KKR coach Brendon McCullum has opined that the wickets in the United Arab Emirates are going to surprise a lot of people, with the pacers coming to the fore more than usual. McCullum has also added that Eoin Morgan will be crucial in the way they want to use Andre Russell's impact with the bat.
On the very first day of the IPL, pacers dictated the norms, with the likes of Trent Boult, James Pattinson, and Sam Curran stealing the show on a wicket which was average at best. It was a deviation from the norm, with the UAE wicket perennially supporting the spinners more than the pacers, and McCullum believes that is going to be the case for a major part of the IPL. As a matter of fact, KKR have one of the strongest pace-bowling arsenals in the IPL, with the likes of Kamlesh Nagarkoti, Shivam Mavi, Sandeep Warrier, Prasidh Krishna to help the overseas bowlers like Pat Cummins, Ali Khan, Lockie Ferguson and Andre Russell.
"They do lack a bit of experience in terms of game time but there's also no scars with them. They've got a lot of talent. They work really well as a unit. I've been so, so impressed with the skills. They are different in the ways they operate which, tactically, is a crucial thing. There are a couple of superstars in the making in our line-up," McCullum said in a press conference on Saturday.
"Cummins was the key buy when it comes to overseas bowlers. For us, it was also about his ability to take early wickets. If we can do that, we know we have quality spinners. I am really content with the attack we've got."
"The wickets are going to surprise a lot of people. They are going to be very fresh and very helpful for seam bowling. In which case we've got Nagarkoti, Mavi, Warrier and Prasidh. And then Cummins, Ali Khan and Lockie, and Russell, who all bowl 140-plus.”
While Cummins was the most expensive buy in the IPL auction, the centre of attraction has been Eoin Morgan, whose leadership skills have reached new heights in recent times. What has hidden behind the magnificent leadership is how good a batsman Morgan is in the middle-order - something McCullum acknowledged.
"If we look at his career, the last four years, what we've seen is a player who has taken his belief in his game and has led a nation to completely change how they play their cricket. Now when you see him bat, he's completely free, he's content with his game. He's playing a game which he wanted to play when he was younger but probably didn't have the confidence to. He's the best middle-order batsman in the last limited-overs format.
"Eoin, from our point of view, was a fantastic get at the IPL auction because we wanted to provide some resources around Russell's six-hitting ability. He's the guy we were desperate to get and him batting around Russell and Karthik gives us a really strong middle-order.
"I guess the thing we are going to pride ourselves in this edition is being a really smart team and utilising our resources against various match-ups. Russell's game is really suited to the last ten overs of a T20 game where he can really control it but there may be times, when the match-ups are right, we can enter him a little bit earlier. We've got a lot of resources to choose from."