Indian Premier League 2017
Pollard proves why he's one of the best
Former coach Ricky Ponting lauds finishing ability of West Indian powerhouse Kieron Pollard in the IPL
18 April 2017, 04:37 PM AEST
After one of the leanest patches of form in his career, West Indian powerhouse Kieron Pollard has stormed back to his best in the opening weeks of the Indian Premier League.
Having entered the tournament on the back of disappointing returns for his country against Pakistan three weeks ago and also Adelaide Strikers in the KFC Big Bash League during the Australian summer, Pollard has returned to the kind of form that his former IPL coach, Australian great Ricky Ponting, says makes him one of the best players the T20 game has ever seen.
Report & Highlights: Pollard's incredible knock silences RCB
While Pollard showed glimpses of his best with some match-winning displays in the Pakistan Super League in February, he nonetheless entered the IPL having scored more than 30 just four times in 20 T20 innings since the start of the BBL last December.
But after a mixed start to the tournament with Mumbai, Pollard produced an extraordinary innings of 70 from just 47 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Friday, a match-winning knock that teammate Mitchell McClenaghan labelled "one of the best I've seen".
And Pollard backed it up just two days later, hitting a quickfire 39 alongside skipper Rohit Sharma (40 not out) in Mumbai's successful run chase against Gujarat Lions on Sunday.
The performance against RCB, when Pollard came to the crease with Mumbai floundering at 4-7 following a hat-trick from Samuel Badree, underlined why Ponting rates the West Indian so highly when chasing a target in 20-over cricket.
"(Pollard and Rohit) are two of the best T20 players the game has probably ever seen," Ponting told cricket.com.au last week, two days before Pollard's heroics against RCB.
"The thing I've always said about Pollard is 'it doesn't matter how many you need, if he's in at the end with three or four overs to go, you can still always win'.
"(In 2013) we had a game against the Sunrisers and I think we needed about 80-odd off the last five overs or so (the equation was 79 from six overs). Pollard was in and he got most of them all by himself. It was just incredible power hitting at the end.
"He times his run really well, he identifies the bowlers he knows he can score heavily off and when he goes about doing that he can be unbelievably dangerous.
"Whereas Rohit is a bit more calculated, a bit more classy, in the (AB) de Villiers mould. He scores all around the ground and makes batting look very, very simple."
Ponting, who coached Pollard at Mumbai in 2015 and 2016, grew accustomed to watching the Trinidadian steer his side to victory in tight run chases; of the six times Pollard batted in a successful chase during Ponting's stint at coach, he tallied 153 runs at a strike rate of more than 200 and was dismissed only once. And of the five times Mumbai lost batting second, Pollard scored more than 20 only once.
But all of Pollard's previous performances chasing a total were eclipsed in Bengaluru on Friday when he walked in having watched four of his teammates be dismissed inside the first 16 deliveries of the innings.
But having taken his time to steady the chase, Pollard exploded before he was eventually dismissed for 70 from just 47 balls in a match where only RCB skipper Virat Kohli (62 from 47) scored more than 40.
"I just thought these are situations when champions are made," Pollard said. "I thought of that and struck to my strength, hit it down the ground.
"Many of my knocks have come under pressure. You like to contribute in these situations when the team is on the back foot. To win from this position is a great achievement.
"It is about changing gears. The situation demanded that one stayed in and build a partnership. This is Twenty20 cricket and anything can happen. Knocking the ball around and taking singles was the key.
"Personally I've never felt out of form. I've been hitting it well in the nets and these are the times you've to dig in."
McClenaghan said the inconsistent bounce of the Chinnaswamy Stadium wicket made Pollard's innings even more impressive.
"Pollard played one of the best knocks I've seen on an incredibly difficult wicket," the Kiwi said. "And that shouldn't be underestimated.
"He showed the composure of a top-order batsman to assess the wicket and the situation, to work the ones and wait for the ball in his slot.
"It was one of the smartest and technically good chases I have seen on such a difficult wicket. It was unbelievable."