Nicholas Pooran and the Crack of Doom

By Bharath Ramaraj

The instinctive nature of Nicholas Pooran’s game makes you wonder about his mindset. At the post-match presentation for the Royal Challengers Bangalore-Lucknow Super Giants game played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, Pooran shared his thoughts on his approach towards batting: “The second ball I came in and smashed a six. It isn’t about getting a look in. If it is in my slot, then I will smash it for six.”

That simple mantra of ‘see the ball, hit the ball’ was at the heart of Pooran silencing all the loud chants of ‘RCB, RCB, RCB’ for a few seconds with a pull stroke off Harshal Patel, which in turn challenged our imagination. In fact, it was one out of a volley of jaw-dropping shots essayed by Pooran that would make it to the highlights reel for the game. But let’s delve deeper to analyse that one pull shot.

Harshal is renowned for his variations. But with the track staying true and offering very little grip, he decided to try out a hard length in the 14th over. The first one he attempted was down the leg-side and bowled at around 77mph. On cue, Pooran swatted the hit-me ball over fine leg for a six. The second time around, Harshal bent his back a little more and pounded the pitch hard enough at around 83-84mph. From his perspective, it was one of his fastest deliveries (if not the quickest) of the night.

So Harshal had given every ounce of his energy to bowl a quicker one. Although it was bowled below head height, Pooran was momentarily surprised by the short ball. Perhaps he was expecting another of Harshal’s variations. He lost the track of the ball for a moment and his eyes were frozen. However, to his credit, he didn’t lose the shape of his shot as he had a mighty swing at the ball and it went all the way over deep backward square leg. One can’t be coached to play the pull shot that way. It is purely instinctive.

Pooran Hits, DK Misses and Lucknow Sneak Home

The final photo-frame of the shot was a sight to behold. The left leg was off the ground and the other leg tilting towards the right, as his willow ruthlessly crunched the ball. He had completely turned his back towards the bowler and, for a second or two, it felt as if the sheer force of all those quick movements could even result in him taking a tumble on to the ground.

Over many decades, the Caribbean Islands have produced several batters who played with a sense of Calypso beat. One of them was Rohan Kanhai. Kanhai was known for his quintessential ‘Falling Sweep’ – a shot that he played when he cracked 252 against Victoria during the 1960-61 tour of Australia. When England travelled to the West Indies in 1967-68, Garry Sobers reportedly pulled with his eyes closed while facing Jeff Jones, the father  of Simon, one of the 2005 Ashes heroes. The legendary Sobers might well quip though that Jeff was a fair bit quicker than Harshal.

A flat six that Lawrence Rowe hooked during his epic 302 against England in Bridgetown (1974) is part of West Indies cricket lore. Flashes of energy gushed forth from different arcs of Brian Lara’s high back-lift as he threaded gaps, especially through the off-side, with clockwork precision. Viv Richards and Richie Richardson played hooks full of swagger. It is both difficult and unfair to compare across eras, but Pooran’s pull stroke certainly belonged to the Caribbean treasure chest that has a collection of shots played with Calypso rhythm and boundless self-confidence.

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