IPL 2021 was ordinary by any standards for Nicholas Pooran
. He managed all of 85 runs in 12 innings, including five ducks, for Punjab Kings. Yet, when the fresh auction came around last weekend, Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad went big bidding for him. Finally, when the paddle came down, he was the second-most expensive overseas buy at INR 10.75 crore (USD 1.42 million), going to Sunrisers.
On Wednesday, Pooran, the West Indies T20I vice-captain, showed why he is rated highly, anchoring a floundering innings with a 43-ball 61 from No. 3 against India in the first T20I. It kept West Indies in the contest and allowed them to post 157, which he later felt was "ten or 15 short". While it wasn't a flawless effort, Pooran's adaptability against both pace and spin was something his team-mates would do well to note.
Pooran himself struggled to manoeuvre the ball when it was bowled into the pitch. Ravi Bishnoi
and Harshal Patel
profited from this approach. As per ESPNcricinfo's logs, West Indies struck just 27 runs off the 32 deliveries bowled short of a good length. He was a lot more comfortable when it was tossed up, although Yuzvendra Chahal
should have had him on 8 in the seventh over, but for Bishnoi's drop at long-off.
"We fell short, and that is where the game definitely slipped," Pooran said. "We can't fault the bowlers, to be honest. As batsmen, we need to pace [the innings] much smarter, so it was definitely the batting [that let them down]. We need to continue to build partnerships and negate spinners better."
What should the others be doing to play spin better?
"We were in two minds against them," Pooran explained. "Whether to attack them or keep them out of the game. We got caught there. It is a small fix. We have to be more clear in the next game to execute our plans. It was a bit tricky today. The ball was stopping on the surface. It was two-paced. When the spinners and pacers bowled back of a length, you had to adjust to the pace off the pitch, so hitting through the line was difficult early on.
"Dew was as big a factor as well. When we were bowling, a lot of guys were wiping the ball. The guys bowled a lot of full tosses as well [because of dew] towards the end, so conditions played a big factor. The wicket also played a lot better in the second half, it came on a lot better. That said, India batted really well, have to give them credit."
"If you think about it and look at T20 cricket all over the world, it's about being smart"
One of the ploys West Indies tried to unsettle India's spinners was to promote hitter Akeal Hosein
, the left-hander, ahead of Kieron Pollard
to try and take advantage of the legspin, deliveries coming into his swinging arc, as against the ball turning away. But Bishnoi was a step ahead on that count and used the wrong'un as his stock ball.
His drift and the lengths he bowled in taking the ball across, meant they didn't get too many deliveries in the hitting arc. Bishnoi delivered as many as four dots in the 13th over, his third, as Hosein tried to hit out. He was eventually dismissed in the following over for 10 off 12 balls. This strategy may not have worked on the night, but Pooran felt the call to have him come up ahead of Pollard was a peek into their mindset of being flexible.
"If you think about it and look at T20 cricket all over the world, it's about being smart," he said. "We had just lost two wickets in the 11th over. The thinking, I guess, was to have a left-hander negate the spinner. As soon as Akeal came in, they brought in Venkatesh Iyer
and pushed the spinners deeper in the innings. I thought from a team perspective, that was a good plan. Had Akeal hit that [the delivery he got out] for six, we would've been back in the game. It didn't work out, but I like that thinking."