Kolkata: Cometh the hour, cometh Kieron Pollard. The giant West Indian, who has not been having the best of IPL seasons so far, decided to reserve his best for a day when Mumbai Indians needed it the most – helping them climb mountain of a total against Chennai Super Kings with a blazing 87 off 34 balls, studded with eight sixes and six fours.
This could well be the springboard the five-time champions needed to put their campaign back on the rails, but for now, it’s time to talk about the Trinidadian. The Caribbeans had, over the years, played a huge part in giving the IPL its distinctive flavour and there had been some extraordinary performers like the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Sunil Narine, Andre Russell and Pollard himself. Gayle certainly stands the tallest among them in stature, but it will not be an exaggeration to say that Pollard has perhaps proved himself to be the most valuable player behind his team winning five titles.
Mumbai captain Rohit Sharma felt it was one of the ‘‘best innings’’ that he had seen from ‘Polly’ - as the veteran is nicknamed - and Sharma has had the best view from the non-striker’s end of quite a few of them.
When Chennai raked up their highest ever total against Mumbai with 218, thanks to an uncharacteristic burst from Ambati Rayudu, one thought for a moment if the tactically astute Sharma had missed a trick by opting to bowl on Saturday. There were enough reasons to back his decision - the new Delhi wicket had been a belter with shorter square boundaries, the dew factor would help the chasing side but it’s not an easy task to maintain an asking rate of 11 and thereabouts against a decent attack.
The experienced professional Pollard is, he refused to give up - despite him and Krunal Pandya having to reboot the innings after they lost the top order of the captain, Quinton de Kock and the in-form Suryakumar Yadav in quick succession. The 34-year-old decided to destroy Ravindra Jadeja’s confidence by taking him on for three sixes - and kept on going for the big shots time and again at the back-end of the innings to keep his team in the hunt.
It came down to 16 needed off the last over, bowled by Lungi Ngidi, and Pollard kept lower order batsman Dhawal Kulkarni away from the srtike. He hit consecutive boundaries and a six over the square leg fence to reduce the ask to two runs off the last ball. It came alright, though one was intrigued to see Kulkarni backing up far too much before Ngidi had landed on the bowling crease - a move that required a severe caution from the umpire.
This is Pollard’s 12th season with Mumbai and given the allround abilities that he brings to the table (he has been performing the role of sixth bowler this year regularly when Hardik Pandya not bowling), the team management will look to retain him at the mega auction next year.
He, along with the now retired Lasith Malinga, had been easily two of their best overseas players in MI journey so far.