On the rise, Nicholas Pooran has made his mark with KXIP

The Shers have made a prudent investment in West Indies ‘keeper Nicholas Pooran and it is already paying dividends.

Photo: SPORTZPICS

In November 2018, the second season of the T10 League was played in the UAE and a certain left-handed batsman from the Caribbean used that podium to announce himself on the world stage. Hailing from Trinidad and Tobago, Nicholas Pooran emerged as the leading run scorer of the tournament, scoring 324 runs at a staggering strike rate of 245.45.

A month later at the 2019 VIVO Indian Premier League auction, Pooran found himself in an intense bidding war between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab with the latter ultimately nabbing the wicket-keeper batsman.

Heading into the season-opener in Jaipur against Rajasthan Royals, the 23-year-old managed to score only 12 runs and suffered an injury after he collided with teammate Ankit Rajpoot. He was out of action for the next six games; and had a couple of underwhelming matches against RCB and Rajasthan Royals, where he came into bat towards the end of the innings with only a few balls to play.

The West Indian batsman, though, got into his groove when the Shers travelled to Bangalore to face Virat Kohli’s side. While his partner David Miller was finding it difficult to get going, Pooran went on the attack right from the beginning, targeting the RCB spinners on a track that was actually assisting their kind.

He smashed a quickfire 46 off just 28 balls which included five sixes, announcing himself on the IPL stage. He carried the momentum into the next few games, especially when the Shers were back in Mohali facing the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Batting first, KXIP were in a muddle having lost both their openers with just 22 runs on the board. Replacing the departing Chris Gayle, his countryman Pooran followed on his footsteps by playing the same brand of fearless cricket. The southpaw scored a crucial 48 in that game which helped the hosts get to 183/6 with young Englishman Sam Curran also nabbing a fifty. 

Then, in their final game of the campaign, the 23-year-old showcased his class yet again once again in one hurrah for the home supporters. The Shers got off to a brilliant start with KL Rahul smashing 71 off just 36 balls and after his wicket, Pooran never let the ball drop. After being promoted up the order to number three, the left-hander smashed a quickfire 36 which included three colossal sixes as he completely quelled any chances of a CSK comeback.

Having started off slowly, Pooran grew into the tournament and really left an indelible mark by the end with his explosive batting. The southpaw averaged 37.75 in the last four games; and despite KXIP exiting the tournament prematurely, the West Indian’s performances were a major positive.

To provide a snapshot of his potential, from the 168 runs scored he blazed 120 runs in boundaries alone. That's over 70 per cent of his tally, building up his strike rate to 157.01. It ballooned to 173.56 when he struck form in the final four games of the tournament, strengthening the late-middle order blitz.

“Any successful franchise have had a strong retained core so that is something we need to look to do in the future. The likes of Sam Curran, Nicholas Pooran, Arshdeep Singh, Harpreet Brar have all made telling contributions this year and that really adds to the strength of a franchise,” captain Ravichandran Ashwin said after the final game.

With Chris Gayle nearing the end of his career, KXIP seem to have found the perfect replacement in Nicholas Pooran. Just like the 39-year-old, Pooran is aggressive, calm and composed; and has shown a tendency to perform when the chips are down. The future for the Shers seems optimistic where the fans can be expectant of the Caribbean sensation to light up the Mohali night with his explosive batting.

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