Dubai: Lockie Ferguson, one of the key performers behind the Black Caps’ stirring performance in the ICC World Cup last year, is looking forward to a ‘pace-off’ with Australia’s Pat Cummins for their IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders in the UAE. The New Zealander joined his first practice session with the teammates in Abu Dhabi on Friday after completing his week-long hotel quarantine on arrival.
Cummins, who was the highest grosser among the overseas players in the last auction in December 2019, looked in great rhythm in the ongoing white ball series against England and will be arriving with the entire bunch of England and Australian players here immediately after their last One-day International on September 17. Now in his second season with the Knights, Ferguson has clocked 150 kmph in the past and can be a handful with his angular, economic run-up and awkward bouncers.
‘‘We are surely going to have the ‘pace-offs’ with each other. I don’t know if you are aware of this fast bowling club. We are always nice to the guy who can bowl at 150kmph! Look, Pat is an exceptional bowler, there is no secret about that. He is either the bowler or Player of the Year internationally almost every year. He seems to be getting better and better and he is still so young. He is a lovely guy and I am thoroughly looking forward to rubbing shoulders with him,’’ said the 29-year-old.
Given the fact that the KKR management had invested heavily on their fast bowling resources with different conditions in mind (the Eden Gardens wicket, their home, is much more true in recent years), the main fast bowlers will have to think of other weapons in their armoury in the UAE where the wickets will progressively get slower. In a chat with www.kkr.in, Ferguson said he was aware of it: ‘‘In my arsenal, I pack my yorkers and slower balls. But I am also working on some other variations. At this moment, I am just looking forward to getting back to the grind and bowling again. It was a nice little break (during the lockdown) but yeah, my body needs to adjust now from no bowling to lots of training.’’
There will be, however, no shortage of guidance and encouragement from the team’s support staff - which has one of his early heroes in Brendon McCullum as the new Head Coach and Kyle Mills, another compatriot, as their fast bowling coach. ‘Baz,’ as McCullum is nicknamed as, will be riding high after guiding the Trinbago Knight Riders - the Shah Rukh Khan co-owned team - to their first Caribbean Premier League crown on Thursday and joined the squad in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
The first-ever wicketkeeper-batsman of the KKR in the inugural edition 2008 IPL, McCullum took the Royal Challengers Bangalore attack to the cleaners with a blazing 158 in the first game of the tournament - an innings which is still credited with setting the tempo for the newly launched lague. Watching that innings as a teenager was Ferguson himself. ‘‘Well, I loved watching the first season when Brendon was smashing it all over the park. We didn’t know how big IPL was potentially going to be. I think it was difficult to measure for a Kiwi because here for Black Caps, a crowd of 20,000 is a big crowd.
‘‘So, my first season at Pune in front of a soldout crowd was extremely difficult because I couldn’t get over the noise. Seeing it on TV is one thing but being out there on the field in the IPL is a whole different ball game,’’ he admitted.
‘‘In my international career,’’ I just missed out on having him as my captain, said Ferguson, adding: ‘‘It was just after the World Cup here in New Zealand. I have bowled to him a few times at the nets. He is one of those New Zealanders who played the game the way he thought it should be played. He was always super aggressive and I guess my bowling mirrors him in a way when it comes to aggression. So yeah, I am thoroughly looking forward to playing under him as coach.
Is he also looking forward to learning some new tricks from Mills ? ‘‘I remember I was a young chubby pup at Auckland when I was starting out. Mills was very well established in the Black Caps and one of our greats already. So, I tried to rub shoulders with him as much as I could when he was back in Auckland and learnt some tricks from him. He has a really calm attitude.
‘‘Even when he was playing, whenever the pressure situations came up, he always remained pretty relaxed. I am sure he has plenty to teach now. And undoubtedly, he is one of the most accurate bowlers we have had in New Zealand. So, I would love to see what his thoughts are when it comes to playing in the IPL,’’ he added.