Heinrich Klaasen: I am not trying impresing anyone

Heinrich Klaasen is one of the finest six-hitters in white-ball cricket. It’s a skill he has successfully adapted to the IPL and every other league around the world.  how he uses data, his many childhood batting heroes, why his jersey is named #45, and more. What kind of hard work has gone into your six-hitting game over the years? I’ve worked really hard with Albie Morkel to get the technical stuff right. Just a few drills to maintain it and fine-tune it. It’s about practising the [bat] swing shape and making sure the launch angle is good. I’ve worked with Albie two years ago and before the IPL as well. We don’t see each other much, but I go to him. It’s quite simple practice. We train for two days, basically an hour each. I am not someone who hits a lot of balls. The practice is simple, it is easy to figure out what is wrong and what is right. I think in the beginning, a couple of years ago, it was a bit longer. But before the IPL, there is a quick session to make sure everything is going right, and if we have to work on something, we try to sort it out in a couple of days.

How different does Klaasen look and feel as a batsman now compared to the time he made his international debut in 2018?

I think it is very simple. I have definitely matured a lot. I think at that time it felt like I had to show all my skills and I was also being compared to a guy who can play 360 degrees [AB de Villiers]. So I wanted to show all my shots which was bothering my mind quite a lot. Through learning and my experiences, over the years, I was left out and my game was in such a bad state that I really had to figure out who the real Heinrich Klaasen was. From the position I am in, it is much easier to rely on that one skill and know that I can go to option B and C if I really need to. So I think that is maturity. The way I have matured is by keeping my game as simple as possible so that my mind is nice and clear.

Have you interacted with AB de Villiers? Exchanged any kind of six-hitting notes?

No, not at all. He is a strange person in my eyes by nature. The way he does things… I have been fortunate to bat with him. He is definitely a super talent, but his mind works at a different level. That is what makes him a genius. And his areas are very different.

There was a year when I tried to copy one or two of his shots, but it didn’t suit my game. He is a special person. The beauty of his work was that he knew almost 70-80% of the time where the bowler would bowl, and that is not something you can learn or teach from anyone.

You said last year that you have been experimenting with your batting and have found the right formula. Can you elaborate on that?

I experiment a lot with playing spin. Trying to see what kind of balls I can hit sixes off. It doesn’t always look good in the nets, but you can almost find shots there that you can play well, if you are really under pressure, you can hit some shots. I experiment a lot with it and see what I can do so that I can develop myself. Obviously all bowlers keep evolving, they have new gameplans, they bowl in certain ways. So I also need to stay one step ahead of them.

So I like experimenting with those aspects of finding new ways to score runs and scoring runs off their good balls. I think that’s the most important thing. It’s about experimenting, but when the game comes, you might need to wait and keep an eye on the ball being bowled in that area… and then if you get flying, you can start doing the things that you’ve trained in the nets, and what your hands and eyes see, what you can hit and what you can’t, you just take those experiences into the game.

Your game and numbers against spin have been unmatched in this format for quite some time. How have you honed it?

It’s been there since I started playing semi-professional cricket. I’ve been fortunate to play with some great spinners at home. They usually get me out, so I had to find a way to almost balance the ratio of runs and runs against them. You just want to dominate them. As long as the ratio is in your favour and you’re winning every time, you have to accept that they won’t get you out. So in the nets, I try a lot of things, sweep at different lengths. These things work for some time. The pick up pull has been used against a few bowlers and it works well. So it keeps the scoring going