The team that hits more sixes usually wins. It's a common refrain in T20 cricket, but Jos Buttler feels it's particularly applicable to the ongoing IPL season, particularly in Sharjah, the smallest of the three grounds hosting the tournament.
The first 12 matches of the season have produced 178 sixes - that's 14.83 per match, the highest rate of sixes in any IPL season, ahead of 2018, which featured 14.53 sixes per match. The first two matches in Sharjah, meanwhile, have produced a whopping 62 sixes. There have been more sixes at the venue, in fact, than fours (52).
Buttler felt teams in Sharjah, in particular, would look to emulate the West Indies team that won the T20 World Cup in 2016, which looked to maximise six-hitting even at the cost of playing out significantly more dot balls. As the season wears on, however, Buttler felt the pitches might become slower and make it a little harder for batsmen to hit sixes.
"Sharjah is certainly one of those six-hitting grounds as you saw from a couple of games, the team that does hit the most sixes is there with [a chance of] winning it," Buttler said in a media interaction organised by the Rajasthan Royals. "It's almost like playing against the West Indies in T20 cricket, hitting sixes is a main focus of how they go about trying to win the game.
"And at Sharjah, that could become a theme. I think the wickets can get slower and obviously as the tournament goes on, they'll be using three grounds so used wickets will become a feature of the tournament. So it may become a little bit harder to step-hit, and be a six-a-thon.
"The other two grounds are generally a little bit bigger, on one side at Dubai last night there was a bigger boundary and Abu Dhabi is a quite a large playing surface as well."
The ability to hit a large number of sixes in a short span of time has allowed a couple of teams, this season, to get back into games when the odds were seemingly stacked against them. Buttler referenced two such performances: Rahul Tewatia's rollercoaster 31-ball 53 for the Royals against Kings XI Punjab in Sharjah, and Kieron Pollard's unbeaten, match-tying 24-ball 60 against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Dubai.
"What the six-hitting shows is that if you have that capability, you can make your run quite late to try and win the game," Buttler said. "Rahul Tewatia hit five sixes in an over that took us from being out of the game to right back in the game. RCB v MI, Mumbai looked a long way away and excellent six-hitting from Pollard gets you back in it.
"In past tournaments, you think of Andre Russell, and KKR (Kolkata Knight Riders) needing 70 or four overs and managing to get there. So I think if you have that six hitting capability, you never feel quite safe as the team defending. You realise you can get more at the end than you probably thought you could."
'Every IPL team has fantastic players missing out'
The Royals have started the season with Steven Smith opening the batting alongside Buttler, and haven't had room yet for the India Under-19 star Yashasvi Jaiswal. Buttler said it was always a "tricky act" to pick a balanced XI, and that good players inevitably miss out in the process.
"Jaiswal is a really exciting young cricketer, it's fantastic to have him in the squad and I know everyone in the team is really excited to watch his development," Buttler said. "But in every IPL team, there's fantastic players and there's fantastic players missing out, so you're always under pressure to perform.
"It's always a tricky act to try and narrow down to the final eleven and the balance of the team you want. Obviously the coach and captain and the management are really happy with what we've got at the minute, and the way it's set out, so you have to be consistent with that and give it enough time to try and work. So that's the balance at the moment. But of course if things need to change in the future they probably can."