Hitting three fours in the same over might not often stand out as a strikingly memorable feat in the action-packed atmosphere of T20 cricket. On most occasions, it’s almost expected to find a batsman at his ultra-aggressive best. But when Brendon McCullum decided to take on Lasith Malinga in only the third over of Kochi Tuskers’s innings on Friday, it wasn’t just a pre-determined onslaught against the opposition’s chief-weapon. In fact, it almost seemed like a statement of purpose that the explosive Kiwi wicket-keeper was making on behalf of his beleaguered and under-pressure team, that too against the unbeaten and formidable Mumbai Indians.
After all, the Tuskers had hardly made the headlines for the right reasons during the initial months following their inception close to a year ago. And with two defeats in their opening fixtures, Mahela Jayawardene & Co had not gotten their on-field campaign off to a good start either.
But as he smashed a Malinga full-toss straight back past the bowler for four— literally as it actually ricocheted off the Sri Lankan’s foot — before putting him away once through the covers and once over point, McCullum had done more than just set the perfect tone for Kochi’s pursuit of their 183-run target. He had also, with his calculated yet brash attack, spread a wave of optimism in the dressing-room and amongst the team’s motley bunch of fans. Most importantly, every Kochi batsman who took strike after McCullum also seemed to catch onto it, as the Tuskers finally opened their account in IPL IV, spoiling the Mumbai Indians party along the way, with a massive eight-wicket margin.
Pristine in his style of play, and generally bereft of his opening partner’s unorthodoxy, Jayawardene too oozed aggression in his demeanour, beginning with his decision to promote himself up the order. And almost unassumingly and much to the dismay of the partisan Mumbai Indians supporters at the Wankhede Stadium, the experienced duo began muscling their team into a strong position by the time the Kochi skipper fell to Malinga for a 36-ball 56.
Unlike what was being meted out to the Mumbai bowling by McCullum, there was no menace in Jayawardene’s stroke-play. While fears of another close defeat would have begun to surface in the Kochi camp when McCullum fell for a 60-ball 81 during an attempt at a swoop-shot off Malinga, Ravindra Jadeja managed to keep his nerve to hammer, quite literally, the final two nails in Mumbai’s coffin — with two sixes off Ali Murtuza.