Breaking Down Nicholas Pooran and the method to his T20 madness

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Nicholas Pooran’s aggressive batting and his exceptional fielding abilities caught many eyes in the recently concluded IPL and made him a household name all across the cricketing globe. He has always been an attacking batsman right from his U-19 days where he played an outstanding innings against Australia scoring 143 runs out of the team total of 208 in the 2014 U-19 World Cup. His career came to a halt after a car crash incident in 2015 but he recovered pretty well and soon established himself in T20 leagues all around the world.

His ability to take on spin and provide acceleration through the middle-overs helped him bag deals in the CPL, BPL, Global T20, and T-10 leagues. While he has been a part of the West-Indian 2019 WC squad and is on the verge of being fast-tracked into the test squad, his USP remains in the T20 format where he provides sustained acceleration with precise control. Let’s take a look at the technical aspects behind the success of N Pooran, the T20 batsman.

 

The Core Concept behind his six-hitting prowess

Nicholas Pooran hit a grand total of 25 sixes in IPL 2020, the most by an overseas player this year. Most of those sixes measured upwards of 90m which seems astounding for a player of his build. His six-hitting technique mainly revolves around a solid core backed by extraordinary timing off the bat.

A solid base provides the foundation for power-hitting with both the feet pushing against gravity and the energy produced is transmitted from the lower body to the bat through the sequencing of the movements from your legs to the hips to the shoulder to the elbows and finally the bat. To put it simply, energy should flow through your body seamlessly to have an efficient power-hitting technique.

While Pooran’s technique against pace still needs some work to attain this level, his power-hitting game vs spin is close to perfection.

Nicholas Pooran’s straight hits off the spinners are a thing of beauty being both elegant and destructive at the same time. In the above four-part image of a six over the long-off area vs spin, Pooran employs a forward press right after the ball release which helps him in the judgment of the line and length of the delivery.

Once he’s decided that the delivery is right in his slot, Pooran plants his front-foot firmly on the ground and somewhere near but not close to the pitch of the ball to give himself enough room for a free flow of the bat. As soon as the ball pitches, his hips snap through due to his excellent core strength which results in some extra-ordinary bat speed through the ball.

Pooran seldom misses the middle of the bat due to optimized usage of the elbows and a strong grip which provides him the exclusive timing to pull off some mighty sixes.

While the straight boundaries are his go-to zone during acceleration against spin, he isn’t a one-dimensional batsman with his strokes since he possesses a variety of shots against spin including the cover drive, all varieties of sweep (conventional, reverse and slog), and the horizontal bat strokes, cut and pull.

The notable aspect of his batting is his shot selection which is the most common issue talented batters encounter early in their career. He mostly relies on proper cricketing shots rather than slogs and usually pulls out the sweep only on turning tracks which helps him to sustain the mad acceleration.

A stand-out feature of his batting vs spin is his pull shot which is definitely one of its kind where he rocks back in the crease the moment the ball is pitched anywhere close to the back of a short length and clears his front leg to pull the ball away with a lovely snap of the hips. The margin of error for a spinner against Pooran is almost non-existent with him hitting anything full down the ground and anything closer to a shorter length is pulled or cut away to the boundary.

The only visible chinks in his armor are his bat-pad gap while defending which Ashwin exploited beautifully with a carrom ball in the IPL and also he doesn’t seem to read the googly from the hands of the wrist-spinner.

Problems against genuine pace

Pooran is currently one of the best against spin in T20s but the same cannot be said regarding his game against pace. While he’s no mug against pace and plays both the traditional shots like the drives and flicks and power strokes pretty well he does have a visible issue while facing high-end pace.

His bat-speed is incredible and helps him pull off some amazing hits against spin and medium pacers but to succeed against quality fast bowlers he must complement the core strength with a solid foundation off the back-foot to combat the short balls targeted at your body. Pooran doesn’t really lean on his back-foot while executing the pull shot with his back-foot game still a work in progress. The image below displays his troubles against a short ball as he failed to pull one off N Saini in a T20I game vs India in 2019.

While his failures to counter the short balls can be attributed to the lack of a back-foot game, the same is not applicable for his failures against the full pacy deliveries at the death. Pooran usually clears his front-leg during the death overs thinking of it as a way to access more parts of the ground but it actually robs him of the much-needed base to execute the slogs against the overpitched deliveries from the pacers.

This issue was highlighted when he got bowled by a half-volley from Rabada in a Super-Over contest in the IPL. This is a minor issue though and can be easily rectified by avoiding clearing the front leg by a mile which should boost his batting numbers during the death-overs.

Nicholas Pooran 

Nicholas Pooran and an Elite Approach towards T20 Batting

While Nicholas Pooran has some flaws in his batting technique, his approach towards the game is almost flawless. He picks his match-ups pretty well and goes full-on aggressive against the favourable ones as he did against the Sunrisers Hyderabad this season en route to a 17 ball fifty, the fastest this season.

The best thing about Pooran in the T20 format is his sustained acceleration which makes him one of the dangerous batsmen in this format. With West Indies looking to fast track him into the Test squad, N Pooran might come across as an elite all-format batsman in a couple of year’s time if everything goes his way. Whatever happens, N Pooran is primed to dominate the T20 format for years to come in the same way as some of the other West-Indian players before him did.