New Delhi, Oct 17 Mumbai Ind (MI) opener Quinton de Kock has found his feet with the bat in the last four matches of the IPL and his importance is underlined by the fact that the four-time champions have won five games on the trot thus far.
de Kock's latest knock earned him his second consecutive Player of the Match award after the 27-year-old South African scored an unbeaten 78 to lead MI to a facile eight-wicket win over Kolkata Knight Riders on Friday.
Commentators, including his former South African teammate JP Duminy, were gushing over his shots on the leg side, something that he said was the best he had in his armoury.
"I like to play it and it's nice when it comes off. It's all about keeping my balance, I don't work too much on the cross-bat shots, it's important to stay in line while playing those," he said at the presentation ceremony after the match.
de Kock came into this tournament on the back of a patchy form that turned into a nightmare while he captained South Africa at home in the limited overs series against Australia.
In the three-match T20I series, de Kock scored just 77 runs at an average of 25.66 and in the subsequent three-match ODI series, his returns dropped to a meagre 41 at 13.66.
This led to questions on whether MI might consider the explosive Chris Lynn as Rohit Sharma's opening partner. But coach Mahela Jayawardene quashed them before the start of the season.
"It [Rohit-de Kock opening partnership] has been very consistent and both are well experienced cricketers. I always feel why fix something that ain't broken," he said.
de Kock seemed to carry forward that poor form into the start of the IPL season. In the first game, which MI lost by five wickets to the Chennai Super Kings, de Kock scored 33 off 20, but scores of 1, 14, and 0 followed.
The batsman-friendly Sharjah pitch was the venue where de Kock finally broke the shackles. He smashed 67 off 39 balls, his innings punctuated by four fours and as many sixes, as MI scored 208/5 wickets against SunRisers Hyderabad in their October 4 matchup. His innings included a 78-run blitz for the third wicket with Ishan Kishan that came off 45 balls.
The South Afircan scored 23 off 15 in the next match against RR after which came a match-winning knock of 53 off 36 against Delhi Capitals in which he faced his South African teammates Anrich Nortje and Kagiso Rabada.
He could not finish that chase, having been dismissed in the 10th over, but he made up for that by playing through against KKR on Friday.
"I was disappointed at not getting the chance to finish it off. Mahela had a word to us he keeps us in check, in focus, it's nice to have such people around," he said.
Friday's match also saw the opening partnership of Rohit and de Kock finally set up a big total this season. The pair's 94-run opening stand took away any chance KKR would have seen of winning the game.
"I enjoy batting with him (de Kock), he's very straightforward. I want him to bat the way he is... as long as he sticks to what he loves to do we are in a good position," said Rohit after the game.
de Kock's poor form for South Africa before the tournament was attributed to the mental toll of being captain across formats while being the wicketkeeper and opening batsmen in limited overs.
On Friday, however, he showed that he seems safe from those devils. His innings came after a wicketkeeping blooper in which he dropped an easy catch off Pat Cummins, who would go on to be unbeaten on 53.
"I have played enough to know that you can't really do anything about it. You have to carry on, do your best for your time and not think too much about the keeping everyone does drop catches and I'm not any different. I am a better 'keeper than that and don't drop catches on purpose so that is nothing to worry about," he said.
( With inputs from IANS )
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