Mumbai Indians (MI) first-choice opening batter Quinton de Kock was absolutely brilliant in the last year’s edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in UAE.
Despite having an upright stance horned on quick and bouncy tracks back in South Africa, De Kock conquered the challenge posed by the slow, spin-friendly surfaces in the Middle East quite commendably for MI.
The 28-year-old left-hand batter scored 503 runs from his 16 innings in IPL 2020 at a strike-rate of 140.50 while maintaining an average of 35.92. In terms of strike-rate to average ratio, the league’s 13th edition had De Kock’s best campaign (minimum 10 matches) in the history of IPL cricket.
The aggressive willow-holder and glove-man played a significant role in helping MI defending their crown and clinch the prestigious IPL title for the record fifth time. De Kock had a major influence on his team’s fortunes.
It wasn’t surprising, then, that De Kock carried a greater sense of anticipation about him ahead of the IPL 2021. His aggression at the top of the order and ability to make an impact only raised people’s expectations. So far in the tournament, however, De Kock hasn’t been at his best for MI.
Quinton de Kock has failed in two of the three outings he has had for MI in IPL 2021 and is averaging 14.66 with a strike-rate of 89.79 in the competition currently. The left-hander’s struggles have coincided with two things – his late arrival in the MI camp due to quarantine protocols and also MI currently going through the Chennai leg of their 14 league-stage fixtures.
Even though De Kock had been playing the limited-overs series against Pakistan in the lead up to the tournament, he didn’t have enough training time with the rest of the MI squad and also missed the team’s opening game versus Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) as he served the necessary isolation.
While that would’ve still been a manageable thing for a cricketer used to busy cricketing schedules, De Kock’s troubles have only mounted in the conditions at Chepauk. Most of the batters have struggled for any sort of rhythm to their batting at the venue this IPL and De Kock’s case hasn’t been any different.
Despite his initial hiccups, though, Quinton de Kock is one of MI’s first-choice picks and is expected to be backed by the team through the competition, especially since the team’s Chennai leg is nearing its ending. If MI do decide to look past De Kock at any stage, however, Chris Lynn, the explosive right-hand batter from Australia, could be his direct replacement.
Can Chris Lynn replace Quinton de Kock in MI’s playing XI?
Lynn had been picked by MI ahead of IPL 2020 after being released by Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) but warmed the benches throughout the season due to De Kock’s stellar form.
Lynn finally got the chance to make his MI debut in their IPL 2021 opener versus RCB and played a good knock of 49 off 35 deliveries. The 31-year-old couldn’t make a substantial score but did his chances of a regular place in the XI no harm.
Chris Lynn boasts of an impressive record to his name in the IPL, having played for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) previously. Lynn’s 42 IPL matches have seen him score 1,329 runs at an average of 34.07 and strike-rate of 140.63. Lynn can take apart attacks on his day, especially in the powerplay field restriction overs, where he excelled in the KKR days.
In terms of sheer quality, MI are fortunate to have both De Kock and Lynn available in their ranks as options for the opening position. Where the former triumphs over the latter in the pecking order, perhaps, is his greater range against most kinds of bowling.
Since the start of IPL 2017, De Kock and Lynn have both been explosive against fast-bowling at a similar level in the league. De Kock, though, just inches past Lynn when it comes to the ability to negotiate and attack spin. De Kock has a better average and strike-rate against right-arm off-spinners than Lynn since IPL 2017.
And while Lynn interestingly happens to be slightly better against right-arm leg-break bowlers, De Kock makes up for the difference by dominating any kind of slow left-arm orthodox bowler in the opposition, something Lynn hasn’t been able to.
Besides his overall better range, De Kock also provides greater balance to an MI playing XI with his safe glovework behind the stumps. So it would make cricketing sense if MI persists with Quinton de Kock even as he looks to overcome his initial slump in IPL 2021.