Is there a better six-hitter in the world than Heinrich Klaasen?

August 20, 2023

Once prone to trying too many things, he has embraced a pared-down method that’s turned him into a force of consistent mayhem

Is there a better six-hitter in the world than Heinrich Klaasen?


s Heinrich Klaasen monstered consecutive balls from Nathan Ellis and Liam Dawson into the sightscreen at the Vauxhall End of The Oval last Tuesday night, one question lingered: is there a better six-hitter in the world right now?

He has hit 60 sixes in games with full T20 status this calendar year, the most of any batter in the world - and you can throw in 14 more in Major League Cricket for good measure. He has an even split against spin (31 sixes) and seam (29) and even the vast square boundaries at The Oval have not been big enough to contain him.

Tom Moody, Invincibles’ head coach, recruited Klaasen in March’s draft because of four attributes: his strength against spin, his experience, his boundary-hitting, and his form. Six games into the season, Klaasen is the leading run-scorer in the men’s tournament; he has faced 95 balls, and has hit 17 of them for six.

His innings of 46 off 24 in Oval Invincibles’ two-run win over London Spirit was middle-order batting at its best. He targeted Dawson’s left-arm spin, hitting three of the seven balls he faced from him for six, and he combined power with touch, soaking up only three dots. Having walked in at 79 for 1 after 46 balls, he walked off unbeaten at 189 for 4 after 100.

Klaasen is an imposing figure. He is just over six feet tall but has broad shoulders and a firm handshake. And he has been in remarkable form, rivalling Suryakumar Yadav as the leading middle-order batter in T20 cricket worldwide. Since turning 30 two years ago, he has averaged 38.81 while striking at 153.04.

The secret, Klaasen explains, is simplicity. “I’ve always felt like I’ve had the destructiveness that I have now. But it was almost like I would always just chuck it away, because I had all these options and I was trying to use everything – like a golf bag with every club in it. Over the last year or so, I’ve almost said, ‘OK, I need to take a lot of the options away’ - just to keep myself calm and watch the ball a bit longer.

“I back myself to hit sixes again, which is always a positive for me. Then I know I’m in good form and that normally keeps me calm: I’m always just two hits away from a decent strike rate and getting back to where I should be. If I feel a little bit under pressure, I know I’m only two hits away. I’m almost just maturing into my own cricketer and who I am as a person.”

South African greats have taken notice of his form. “Heinrich Klaasen has to be, currently, top of the pile for 20/20 players right!!!???!!!!” Dale Steyn, who worked with him at Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, tweeted after his innings of 60 off 27 against Manchester Originals last week. AB de Villiers replied with one word: “Absolutely!”

Klaasen’s record against spin is phenomenal: this year, he averages 89.80 against spinners across 29 innings, with a strike rate of 183.26. “My whole career, I was very aggressive against spin,” he says. “It’s just selecting the right options: if the conditions allow me to hit straight, I will; if the wicket doesn’t, I’ve got the option to do a few other things.”

He has scored hundreds in the SA20, the IPL and MLC this year. “That’s the pleasing thing: that I can do it around the world. All the hard work I’ve put in over the last few years, it seems to work for all conditions. That’s something I can put into the experience bank and use when I’m struggling again - because I know that’s coming again soon.”

Klaasen will only play once more for Invincibles, against Southern Brave on Saturday, before flying home for a training camp and then an ODI series against Australia. He will rest during the preceding T20Is: “It’s important to stay mentally fresh, because - if selected - the World Cup is going to be pretty long.”

He is almost certain to play, most likely batting at No. 5, and has geared his year towards preparing for the tournament. “Obviously it’s our winter, so there’s not a lot of cricket back home.

There’s nothing better than competitive cricket: you can hit the ball so well in the nets, but it’s different facing 140[kph] in a game under pressure.”

South Africa have struggled in ODIs in this cycle, and only clinched automatic qualification for the World Cup in their final Super League game. But if Klaasen can extend his current form into October and November, they will take some beating. –Cricinfo

Is there a better six-hitter in the world than Heinrich Klaasen?