Ian Bishop: Kieron Pollard has to reinvent his game
Vettori thinks the Mumbai batter has "soaked up balls" this IPL season
Kieron Pollard may be in the middle of his least productive IPL campaign but, according to former West Indies fast bowler Ian Bishop, there may still be more to come if the 35-year old is open to a little bit of tinkering.
"Pollard himself has to reinvent his game, however he chooses to do that, because he's still got a future ahead of him we hope," Bishop said on ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time: Out. "People are saying he's washed, I'm not going to go there. I think he's a player who can reinvent himself."
Eleven games into IPL 2022, Pollard has 144 runs under his belt at an average of 14.40 and a strike rate of 107.46 - his lowest strike rate in any IPL season. The only previous instance of Pollard finishing a season with a strike rate below 130 was more than a decade ago, in 2011. Having been a vital cog in the Mumbai machinery since 2010 - and a key contributor in each of their five IPL title wins - Pollard has had the backing of the team even as he goes through a difficult campaign.
"Yeah, they're keeping faith and being loyal to a great player for them. We have to have long memories - when I say we, in the media; fans, some fans anyway, have short memories," Bishop said. "You look at Pollard's numbers when Mumbai have won the championships: 400 runs  in 2013 at [an average of] 42, up to 2019 and 2020, where he averaged over 30 with a strike rate sometimes in the 160s to 190s [156.74 in 2019, 191.42 in 2020] - he's been integral to them. You can't forget that as a franchise, so they're giving him every possible chance."
Four of Pollard's five fastest-scoring campaigns have come in years where Mumbai won the IPL - 2013, 2015, 2019 and 2020 - and over the years he has become part of the side's leadership group as well. The dwindling returns through this frustrating season (Mumbai are rooted to the bottom of the table with just two wins in 11 games) may see some fans clamouring for his removal - or even a break, to try out other options in the team's remaining games - but Daniel Vettori agreed with Bishop's take.
"Franchises can't think like fans; they have to be dispassionate towards what they're talking about," Vettori said. "What Mumbai have to do is to have a long memory, as Bish says, but also look to the future.
"Is Pollard in that future? I suggest he is. I think we've had seasons before from him where he maybe hasn't been on top of his game and he's bounced back. So Pollard playing these last few games is critical, because I think he'll be a critical part of the franchise going forward."
Among the bigger concerns for Pollard - the batter - is his visible struggle against spin. He has averaged 6.80 versus spinners this season while striking at just 82.92, with teams having clear strategies and saving overs of spin for him. Vettori, who himself bowled a fair bit to Pollard in his playing days, believes he is being hampered not as much by waning powers, as he is by tentative thinking.
"In terms of spin bowling, he is terrifying to bowl to as a spin bowler, generally," Vettori said. "His reach just dominates everything, and a lot of the time he can go from ball one or ball two. I think what we're seeing [this season] is that he's soaked up balls. But him at his best is if you overpitch, he's going to hit you for six first ball. It just feels like there's a tentativeness there; maybe that's symptomatic of the season as well or where the season has gone, that he wants to put it all on his shoulders and carry the team right through to the end, like he's done in the past, but it just hasn't quite worked this season."
Bishop reckons it's a question of confidence. "As a bowler, if you know that a guy is tentative, you know he's out of form, you know you have the wood over him, then you're very confident in executing whatever plans you have," he said. "When Pollard has been in his best form, I've seen him take apart some legspinners, I've seen him take apart some left-arm spinners.
"Kieron Pollard needs confidence; he's not that type of guy - when you get on top of him, it's harder for him to come out. He needs the confidence, he needs the backing, he needs a good start to the season."
Having seen Pollard from close quarters from a young age, how much of the surround sound does Bishop think is getting through to him? "100%," he said. "Pollard would be feeling disappointed, he'd be concerned with his form, he'd be trying to find a way, because he knows as well. We talk about Mumbai being loyal to him, he knows as well that while he has performed for them they continued to be loyal to him, and he would want to repay that faith. And I'm sure that he's concerned about the fact that he hasn't scored the volume of runs.
"As great a player as he has been for the Mumbai Indians, I'm telling you, 100%, that it has concerned him. He wants to - not prove the critics wrong, because there's justification in some of the criticism of his form, it's been obvious - but he'd want to show them that he still has it."