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CLT20 staff in Johannesburg

Pollock, Rhodes prep MI for SA

South African mentors give defending champions an edge in CLT20

As they gear up to defend their CLT20 title in South Africa, the Mumbai Indians have the perfect mentors in Shaun Pollock and Jonty Rhodes – two men who know South African conditions like the back of their hand. While Pollock is preparing his army of fast bowlers to exploit the helpful tracks, Rhodes is getting the fielding unit ready to support the bowlers with quick reflexes and accurate anticipation in the field.

Pollock’s list of wards, which includes the most effective T20 bowler in the world in Lasith Malinga, has now become even more star-studded with the arrival of Mitchell Johnson. The Australian fast bowler recently returned to cricket after nursing a foot injury and Pollock is delighted to have him as an option on bouncy wickets.

“We’re looking forward to working with Mitchell Johnson,” Pollock said. “He was supposed to join us during the IPL but couldn’t because his injury took a bit longer than we thought to recover. He’s been a good bowler for Australia over the years, and particularly on the South African wickets he will have a big impact. He also gives us a good left-hand batting option lower down the order.”

Johnson, at his best, could form one of the most formidable fast bowling pairs in the tournament with Malinga, who has been the go-to man for his captain in the shortest format for a quite some time now. But of late, batsmen have learned to handle his slinger quite well. Pollock is aware of that and has plans to still keep him just as effective.

“The international batsmen have played him a lot but if we tee in a contest of him with the domestic batsmen, there’s no doubt that he’s got a huge advantage,” the former South African captain said. “Also, at the end of the innings, I’d always give him the ball if I had to defend 10 or less runs in an over.”

Mentoring a freak bowler like Malinga can be a tricky task but Pollock tries to keep his involvement only to the required level.

“From the technical point of view there’s not too much I can offer him. I’ve tried to bowl with that kind of action without much success. I do try to work out what I can add to his game but mostly it’s just the game plans for him – bowling to different batsmen on different surfaces. There are a few basics that don’t change no matter what your action looks like and we stick to those. He’s a class player.”

While the former Proteas pacer spoke about his main men, head coach Robin Singh gave an insight into how Rhodes is preparing the team when it comes to fielding.

“Fielding is one of the areas that we’ve actually been working on. The conditions here are different to those back home. The ball travels a lot faster here, so we need to simulate those things during our practice sessions. Jonty has been taking care of that,” he said.

“In a T20 game you can’t really hide anyone, so everyone is expected to field well. The last time we were here (CLT20 2010) we dropped a lot of catches and it’s an area we were really concerned about. We’re working on it.”

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