Zulu - The Master Blaster
How do you stop this man?
By Tushar Bhaduri

Who do you think is the best one-day batsman in the world? Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya or Michael Bevan? Votaries for these three would say that on their day they can tear any bowling attack apart and win a match single handedly for their respective teams. Quite right, indeed.

But, that can be said of many batsmen on the world stage. Every batsman can win a match for his side on his own once in a while. But, every day is not a Sunday. Having the potential and actually delivering on a regular basis are two different situations.

Try this one. Lance 'Zuluí Klusener. This fellow from Natal, South Africa is a phenomenon. He has from won the maximum number of matches for his team from near impossible situations single handedly than any other batsman in world cricket today.

Klusener started his international career more as a fast-medium bowler who could bat. Infact, in his first Test match against India at the Eden Gardens, Calcutta, Klusener took eight wickets in an innings. But, we are not talking about his bowling skills here.

Klusener further proved that he enjoyed playing against India when he blasted a century in even time against India in only his fourth Test at New lands, Cape Town. Since then, other teams have tasted the wrath of Lanceís big bat on more than one occasion, and they have not enjoyed it, to say the least.

When, on song, Klusener is unstoppable. The faster one bowls, the faster the ball disappears to the boundary and very often, over it. Infact, he thrives on pace and the ball coming on to the bat. Such is the brute strength that Lance possesses and such is the weight of the big bat in his hands, that, on most occasions, slightly mis-hit and mistimed shots also carry the full distance. Add to this, a great eye and an ability to time the ball wonderfully and hit straight, and you have a tremendous final product.

One may argue that Sachin Tendulkar too, has the above qualities. But, we donít find him accomplishing the amazing feats that Klusener does on such a regular basis. Infact, it has become so regular these days that one comes to expect it and it has almost become monotonous.

One reason could be that Sachin is the best batsman in his side and without a strong and reliable middle order; he is constantly under pressure to pressure his wicket and cannot play his natural game.

On the other hand, despite Klusenerís exploits, he is not required to contribute with the bat on every match. There are batman like Kirsten, Kallis, Cullinan, Rhodes and Boucher in the team. But, when required, Klusener has very rarely disappointed. In the final overs of a one-day innings, Klusener has the ability to hit almost every ball to the boundary and beyond, regardless of the pace at which it is bowled, and where it is pitched.

Klusenerís exploits during the World Cup 99 are well documented. He was simply superhuman during that tournament. Even the law of averages could not stop him. Time and again, he came in to bat in tight situations and when South Africa were in trouble, and blasted them out of the tricky situation. It did not matter whether South Africa were batting first or second. It did not matter whether the opposition was India, Sri Lanka, England, Pakistan, Australia, Zimbabwe or the lowly Kenya. The only blot on his performance came in that out of this world semi-final against Australia, when a little bit of composure, instead of panic, would have seen South Africa through the finals.

Klusenerís bat has not stopped talking since then. He is now in the side more as a batsman who can bowl and is considered as one of the main batsman in the team. He is also scoring heavily in test matches, as can be proved by the recent series in Sri Lanka. The speed at which he scores his runs can be match winning in the longer version of the game as well.

The scary fact for South Africaís opponents is that Klusener never seems to lose form. He can come in and start hitting the ball anytime. He spoils all the plans that the opposition captain or coach may have made, a fact proved over again during the recent home one-day series against New Zealand.

So, how do you stop this man ? In my opinion, a really high quality spinner is the answer, the likes of Muralitharan and Warne. Apart from the obvious lack of pace, flight, turn and variety could be his undoing. Spinners, at least, stand some chance against him. Otherwise, there is no stopping Zulu. Captains and bowlers dread this fellow as they do no one else. He can make their tactics look silly. That is why he is my No. 1. 



 


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