Kolkata: The IPL has acted as a melting pot of cricketing cultures over the years, but the Caribbean flavour had been all pervasive. Be it Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell or new age stars like Nicholas Pooran or Shimron Hetmyer, they have left a strong impact - so much so that the franchise owners have seen enough business sense to co-own franchises in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in recent years.
One of them, who has often flown somewhat below the radar, is Kieron Pollard - ‘Polly’ to his teammates. The giant 34-year-old, not many would perhaps reckon, is one of the four captains whose teams will be in contention for the T20 World Cup which immediately follows the IPL apart from Virat Kohli (India), Eoin Morgan (England) and Kane Williamson (New Zealand).
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Pollard, 34, will be leading a full-strength Caribbean side which is looking to defend the title which they won in a dramatic fashion five years back in the 2016 final against England at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. No prizes for guessing, Pollard - an astute cricketing brain - will be making mental notes on the behaviour of the wickets, possible dew factor and other minute details for their campaign.
It’s not a coincidence that the West Indies team stands on a different plane when it comes to T20 format, having won the world T20 crown twice in 2012 and 2016 and looking good for a third one on the UAE soil in October-November. Darren Sammy, now retired, had been their captain on both occasions and could get the best out of their maverick lot despite not being one of their biggest stars - a quality which Pollard also seems to command ever since he was hoisted as the captain of their white ball teams since 2019.
The Trinidadian, now in his 11th season with five-time champions Mumbai Paltan, had been simply invaluable to their template for success - though his aggregate of 3191 runs and 63 wickets from 171 matches often fails to do justice to his contribution. The number of times that he has won critical phases for Rohit Sharma’s men is not funny - be it giving their innings a late boost or helping in chasing down improbable totals.
A perfect case in point was their chase of an epic 219 set up by Chennai Super Kings during a league game in Delhi in first half of IPL in India earlier this year. Pollard masterminded the chase with a mindboggling display of calculated hitting to remain unbeaten on 87 off 34 balls - his highest score in the IPL so far.
“Probably one of the T20 games that I have ever been part of. I have never seen a chase like that before. One of the best innings from Polly. Brilliant to see from outside. Good pitch, smaller ground, we wanted to stay positive once we finished the 20 overs,” Rohit said at the presentation.
Giving a peek into the art of his batting, Pollard said: ‘‘You have to evolve, lot of practice goes into it. That has helped me. I can’t say I’m 360, I am maximising more angles in the field.” Pollard had said.
Last year in the UAE, Pollard smashed the ball at a strike rate of 191 and even captained the side for five matches when Rohit was down with an hamstring injury - helping them to a fifth crown.
It will be interesting to follow Pollard’s UAE sojourn over the next two months!