Kevon Cooper: Rajasthan Royals' impact player of IPL 2013

Kevon Cooper  sticks to the basics of bowling wicket-to-wicket and adds subtle yet effective variations to pick up important wickets © IANS

By Prakash Govindasreenivasan

The Rajasthan Royals have done their confidence a world of good with a thumping five-wicket victory over the Chennai Super Kings in the 2013 Indian Premier League. While most of the credit will be distributed between Shane Watson and Stuart Binny who just snatched the game away from MS Dhoni’s side around the half-way stage of the second innings, Kevon Cooper deserves a special mention.

Chennai’s batting has been following a very familiar script this year. Openers Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay gave yet another solid start, leaving the floor open for big hitters like Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni to blaze away to a demanding total.

Enter Kevon Cooper.

With the score at 86 for one in 12 overs, Cooper came on to bowl his second over of the day and struck gold — .twice! He sent back Raina and Dhoni in the same over to change the complexion of the game. All of a sudden, the pressure was on the Chennai middle-order that has hardly been exposed this season.

Cooper’s one effective wicket-taking over helped Rajasthan push Chennai on the back foot. Chennai hardly recovered from those twin blows. The game ended with some merciless blows from Watson, but Cooper had clearly set the tone — not for the first time.

With 16 wickets in 10 matches, Cooper is Rajasthan Royals’ second highest wicket taker this year, only three wickets behind James Faulkner. However, Cooper’s impact on the results that have gone Royals’ way has been greater.

Variation and Impact

Cooper’s biggest advantage has been his ability to vary his pace. He is not one of those big fast bowlers from Caribbean who generates copious pace. Cooper sticks to the basics of bowling wicket-to-wicket and adds subtle yet effective variations to pick up important wickets. His ability to take the pace off the ball to confuse the batsmen on typically slow Indian wickets has reaped rewards and made him an impactful player. After a successful campaign last year, Cooper was thrown right into the fray in the first game of the season for his side and he delivered. Having to defend just nine runs off the last six deliveries against the Delhi Daredevils, he held his nerves and picked up two wickets to guide his side to a narrow five-run victory.

In the game against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium at Jaipur, it was his disguised off-cutter that got rid of the dangerous Eoin Morgan who, until then, was looking set to run away with the game.

Cooper’s twin strikes in the game against the Kings XI Punjab at Jaipur helped the Royals restrict the visitors to a paltry total. He dismissed the dangerous Azhar Mahmood and Piyush Chawla with two deliveries where he successfully took the pace off the ball and forced the batsmen to fall for the ploy.

He struck gold when his side travelled to Chandigarh to finish with figures of three for 23 in four overs. He provided his side a crucial breakthrough by getting rid of Adam Gilchrist and later on deceived Shaun Marsh and David Miller with two slower deliveries to keep the KXIP total under check.

Silent operator

While the focus of Rajasthan’s game has primarily been on Rahul Dravid’s ability to play out of his skin or Ajinkya Rahane’s elegance at the top, Shane Watson’s ruthlessness in the middle or youngster Sanju Samson’s fearless strokeplay. However, Cooper’s efforts need to be put right up there with all of these, if not on a higher pedestal, for being one of the driving forces of Rajasthan’s fortunes this year.

In the last four seasons, Rajasthan Royals have failed to emulate their success from 2008. However, on current form they are well placed to go all the way and even secure their second IPL title. For that to happen, Cooper’s invaluable contributions in the remainder of the tournament will be highly crucial.

(Prakash Govindasreenivasan is an Editorial consultant at CricketCountry and a sports fanatic, with a soft corner for cricket. After studying journalism for two years, came the first big high in his professional life – the opportunity to interview his hero Adam Gilchrist and talking about his magnificent 149 in the 2007 World Cup final. While not following cricket, he is busy rooting for Chelsea FC)