Head coach Brendon McCullum confirmed Pat Cummins, who arrived last week, is available for selection for their next game against the Mumbai Indians and adds to a “few selection headaches”. McCullum believes the Australian Test captain would add an element of leadership for captain Shreyas Iyer to feed off.
“Pretty delighted to get Pat back,” he said. “He’s one of those guys who blends so well in this environment and is a wonderful human being. Huss was adamant he wanted some Australians, I was, obviously, a bit hesitant about too many Australians (laughs) but Pat’s an absolute beauty, a wonderful cricketer and a strong leader as well so he’s going to add another layer of leadership in and around our skipper Shreyas, who has been impressive as well. We have got a few selection headaches actually. We have more guys to pick from than not which is a good problem to have and hopefully we get them right.”
Cummins' inclusion would bolster an in-form pace bowling cartel spearheaded by Umesh Yadav that has led the Knight Riders to two wins out of three games. Yadav and the Knight Riders’ bowling coach Bharat Arun go a long way back with both having been a part of the Indian national team set-up and the latter was a good sounding board during Yadav’s red-ball success.
The Knights’ Mentor David Hussey believes the relationship has continued in Yadav’s white-ball resurgence in this season’s IPL as well. Yadav has put in two man-of-the-match performances in three games, picking up 8 wickets at a miserly economy of 4.91 and also currently holds the Purple Cap.
“He’s probably been the best buy in the IPL,” Hussey said. “He has been outstanding upfront taking early wickets. Him and [Bharat] Arun work very well together, they have worked together for 5-6 years now. They have got a good respectful relationship. One thing I will say about Umesh is that he works extremely hard on the track to be prepared for each game. In his words, he says he feels no pressure because he’s got a lot of support from all the background staff and full credit goes to Arun for being one of the better people and one of the better bowling coaches going around.”
For all the bowlers’ efforts, the fielding has been just as impressive. He laid some credit at fielding coach James Foster’s door for it. The Knight Riders have caught as many as 15 catches and dropped only one across the three games they have played so far. Sheldon Jackson’s wicket-keeping drew parallels with MS Dhoni’s skills and against Punjab Kings, Tim Southee pulled off a blinder running 33 metres from long-off to mid-on.
“Boys do a lot of fielding. Our fielding coach James Foster, who is excellent, is probably one of the best fielding coaches in the world. He rides the boys pretty hard, does a lot of ground fielding, a lot of catching and makes sure the boys do their fill in fielding in order to be ready for the games. There’s a little bit of extra work just to make sure you’re nice and comfortable under any high ball or flat ball and make sure the catch is taken because dropped catches, they crucify the team in any performance.”
The Knight Riders prepare to take on Mumbai Indians on Wednesday and even though they are coming off two losses in as many games, McCullum is not discounting a team which has come out victorious against them on 22 occasions out of 29 past encounters.
“Mumbai are Mumbai! (Laughs) They know what they are doing. We are very respectful of the Mumbai Indians management, the coaching staff and the leadership so we know that even with couple of losses early in this tournament, they would still remain poised under pressure. We are expecting them to play well. We expect every team to play well who we come up against and we expect us to play well as well. Hopefully if we can be present and calm in pressure times then hopefully it means we come out on top.”
From the current squad, Andre Russell has alone hit 183 runs against Mumbai Indians and will be key on Pune’s pitches, which has seen defending teams come out victorious in the two games it has hosted so far.
Little over 6 feet in height, when Russell hits it hard, the ball not so much ricochets off the bat into the stands, or over the piquets, as it disappears into the night sky. The evidence of it could be found in his unbeaten 31-ball knock of 70, which included eight sixes, and powered the Knight Riders home from a position of vulnerability at 4 for 51.
How exactly does he clobber 90-meter hits at will? Hussey attempted to make sense of the mayhem he ensued two nights ago: “Because he’s a monster. He’s huge, his arms are bigger than me.
That’s not all though.
“Heavy bats, he swings it and once the ball is in his area, he connects and he keeps going, keeps sailing over the boundary and long may it continue. He does work extremely hard in the nets and practices all his skills. The best thing about Dre is even if we are 5 for 10 or 2 for 150, he’s going to play the same way. His whole goal is to entertain in the IPL and once he hits the ball, it generally stays hidden and hopefully it goes over the picquet more times this IPL.”