Shashwat Kumar was in Mumbai to witness another Liam Livingstone onslaught – an innings that was filled with his usual belligerence against pace and some shrewd game-awareness against spin.
Prior to the IPL 2022 mega-auction, there were countless fans who drooled over the prospect of Liam Livingstone turning out for their side. Just a year ago, he had set the inaugural edition of The Hundred alight and had strengthened his reputation at the T20 World Cup in the UAE. In between, though, he had a woeful IPL campaign for the Rajasthan Royals, making many question if Livingstone had the requisite skill-set to thrive on Asian pitches. This season, he has silenced all those doubters and has cast himself as the next big T20 global superstar.
In IPL 2021, he mustered just 42 runs in five innings, averaging a tick more than eight runs per innings. He fell to spin twice and struck at 82.60 against them. Over the years, too, batting against spin in Asian conditions hasn’t been Livingstone strongest suit. In the UAE, he strikes at 121.42 against spin. In Pakistan, he averages 14.5 and strikes at only 118.36. Before IPL 2022, Livingstone was averaging 11.50 against spin in India. But this season, he has been a player transformed. He has smashed 127 runs against spin at a strike rate of 142.69 and an average of 42.33.
There’s been no trade-off either. Livingstone has retained his trademark belligerence against pace in IPL 2022. He has struck at 208.06 against the quicks, a mark bettered only by Dinesh Karthik this season (minimum 100 runs against pace). As far as overall strike rate is concerned, Livingstone has the fourth-highest strike rate in IPL 2022 among batters to have scored a minimum of 100 runs. Andre Russell, Karthik and Tim David have better tallies than Livingstone but the Englishman has scored more runs than any of those batters, indicating that he isn’t just scoring runs quickly, he is scoring consistently too.
Most of his runs have come during the middle overs, traditionally a slower scoring phase. Livingstone has scored 250 runs during this phase – the fourth-highest in the IPL. He also has the fourth highest strike rate (167.78) in the middle overs (minimum 100 runs), with only Devon Conway, Rahul Tripathi and Russell above him.
The best thing about Livingstone, however, has been the way he has read game situations in IPL 2022. Against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Punjab Kings, after Jonny Bairstow’s dismissal, looked set to lose their way. Mayank Agarwal wasn’t timing the ball well, and they needed a kickstart. Livingstone didn’t wilt under the pressure, picking and choosing his moments to attack, ensuring that the run-rate was maintained and that there was no compromise on stability. Towards the end, he accelerated against Josh Hazlewood and powered the Punjab Kings to a total in excess of 200. This is just one of many examples this season, with stellar knocks against Chennai Super Kings, Gujarat Titans and Sunrisers Hyderabad driving that point home.
Livingstone has never been shy of playing his strokes. But until this season, a remarkable shot was invariably followed by losing his wicket. In 2022, the increased game awareness and a sense of who to target has enabled him to bat for longer periods and impact matches more consistently.
When Punjab Kings broke the bank for him at the auction, there was excitement, but there was also a bit of scepticism. With each passing game, though, he is put those fears further and further behind him.
For those in England, there was plenty of reason, even before IPL 2022, to believe that Livingstone was the next big T20 global superstar. Now, maybe the rest of the world will attest to it too.
*Statistics correct as of May 15, 2022.