Its been ten years since the Indian Premier League came into our lives. The big hits, the close finishes and the other sundry moments have all left an impression on the collective minds of cricket lovers the world over.
To see players from world over converge on one stage to enthrall a predominantly Indian audience is quite a sight. Its spawned the careers of many foreign cricketers, earned them millions and helped them create their brand. While the Australians continue to stretch their love-hate relationship with the Indian diaspora, its the West Indians cricketers, who never miss an opportunity to create a charming impression.
From Chris Gayle’s lusty blows, to Sunil Narine’s wily spin, an IPL without a the Caribbean flavour would a bland concoction missing the zing that makes it special. The cherry on top of the sundae, if you may.
In its tenth year, not a lot has changed. In fact, the notion is truer than ever before. On Friday, it took two Trinidadians - Kieron Pollard and Samuel Badree - a little under 19 overs to serve IPL fans one of the best games ever seen in the league. It was a contest between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians. The stage was set and the pre-match chatter centered around the return of India’s favourite son - Virat Kohli - after an injury lay-off. In typical fashion the 28-year-old announced his return with a fine 62-run knock, a perfect gifts for the fans who had not seen him play for three games before Friday.
It takes a lot to upstage a star like Kohli at his home ground. The anticipation and build up was something. But, that’s exactly what Pollard and Badree managed to do.
Badree finally arrives
It was Badree, who set the stage up for the epic showcase with the season’s first hat-trick, a feat made sweeter by the situation his team was in on the day. Having been restricted to just 142 for 5, despite Kohli’s comeback knock, RCB were looking for a break. Badree, who was one of West Indies’ key players when they won the 2016 World Twenty20 in India, then produced a match-turning spell.
With the wicket playing to his strengths, Badree had his tail up even before the first ball was bowled. He was handed the new ball and the Trinidadian delivered on the trust shown in him.
Badree bowled a googly to Parthiv Patel with his second delivery. Parthiv tried to lift it over the covers but was forced into an early shot and was caught by Gayle at short extra cover.
Badree was lucky on the next delivery, as he tossed a full-toss to Mitchell McCleneghan who was sent up the order. The bowler smashed the full delivery, but did not quite hit it with the power needed to clear the boundary and was caught at long on.
On a hat-trick, Badree bowled the next ball to MI skipper Rohit Sharma, who went into the game with scores of 4, 2 and 3. He was desperate for a big score as he looked to make a comeback into the Indian side, after suffering a knee injury last October. But, it was Badree’s day. Rohit offered a forward defence, but the ball Badree bowled was full, kept low and turned enought to crash into the stumps through the gap between bat and pad.
Mumbai had slumped to 7/4 in a matter of 16 balls. But, Badree was not done. He returned for his second spell to pick up his fourth wicket in the eighth over. He dismissed the Mumbai’s in-form batsman Nitish Rana to leave Mumbai on 33/5 after eight overs and finish with figures of 4/9.
Samuel Badree has been an enigma of sorts. The 36-year-old has been a name that has always done the rounds in Twenty20 cricket. At the top of his game, he was consistently ranked No 1 in the world rankings as a T20 bowler. At an average of just 16.46 and economy of 5.65, he is one of the most effective bowlers in the shortest format. But, despite his class in the international arena, his exploits in the IPL had never quite jumped the page. The game against Mumbai Indians, was only his sixth in the IPL. He made his IPL debut in 2013 with Rajasthan Royals, but got just one game and went wickeless. In 2014, he was signed by the Chennai Superkings, but with R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja at then CSK skipper MS Dhoni’s disposal, the chances were few and far between. He played four games and came away with just two scalps. It’s a history that has not really inspired confidence.
On Friday, he went about changing this notion and the change was spawned by the confidence shown in him by skipper Kohli when he was handed the new ball. Badree did the rest, and emerged a giant. Unfortunately, for his side it would not prove to be enough as his compatriot was plotting his own magnum opus.
Pollard’s star turn
If Badree’s IPL sojourn has been short, Pollard’s association has been long and fruitful. A proven finisher of the game, the 29-year-old has been Mumbai’s go to lower-order batsman, who’s ability to bowl medium pace has made him an integral part of the team’s core.
While his bowling prowess has gone unused this season, the burly Trinidadian showed why he is such a prized asset for Mumbai with the bat.
Pollard resurrected the Mumbai innings after Badree had run through the top-order and reduced the visitors to 7/4 at one stage.
With scores of 11, 7 and 27 prior to Friday, Pollard had not really set the stage on fire. With the ball too, he has bowled just once, in the opening game, and had gone wicket-less. His sluggish fielding had not helped matters either. He needed to prove his worth fast. On Friday, he proved more than that. He smashed 70 to douse the fire lit by Badree earlier and led Mumbai to an improbable four-wicket victory.
With Mumbai needing someone to dig them out of the hole, he shared valuable partnerships with Nitish Rana for 26 runs and then one worth 93-runs with Krunal Pandya (37*). After playing against his instinct for much of the initial stages, Pollard launched into an attack only when the required run-rate shot up. He smashed three boundaries and five sixes. It was the need of the hour and proved to be enough considering the conditions on offer.
It was an uncharacteristic knock by any standard. Pollard used his forward defence to great effect. His wicket was crucial to RCB, but with Badree’s quota running out, all Pollard needed to do was see out his overs and then hope to build on the fightback.
Pollard, who sat out for much of last year and even skipped the World T20 in India due to a contract dispute with the West Indian Cricket Board, returned to international cricket in June 2016, with an improved defence and scored 62 on his return, sharing a 156-run partnership with Darren Bravo to lead West Indies to victory over South Africa.
The change was there to see against RCB. Pollard was not just an entertainer on the day. He curtailed his natural instinct and slowly led Mumbai to a position from where he could take the attack to the bowlers.
“These are situations where champions are made,” Pollard said after the game. “These are situations where you want to be on the top. I backed my ability and hoped to take it as deep as I could. I am watching what bowlers they have. Keep ticking the run rate over. That was the plan and am glad it came through,” he added.
Pollard has played his share of match-winnings knocks for Mumbai in the past. In 2014, as Mumbai surged to the title, Pollard had proved his worth by smashing 41 off just 17 balls in the Qualifier and followed it up with 36 from 18 balls in the big final. But, those knocks paled in comparison to his heroics on Friday, that came in trying conditions and with the odds stacked against his team.
From humble life in Trinidad to global T20 stars
Both Pollard and Badree have risen from humble backgrounds back home in Trinidad. Pollard grew up poor with two sisters raised by his single mother. “It was pretty tough, it wasn’t ideal getting up and your mum say ‘We only have X amount of money’,” Pollard once said.
Badree was born to an Indo-Trinidadian family in Barrackpore, a town in Trinidad’s Penal-Debe Regional Corporation. Before playing cricket professionally, Badree worked as a secondary-school physical education teacher at the Barrackpore East Secondary School, a post he still holds on paper.
Their rise since has been quite extra-ordinary and they have cricket’s briefest formats to thank for it. The paths though have been quite different. While, Badree has made his name from his performances with the national team, Pollard’s route to success has traversed through the world of franchise-leagues, more precisely the IPL.
Badree has topped the ICC T20 bowlers rankings multiple times and even played a key role in West Indies’ triumphant campaign in the 2016 World Twenty20 in India. Pollard has not enjoyed the same luck though with the Windies. In the last few years, he has been at the fore-front of the ongoing players’ dispute with the West Indies Cricket Board over central contracts. He skipped the 2015 World Cup as well as the World T20 owing to the stalemate.
In the IPL though, he has been a darling for his franchise. Mumbai Indians have splurged a lot of money on him and retained him twice, despite his temperamental behaviour. Pollard once flung his bat towards RCB’s Mitchell Starc in frustration after the bowler had thrown the ball at Pollard’s body a few seasons ago. Later, he fielded with tape stuck to his mouth after the umpire had pulled him up for incessant chattering.
His love for theatrics has hardly been missing in season. Earlier this week, Pollard accused commentator Sanjay Manjrekar of suffering from ‘verbal diarrhea’. Pollard felt the former India player crossed the line, with his harsh comments made on air, a claim that has so far not been found in evidence.
By contrast Badree has lived a more demure life. Despite being consistently on top of the rankings, he has not found fame in franchise cricket, more specifically the IPL. Friday’s hat-trick on debut for RCB was his first notable performance in the cash-rich league. It holds relevance because it came in the Powerplay overs and when his team needed it the most. Known more for his accuracy than the turn he generates, Badree was on top of his game on Friday. The slow nature of the wicket played to his advantage and he prospered. He could not bamboozle his compatriot though. Pollard used his years of experience of playing in the IPL to good effect.
“It is a nice feeling to get a hat-trick. To get three wickets in the Powerplay — normally teams chasing lose games but unfortunately it did not go our way tonight...credit needs to be given to Pollard and Krunal the way they batted with maturity,” said Badree, who admitted the feat would have been sweeter if it would led to victory.
“Yeah, of course. It is a special day. It was a Good Friday. It was a Good Friday for me. Unfortunately, it was not a Good Friday for the team. I just think we did not have enough runs on board,” he added.