Match Analysis

The ever evolving genius of Kieron Pollard

He announced himself as a T20 phenom years ago, but now he has become better than ever, as Super Kings found out

Hemant Brar
Hemant Brar
T20 is as much a game of finer calculations as it is of sheer power. And on Saturday, Kieron Pollard showed what can be achieved if one mixes both in the right amount.
Chasing 219, Pollard smashed an unbeaten 87 off just 34 balls, studded with eight sixes and six fours, to take the Mumbai Indians to an improbable win against the Chennai Super Kings.
But when Pollard came out to bat, the task was even more daunting. Mumbai had lost three quick wickets and needed 132 runs from 62 balls.
The Super Kings had four seamers in their attack and Pollard knew each of them would bowl their quota of four overs. That would leave two spinners, Ravindra Jadeja and Moeen Ali, to carry out the fifth bowler's job.
Given the smaller boundaries at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi, spinners were the easy targets. However, by the time Pollard marked his guard, 1.4 overs of spin had already been bowled. Krunal Pandya then managed just two runs in five balls of the third over spin.
When Jadeja started the final over of spin, the 13th of the innings, Pollard was on strike. He knew it was his last chance to take advantage.
"They had four overs of spin to bowl on a small ground," Pollard told host broadcaster Star Sports at the post-match presentation. "So I wanted to see if I can hit a couple of sixes off spinners firstly and then try to take it from there. I only got two overs against spin and had to maximise that over against Jadeja. When you see the conditions, the pitch and the bowlers, you know if you stay in for a period of time… the ground is small, and a couple of sixes were always going to keep us in the game."
Pollard is not a 360-degree player. His main scoring areas are down the ground and the leg side. To deny him big hits, bowlers generally bowl wide outside off.
Jadeja also tried the same. After being hit for a six earlier in the over, he went wider in order to stay away from Pollard's hitting arc.
The ball was so far away from Pollard that if he had left it, it would have been called a wide. Despite taking a little step towards the leg side, Pollard reached out for it and not only did he connect, he hit it so well that the ball sailed over the sweeper cover.
After the match, Pollard said he had been working on his off-side game.
"As an individual, you have to evolve," he said. "Guys bowl wide and you are missing out on some balls. You have to try and maximise that part [off side] of the field as well. A lot of practice goes into it. That has helped me tremendously. Now I can't say I'm 360. I'm not getting close to there, but I'm maximising more angles in the field."
Pollard muscled the last ball of Jadeja's over for yet another six, taking the over tally to 20 runs.
He continued in the same vein against the pacers as well and took Mumbai to the brink of victory. With 16 needed from the final over, and Dhawal Kulkarni for company, he knew he needed to face all six balls from Lungi Ngidi. He refused two singles but ensured he saw his side home.
"Dhawal is decent with the bat but in order for us to win, I needed to bat six balls," he said. "That's the pressure you have to take as an individual when you see the magnitude of the game and what's needed. We have done this time and time again in practice, in scenarios. So it's just a matter of keeping calm and try to execute."
During the Super Kings' innings, Pollard was also the most successful bowler for Mumbai, registering figures of 2-0-12-2. After the match, Hardik Pandya revealed on that Pollard loves his bowling more than his batting. Hardik said: "He hits sixes for breakfast but if he takes a wicket or he bowls well, for him, you know when you give candy to a baby, it's like that.
"He is livid with himself when he gives [away] runs because, I don't know, he takes his bowling to the heart. I think batting he does from here (points to the head), bowling happens from here (points to the heart) I feel."
If so, Pollard must have felt like a child in a candy store during the Super Kings' innings. Once Jasprit Bumrah dismissed Ali to end his 108-run stand with Faf du Plessis, Mumbai grabbed the opportunity to sneak in a couple of overs from Pollard.
Pollard conceded a single on each of his first four deliveries. On the fifth ball, a slower one, du Plessis miscued a scoop. Bumrah took the catch. Pollard took a bow.
The next delivery was again a slower one and Suresh Raina holed out to deep square leg. This time Pollard broke into an Imran Tahir-esque celebratory run.
Still, at the end of the day, it was his batting that left Hardik "speechless". It prompted Krunal to declare "he is the G.O.A.T". It made Rohit Sharma say he had "never seen a chase like that before".

Hemant Brar is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo