strike rate of 128.16.
For a side whose big buys didn’t do well, Heinrich Klaasen showed immense potential to hold his place for the upcoming season of the tournament in 2024.