Colin Munro has started off 2018 with fireworks as he followed up his 18 ball half-century in the washed out second T20I against West Indies with a blistering century — his third in the format — in the final match of the series. Munro’s heroics helped New Zealand usurp Pakistan at the top of the T20I rankings with victory in the series but it was his red-hot form that truly stood out among all other developments.
He became the first batsman to make three T20I centuries, with the hundred on Wednesday being his third successive 50+ score in the format. Interestingly, all of his hundreds have come in the past twelve months. Till the beginning of 2017, Munro had a batting average of 25 in T20Is with three half-centuries and a strike rate less than 150. He was touted as someone with a special ability to tonk the cricket ball but nothing more.
However, 2017 turned out to be his breakout year. With Brendon McCullum retiring and undue pressure on Martin Guptill to kick off an innings, Kiwis needed a boost upfront and promoted the wild Munro.
The results were staggering.
In matches he opened the innings (in 2017 and 2018), Munro averaged 69.20, recording two hundreds and two half-centuries and striking at a rate of 187.02.
CricViz identifies Munro’s strongest six-hitting areas as mid-off and cover and these boundaries were incessantly bombarded at Mount Maunganui by the pillaging 30 year old.
Bay Oval suits Munro. The 10 sixes in his 101* have come in his usual strong hitting zones. pic.twitter.com/mNFeXSy58e
— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) January 3, 2018
But these wagon wheels do not really reveal the sheer brutality of Munro’s hundred. He didn't give the Windies a breather. When they pitched full, he hoisted the ball over cow corner or drove it inside out over cover or flicked it nonchalantly over the square-leg ropes.
Catches were dropped but only in the crowd. He hit 15 maximums in the series, 10 of them coming on Wednesday when he rampaged his way to a terrific hundred — probably his most timely one too — just a few weeks before the IPL auctions.
It was only last year that he had pondered about becoming a freelance cricketer. But he stuck with New Zealand and the rewards are showering on him. The absence of McCullum has not been profoundly evident due to Munro’s outrageous hitting skills. The former skipper, however, has been a huge influence in shaping Munro version 2.0.
“McCullum has been a massive influence over the last three-four years. I was probably arrogant early on. My mouth's got me into trouble a few times. I also want to try and be a leader now. A couple of years ago, I was reckless, but I've honed my skills. T20 is fun, so you just want to grow up and express yourself as much as possible. You try to carry forward his legacy. He earned that right to play that way over many, many years. I'm lucky I'm naturally aggressive, but you can't hit every ball for four. Brendon has been pretty good, playing together at Trinbago Knight Riders as well, has helped,” Munro had said in an interview with ESPNCricinfo few months back.
Since his debut in 2012, Munro has 61 sixes in T20Is, a record bettered only by Mohammad Shahzad (62), the Afghanistan opener.
Perhaps his six-hitting ability stems from a preference for hockey in his childhood days. The apathetic swipe in his bat swing is hockey-ish, only that the ball goes high and far as opposed to a ground shot in hockey. Whatever it is, it clearly is working for the Black Caps’ latest sensation. That he broke the record for New Zealand's fastest T20I half-century and equalled it again withing a two year's time frame shows the kind of player he has become.
He is not a big fan of running though and this is evident from his stupendous boundary percentage of 67.37 in T20Is. In the second match of the T20I series and the first International game of 2018, he smashed a 23 ball 66 which included 11 fours and three maximums, a mind-blowing boundary percentage of 93.9!
"Hockey involves too much running, I'd rather play cricket and hit sixes," jokes Munro. The cricketing world knows who else hates running — the marauding West Indian opener and holder of the highest T20 individual score ever, who made a duck on Wednesday. With this kind of prodigious six-hitting dexterity, Munro may not need to run his entire career. We have a new Chris Gayle people and he is as breathtaking as the previous one!