When it comes to batting in T20s these days, the possibilities seem to be limitless. No target is seemingly big enough. But when it really comes down to it, there are just a few names in world cricket who can keep a match alive, no matter the equation. It is only when they’re at the crease that one can dare to imagine the unthinkable... dream of a win from the most difficult situations.
AB de Villiers is definitely one such batsman, Andre Russell is another... and then there is Kieron Pollard. He showed why in the match against Chennai Super Kings during an epic run-chase.
The Trinidadian has been a constant in the Mumbai Indians lineup for over a decade, having scored over 3,000 runs for the franchise. His power hitting needs no introduction and he has played a key role in MI winning a record five Indian Premier League titles.
However, despite everything he has achieved, despite all his extraordinary performances over the years, Pollard’s innings of 87* off 34 balls — his highest score yet in the tournament — was one of a kind. It was the sort of knock that very few cricketers can even imagine in their dreams. It was miraculous for MI.
Highest scores for MI vs CSK in IPL
|Jayasuriya||114*||48||9||11||237.50||Mumbai||14 May 2008|
|Pollard||87*||34||6||8||255.88||Delhi||1 May 2021|
A Pollard special
There is no denying that the pitch at the Arun Jaitley Stadium for Saturday’s game between MI and CSK was great for batting. Chennai’s innings earlier, in fact, was the first in IPL history that had two century partnerships. Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali and especially Ambati Rayudu were brilliant and helped CSK post their highest ever total against Mumbai.
The small dimensions of the ground favoured the batsmen too, as was apparent from the 14 fours and 16 sixes hit by Chennai.
But none of these factors can take away from the magic of Pollard’s innings, for he, in his inimitable style, dragged Mumbai home when a Chennai victory seemed a foregone conclusion.
Chasing 219, Mumbai found themselves in trouble after a steady, 71-run opening partnership between skipper Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock. They were 96/3 after 12.2 overs and had hit just one boundary in their previous 35 deliveries. Rohit, de Kock and Suryakumar Yadav were back in the hut, while Krunal Pandya had laboured his way to 14 off 14. The equation for them at that time was: 123 runs from 46 balls.
But from there on, Pollard went on to deliver a knock for the ages.
Batting on 3 off 5, the 33-year-old decided to cut loose and hit Ravindra Jadeja for three sixes in four balls. He would later say that the plan was to maximise any over of spin he got, in what was a tactical masterstroke. In the next over, he smacked Lungi Ngidi for consecutive sixes. And in the over after that, it was Shardul Thakur’s turn to go for three fours and a six. Pollard had scored a jaw-dropping 51 runs off a mere 13 balls to turn the match on its head. Out of nowhere, MI were left with a highly gettable equation: 66 runs off 30 balls.
And in what is a testament to his maturity as a batsman, Pollard dug even deeper to stay till the end and get the job done. Krunal eventually stuck a few timely blows, as did Hardik, but it was the West Indies legend who, with the help of a dropped catch from du Plessis in the 18th over, took Mumbai to a famous win in a last-ball finish.
The hallmark of Pollard’s batting is the easy power he generates. Playing extravagant scoops isn’t his thing and he relies on having a steady base and swinging cleanly.
Perhaps, as Mahendra Singh Dhoni said after the match, Chennai’s bowlers didn’t bowl in the right areas, but that can’t take away from the fact that Pollard didn’t miss a beat each time the ball landed in his zone. The pressure was on and he delivered big time.
“They had four overs of spin to bowl on a small ground, so I thought I should try to hit a couple of sixes and then take it from there,” said Pollard after picking up the player of the match award.
“But I only got two overs against spin and I had to maximise that over against Jadeja. You have to evolve, lot of practice goes into it. That has helped me tremendously. I can’t say I’m a 360 player, but I am trying to maximise more angles in the field. I needed to bat those six balls (in the last over). That’s the pressure you need to take as an individual. We have done this time and time again in terms of practice. It’s just a matter of keeping calm and trying to execute.”
As Hardik said after Saturday’s game, this victory could prove to be important for the defending champions. To get the better of the league leaders in such a manner ought to be a massive confidence booster. After a challenging phase in Chennai, MI have won both their matches so far in Delhi. Their next two matches are also in the capital before they play their last five league games on the historically batting-friendly pitches of Bengaluru and Kolkata.
Things are looking up Mumbai Indians. They have the momentum and an in-form Pollard, arguably their biggest match-winner.
You can watch highlights of Kieron Pollard’s innings against CSK here.