The Mumbai Indians bowling attack is a high-quality one. Jasprit Bumrah and Trent Boult are the undisputed leaders of the Indian and New Zealand national teams. Adam Milne can work up some real pace. Rahul Chahar has just come into the mix for India. Krunal Pandya has played for India as well and have the experienced Kieron Pollard to fall back on. Quality and experience all the way through.
But by the time the match against the Kolkata Knight Riders ended, no one was talking about the MI bowling attack. Rather the focus was fully on the manner in which Eoin Morgan and his team have started phase two of IPL 2021.
After MI were restricted to 155/6 on a pitch that seemed to have something for the spinners, KKR’s batsmen came out and put on a display of fearless batting that simply took one’s breath away.
It started with a six off the second ball of the innings — Shubman Gill laying into a delivery from Trent Boult. There wasn’t much wrong with the delivery except that perhaps it was pitched up but the right-hander, as he had shown in the first game against RCB, isn’t content with slowly trying to work his way into the innings anymore. He picked it off his pads and deposited it beyond the boundary line.
A couple of deliveries later, Venkatesh Iyer did the same. Two sixes in the first over off Boult is rare but if KKR have their way, this is what they will continue to do regardless of the opposition.
Iyer, playing just his second IPL match, goes after the bowling without a doubt in his mind. As Morgan later revealed, this is how Iyer bats all the time but give someone a chance to climb a bit higher up the ladder and very often, they choose safety over adventure. But the tall left-hander has instead gone into an uber aggressive mode against some of the best in the business. In a way, he seems like a perfect fit for KKR’s fearless new spirit.
While the match was on, KKR coach Brendon McCullum spoke to the broadcasters and he pretty much spelled out why Iyer could play the way he did.
“Venkatesh Iyer on debut – I thought his composure was fantastic to watch,” said McCullum. “I think he might be one of those players who might end up inconsistent… with the way that he plays and the stroke-making that he possesses.”
“But I think he’s got the ability to win games when he’s on. Think he could be one of those players who go hundred, hundred, zero, zero. He just might be one of those types, sort of Adam Gilchrist type of player. He’s got something about him.“
Clearly, KKR doesn’t mind the inconsistency as long as he can play the match-winning knock every once in a while. It also keeps the opposition honest because they know Iyer is a player who will keep coming at them.
While all eyes were on Iyer, Rahul Tripathi made rapid progress too. The right-hander has already scored 261 runs this season but it is his strike-rate of 145.00 that stands out.
Conventional cricketing wisdom would mean that when one batsman is going great guns, the other just feeds him the strike. But KKR are challenging that school of thought by simply asking both batsmen to keep going at it. It is a batting mindset that gives the bowling side no breathing room.
It helps that Russell is fit and bowling well too, for it allows them to pack their side with batsmen. The depth allows them to keep attacking — knowing that if one fails, there will be another to pick up the pace.
When Iyer was finally dismissed after a brilliant 53 off 30 balls, Tripathi, 74 not out off 42 balls, kept going for it and took KKR to victory with almost five overs to spare.
“Obviously the coach tells us to be positive,” said Tripathi after the game. “When you are positive the pressure goes to the bowlers and you just look for runs. It was important to put their spinners under pressure. I felt it was important to get boundaries.”
There were edges, like the one that flew off Tripathi’s bat for a six off Bumrah’s bowling, and other false shots but this is T20 and that is the name of the game. As long as the runs keep coming, the means rarely matter. KKR positivity meant MI were never able to have a period where they could force their way back into the match.
As Morgan later said, this is the way KKR want to play their cricket. This is the way McCullum wants his team to play.
“Well it’s been a long time coming,” said Morgan. “Since Baz (McCullum) has taken over last year… the way we have played in the last two games is the way our coach wants us to play. It suits our talent to play this way.”
It suits them and it has helped them climb up to fourth place in the space of just two matches while giving their net run-rate a huge boost as well. If the other teams weren’t already wary of KKR, they sure will be now.