By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Kieron Pollard’s calculated assault on the Indian bowlers reignited West Indian hopes of a win at Chennai and left the hosts flabbergasted for an hour or two. At one stage when West Indies were 78 for five in pursuit of 268, their chances of pulling off victory looked bleak on the tricky Chennai surface. However, dangerman Pollard and Andre Russell launched a sensational counterattack which would have given the Indians quite a few jitters.
The West Indians weren’t helped by the umpiring as Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdhin were victims of howlers. The two men were crucial wickets as Samuels is capable of doing serious damage when he gets going, while Ramdhin showed his good touch in the previous One-Day International (ODI) at Indore. From that point onwards it was uphill for the West Indies who could not be blamed if the decisions had a demoralising effect on them. That is why the efforts of Pollard and Russell were especially praiseworthy.
Pollard’s 119 was easily the highlight of the day. The Trinidadian all-rounder has made his reputation as an explosive bat later in the order who can change the fortunes of the game in a matter of few overs. His T20 experiences over the world have resulted in him being stereotyped as a slam-bang player who may not have a lot to offer in longer versions. However, his knock at Chennai proves otherwise as he combined his dangerous aggression with caution to script a thriller. Pollard’s stats -119 runs in 110 balls, 10 sixes, four fours – are indicative of the fact. The number of sixes hit during the knock would give one the impression that he would have got his hundred in 60-70 odd balls, but that was not the case.
The fact that he played 110 deliveries and hit all those boundaries suggests that he was pretty sensible. He was waiting for the bad deliveries and was ready to hit them if they were in his zone. On this particular surface he needed to curb his natural instinct and avoid attempting big hits off every other delivery. He played out the difficult periods and dealt Rahul Sharma with caution as he bowled a nagging line and length. The fact that Pollar hit ten sixes on a tricky pitch underlines Pollard’s abilities as a batsman. He could be a bigger asset to the West Indies team and a major thorn in the opposition’s flesh. The West Indies need him to have a similar approach in other innings and if occupies the crease for quite some time, the sixes and the fours will flow at a very good rate. He showed application in the middle which is vital in constructing long, match-winning knocks.
Russell also needs to be lauded for the way he applied himself. He is certainly making strides as an all-rounder and if nurtured well, he can add tremendous balance to this West Indies team. Like Pollard, he too was sensible in his approach and only gave it a whack when the opportunity presented itself. The unfortunate run-out ended a promising knock and had they continued to build on that partnership, we may have witnessed a spectacular win.
In the end, one could see the disappointment on Pollard’s face. He has borne the brunt of criticism and stereotype for quite sometime and it looked like he was intent on things at Chepauk. Nothing short of a West Indies win would have made him happy and a little more support from Russell or had any of the tailenders hung around, it might have made his day.
The Pollard we saw at Chennai is a thinking cricketer who wants to mature into a better player. On hindsight, it would have been poetic justice had he taken them across the finish line, keeping the two bad decisions in perspective.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")