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Match Analysis

Why Malinga has lost his sting, and a vintage big-hitting demo

Aakash Chopra analyses play from the run-fest in Mumbai, where Kings XI prevailed over the hosts

Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra
Kieron Pollard's mis-hit cleared the boundary with ease, Mumbai Indians v Kings XI Punjab, IPL 2017, Mumbai, May 11, 2017

Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons showed why holding the bat handle high up works when looking for the big hits  •  BCCI

Kings XI's batting gamble
In the first half of IPL 2017, Kings XI afforded so much importance to their batting that they opted fill all their overseas slots with batsmen. In their last two games, though, they decided to play with only five batting options, including wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha. Allrounder Axar Patel slotted in at No. 6, and then it was only the bowlers. With Glenn Maxwell doing better with ball of late, they could've easily fielded an extra batsman in Gurkeerat Singh, but they took a more risky route in two must-win games.
Mumbai bait Kings XI
Kings XI were 126 for 1 in 10 overs. Rohit Sharma went to Lasith Malinga and Jasprit Bumrah in successive overs in search of a wicket. The four fielders inside the circle were stationed close enough to stop the easy singles; it was a proper attempt to build pressure and break Kings XI's momentum. But Kings XI did not try even one risky shot till the last ball of Bumrah's over. Just when it seemed that they'd avoided the trap, Maxwell fell to Bumrah's last delivery, looking to slice the ball square on the off side. If he had not fallen, Rohit would have been hard-pressed with his bowling options. Maxwell's departure allowed him to bowl Harbhajan Singh and Karn Sharma at that stage.
Malinga loses his sting
Malinga has lost a little pace and accuracy. He is no longer the go-to bowler for the death overs; both Bumrah and McClenaghan are preferred over him for the tougher overs. So, what has gone wrong apart from getting a little slower? Malinga's previous successes were based on his unorthodox action creating deception, and a radically different flight path for the ball backed by pinpoint accuracy with regards to yorkers and slower ones. Even when he wasn't really accurate, the extra pace made it difficult for the batsmen to get under the ball.
If you look at his stats from IPL 2015 - he missed the 2016 edition with injury - and this year, the difference is telling. The numbers suggest that whenever the yorker has found its target, he has been equally economical (5.20 runs per over) in both seasons. While the frequency of the full balls (attempted yorkers) has remained the same (33%) in both seasons, the lack of pace has taken the batsmen's strike-rate off these deliveries through the roof this season - 175.80 this year to 138.05 in 2015. The same holds true for attempted bouncers; the lack of pace has allowed the batsmen to strike at 380 off these deliveries (181.82 in 2015).
The West Indians' old-school big hitting
T20 might be cricket's newest format, but it seems West Indies batsmen have cracked its batting code by revisiting the age-old formula for big hitting. In years gone by, all big hitters would hold the bat handle right at the top, have a high back-lift, and an uninhibited swing of the bat. Lendl Simmons does this, so does Pollard. Hands at the top of the handle increases reach, and the long levers provide more power.
Three times the fielding innovation
Innovative field placements are one of the striking features of T20 cricket. One such field includes three fielders inside the circle on the off side, behind square for spinners. This field is put out when a batsman is on the offensive but doesn't have the game to play the switch-hit or reverse-sweep, which is the case with most Indian batsmen. Pollard is also from the same school of batting, and so Rahul Tewatia and Axar had such a field for both Hardik Pandya and Pollard.

Aakash Chopra is the author of three books, the latest of which is The Insider: Decoding the craft of cricket. @cricketaakash