“Bachpan se spin khelta aaya hun, to kahin na kahin wo khoon mein hai”. [Been playing spin since my childhood so it is in my blood now]
A beaming Nitish Rana spoke about his approach which is to convert the balls in his half into boundaries. It was towards the end of IPL 2020 that Rana started to open for KKR. He converted the first chance he got to open into a match-winning knock of 81 off 53 balls while toying with Delhi’s bowlers. Until then, Rana was going through an indifferent season, averaging 20.4 in nine matches while batting in the middle-order. He followed it up with another 80+ knock (87 off 61) against CSK two games later, though in a losing cause this time. But in him, KKR had found an opener with an added advantage of a left-right combination at the top.
In the first game of IPL this year, in what was not a batsman’s paradise at Chepauk, Rana got into his groove making full use of an overpitched first ball from Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He was severe against pacers scoring 60 off 34 balls against them. But Rana nullified the spin match-up by taking 14 runs in 10 balls against the Hyderabad off-spinner Mohammed Nabi.
KKR’s skipper, Eoin Morgan, was pleased with Rana’s knock, which turned out to be the difference between the two sides. “Yeah I am delighted for Nitish. Obviously a match-winning innings today. The thing that impressed me the most about his innings was the method in which he used. He played really aggressively and always took a positive option, which really did set up or batting innings. That allowed the middle-order players, obviously Rahul played extremely well, it allowed our lower middle-order players, one of which came off today in Dinesh Karthik. So I am delighted for Nitish”, said Morgan.
After Rana’s dismissal in the 18th over, SRH pulled back a bit with 12 runs in overs two overs before the 20th. But, Karthik gave KKR a big finish hitting a four and six to Bhuvneshwar in the last over.
Rana’s innings comes at the backdrop of him being tested positive for COVID and returning to the team only after getting rid of the virus. “It was just catching up really. He was obviously delighted to be out of quarantine and have a negative test. And then when he joined the squad, getting back to playing in the camp, netting and batting in the practice game as well. His game in is a really good touch, I think we witnessed that today. On a wicket that probably wasn’t as good as he made it look to bat on. We are delighted for him”, said Morgan on his interaction with Rana after his return to the side.
In the post-match press conference, Morgan also went to admit that Harbhajan Singh bowling just the one over was due to match-ups. “Obviously there is a lot of preparation that goes into the analyzing the opposition team and him bowling the first over of the game was a decision based on that. He created a great opportunity, unfortunately, the catch was dropped..Since he [Harbhajan] has arrived in the camp, he has had more energy than anybody I have seen within the squad.”
Rana’s last six innings in IPL now read 0, 81, 0, 87, 0, and 80. KKR must be hoping that the trend of him scoring 80s continues while the other takes a rest for a while.