During the inaugural season of the Afghanistan Premier League in 2018, when Colin Munro won the title with Balkh Legends, he admitted to a weakness against wristspin, particularly of the left-arm variety.
In his first match of CPL 2019, for defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders, he was up against Jamaica Tallawahs' 20-year-old left-arm wristspinner Zahir Khan at Sabina Park. Before this CPL game, Zahir had dismissed Munro twice in 19 balls in T20s while conceding 24 runs. However, Munro had a plan this time. In order to deal with the wrong'un - even if he doesn't pick it off the hand - and negate the lbw, he stood outside off and then jumped further across, unleashing reverse-swats to throw Zahir off his lines and lengths.
Such a stance was fraught with the risk of exposing the leg stump and reverse-hits can go boom or bust. Munro, though, backed his plan and his incredible hand-eye coordination, which stems from playing hockey during his school days in South Africa. He also plays golf right-handed, which perhaps explains why he is among the finest players of the reverse-hit or the switch-hit.
The first ball from Zahir to Munro was a short, stock ball that broke away outside off from over the wicket. Munro shuffled further across the stumps and flayed it away between point and the covers for a tone-setting four. Zahir responded with a fizzing googly that turned in and bounced. Munro didn't read the variation, but, having got outside the line, he managed to fend it away to the leg side via a deflection off the glove. Zahir attempted another wrong'un, but this slid on off the pitch, and Munro stretched out and reverse-swatted it into oblivion. Boom!
Zahir v Munro Round 2 began with the spinner beating the outside edge with his stock ball. But when Zahir slipped in the straighter one, Munro used his new stance and swept him flat and hard to the left of short fine-leg for four.
Just like that, Munro defanged Zahir and put him out of the attack. Later, when Zahir returned to the attack in the 14th over, Munro was zipping towards a half-century. Despite Tallawahs posting a man on the backward-point boundary, Munro cleared him and rumbled to the landmark with a rasping switch-hit. Rinse. Repeat. Another switch-hit six.
With Munro at the peak of his ball-striking ability, Tallawahs held back Zahir, who ended with 3-0-42-1. Munro alone hit 27 off 12 balls from him at a strike rate of 225. The New Zealander pressed on to hit 96 off 50 balls that formed the centrepiece of Knight Riders' 267 for 2 - the highest total in franchise T20 cricket.
"It wasn't bad; I was coming off some low scores on international duty in Sri Lanka," Munro told the host broadcaster after winning the match award. Against the spinners, I don't know which way it's going, but I just turned out and tried to swat it. Lucky to get a few out of the middle with the reverse-sweep."
When asked of his new stance, Munro said, "I've been out to him [Zahir] a few times and I can't pick him. For me, it was about taking that lbw and bowled out of play and then if he did get on the stumps, I could sweep him. But, yeah, he has got me out three times before and it was his first game tonight [in the CPL]. So, I knew he would be under pressure.
"It was my first game as well and I just tried to put a little bit more pressure on him. Polly [Kieron Pollard] even said it was great for me to not score runs for New Zealand and come over here and put on a show like this (laughs)."
This wasn't the first time in recent months that Munro had got outside the line of the stumps to reduce the threat posed by a left-arm wristspinner. Even in the Hamilton T20I against India earlier this year, Munro had often moved across off stump and slog-swept Kuldeep Yadav to the leg side.
"No, I didn't read him [Kuldeep]. I had a season at Kolkata [Knight Riders] there and he was all over me at the nets," Munro had said. "When he came on, luckily I had a bit of score under my name. He bowled a little bit flatter today than he did in the one-dayers and he's a class act. I look more at length [while hitting square of the wicket] and try to get outside the line; if I don't read the wrong'un then it's outside the line."
Munro was the top run-getter in CPL 2018, with 567 runs in 13 innings at an average of 51.54 and strike rate of 140.34 - all of this despite shelving his turbo-aggression and reverse-swats. These are still fairly early days in CPL 2019, but the old Munro is back. And this is not just happy news for Knight Riders, but also for New Zealand, who have missed their old Munro for a while.