When Shaun Pollock knew he was going to be Lasith Malinga's coach at Mumbai Indians, he made a serious effort to understand his newest charge - by trying to copy him.
"I spent some time trying to bowl a few different deliveries with my arm in the same position as he does," Pollock said. "I couldn't really do it."
Pollock admits that the differences between his action and Malinga's are so vast that, "from a technical perspective, there's not too much I can offer him." But he has still forged a working relationship with Malinga, who is Mumbai's premier bowler. "There are a few basics that don't change no matter what your action is like," Pollock added.
Much is expected of Malinga at the Champions League T20 and Pollock thinks he will deliver despite his performances at the World Twenty20. In fact, Pollock expects Malinga will still be smarting after the way he was taken apart by Marlon Samuels in the final and could have some anger to release on the players in this tournament.
"He will be keen to make a point and he definitely can," Pollock said. "The international guys who play a lot more against him may have figured out a way to keep him away but even then, there are domestic players who have never seen him before. He is still a seriously good strike option. I would still always give him the ball in the last over, especially if I had to defend 10 runs or less."
Pollock is particularly looking forward to the combination Malinga could form with Mitchell Johnson. Mumbai bought Johnson ahead of IPL5 but he was unable to take part because he had not recovered in time from surgery on his toe. This tournament will be his first appearance for the franchise and, in a country where he has seen success before, he will be a key man for Mumbai.
"Mitchell has been an exciting player for Australia for many years. Most importantly, he is a fast bowler and on South African wickets, he can have a big impact," Pollock said. Although it is still early season in South Africa, a time where Pollock said the Wanderers and Centurion don't have that much activity he thinks "spring growth" will ensure that conditions are "more in favour of the fast bowlers."
Despite Johnson's prowess, Pollock warned that he is not guaranteed a place in the starting XI. "We've also got Thisara Perera so we'll probably go for Malinga and one of those two. It's great to have those attacking options."
Although Pollock's main focus is on bowling, he has also taken an interest in the batting side of things. One significant concern to him is the form, or rather lack of, of South African opening batsman Richard Levi and Pollock hopes to do his bit to get Levi back to his best. "We'll work with him in the nets to star and try and discuss his role and see how he is feeling. Sometimes it could be something small that is affecting a player," Pollock said. "It may also help that he will be back in conditions he knows and has had a bit of a break."
Levi may not play every game for Mumbai with Ambati Rayudu also competing for the spot, but they still want him firing. "In 20-over cricket, you can't hide anyone," Pollock said. Mumbai have had one man in hiding, though: Robin Peterson. He is not in their squad for the tournament but has been hanging around the camp to provide insight and local knowledge.
Creating a positive atmosphere is one thing Pollock hopes will set the tone for the title defence. In particular, they hope to feed off the spirit of Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Smith who were part of the victorious West Indies side at the World T20. "Their confidence is high so any advantage we can get from them playing well, we will take," Pollock said.