Pollard’s power and ingenuity
They say every run counts in T20 cricket. Well, it of course does in every game and format of cricket but the narrower margins of success and defeat in the thrill-a-ball nature of T20s, just adds that gravitas to the humble single. But not if you are Kieron Pollard, especially not if your team needs 16 off the last over and you are the only man who could possibly take them over the line. So Pollard decided to be ingenious with the first ball of the final over from Mohit Sharma. His drilled-drive hadn’t quite been placed well and went straight to Kings XI Punjab skipper Glenn Maxwell.
A poor, weak throw to the wicket-keeper from the Australian meant Pollard and Harbhajan Singh scampered across for a quick two. Only for the umpire to signal for a short-run. Probably in his hurry to get back, Pollard just missed putting his bat behind the popping crease by a few centimeters you thought. But replays showed that Pollard had missed it by a few inches. Like he wasn’t even bothered about completing the single. His focus was only on getting back to the strikers-end and basically take on the challenge completely on his mighty shoulders.
Off the next ball he showed just why, as he clouted a length delivery from Mohit over the deep mid-wicket fence. It’s been the West Indian way of winning T20 matches for a while now.
Pollard might be counted among the most dangerous batsmen in T20 cricket. But he’s still old-school in his ways of domination. He’s not one for fancy movements. The big Trinidadian believes more in standing his ground, choosing his spot and then intimidates the bowler into missing his length. A good yorker still holds good for Pollard. For, the chances of him getting under the ball to provide elevation is very dim.
So the secret to success against Pollard in the death is simple: just hold your nerve and nail your length because if you don’t, you’re gone. Pollard had already smashed four sixes during his onslaught that had brought Mumbai within touching distance of overcoming a massive target of 231. Hardik Pandya and Karn Sharma had provided a few telling blows from the other end to make Pollard’s job a little easier, after Lendl Simmons played a blinder before being snaffled by a one-handed blinder by Martin Guptill at the same spot of the Wankhede Stadium where Ravindra Jadeja’s one rogue foot had given him a let-off in the famous World T20 semifinal last year.
But here Pollard stood as the ginormous obstacle between Punjab and their chances for a playoff berth.
And Mohit nailed his length, conceding a mere single off the next four balls. He produced two genuine yorkers, a low full-toss, and a dipping wide delivery that Pollard could only swing wildly. It was a night when two other young Indian pacers too had shown their ability to keep calm and nail their length. Jasprit Bumrah had been at his impressive best-figures of 1/24 in a match that saw over 450 runs scored. Then it was the turn of Sandeep Sharma who gave away only seven runs in a crucial penultimate over, doing his own bit in keeping Pollard quiet.
Big Show and Little Show
“I don’t think anyone is like me. If you find a replica, I would love to meet, and ask him why!” That was Maxwell in 2015 during the tri-series leading up to the World Cup. He’d been asked about how he copes with having others “like” him in the Australian ODI middle-order. Not one to hold back when it comes to talking himself up had indulged in some humorous vanity. But he isn’t far from the truth. There aren’t too many replicas of him going around in international cricket. And on Thursday, the Big Show stole the show for a while with a typically belligerent assault on Harbhajan, smashing the veteran for three sixes in one over. But his 21-ball 47 ended up being a cameo in Punjab’s big total. The real hero of the innings was someone with a more humbler disposition.
With Wriddhiman Saha, at times you want to shake him up and say it’s ok to talk about yourself, to talk yourself up. While he’s underlined himself as India’s No.1 wicket-keeper in Tests, and won the respect and admiration of the entire dressing-room, Saha is also one of a handful batsmen to score a century in an IPL final. And though he ended up seven short of recording his second three-figure score in the IPL, he showed why he’s as good an option-despite a lot of young pretenders emerging on the scene-to replace MS Dhoni whenever the former captain decides to step away.
His early attack on the Mumbai bowlers-with Punjab taking a punt with pushing him to open-was based on manipulating the field with clever glides and flicks and an array of well-placed chips over the in-field that had enough power to hit the boundary ropes or eclipse them on occasions. He carried his bat, finishing unbeaten on 93 and showed once more that there’s always more to Saha the cricketer than what meets the eye, or what you hear him say about himself.