CHENNAI: Hamilton. London. Manchester. Perth. Now Canterbury. This has been Daryl Mitchell’s home over the years.
Born in a rugby household — his father, John, is a renowned rugby coach currently with the England national team — Mitchell’s formative years in England were mostly confined to backyard cricket.
Yet, it was in Australia, New Zealand’s opponents in the T20 World Cup final in Dubai on Sunday, Daryl’s career graph began to ascend.
As the Trans-Tasman final awaits two teams searching for their first T20 World Cup title, there is no one who knows Mitchell more than Justin Langer, Australia’s head coach.
When the Mitchell family moved to Perth in the second-half of the noughties, with John being the head coach of Western Force, Daryl enrolled himself at the Scarborough Cricket Club, where Langer was coach.
Also in the team was Marcus Stoinis, who played a crucial role in Australia’s win over Pakistan in the T20 World Cup semifinals. The stint lasted three years before Daryl would go back to Hamilton in 2011.
At Northern Districts, one of the prominent teams in New Zealand’s domestic circuit, he found a home where he gradually built his base.
In 2019, after toiling in domestic cricket, he finally got a break as a replacement for Colin de Grandhomme. Since then, he has hardly looked back.
Given his performances in Super Smash – New Zealand’s premier T20 domestic tournament — that he has still not found many takers in the IPL or in any other T20 leagues in itself is a surprise.
While the world watched with dropped jaws as Mitchell tore apart England in the first semifinal to advance to the final, it is worth noting that no other batter has hit as many sixes (48) as him in the Super Smash.
“To be honest, in the semifinals, he stuck to his usual template,” said Sriram Krishnamurthy, Northern Districts’ batting coach.
Although he moved to Canterbury last year, Sriram has seen the damage the 30-year-old can do. Last year, after his switch to Canterbury, Northern Districts were at the receiving end of a similar inning.
“We’d put 150 and Canterbury were 3/15. For us to lose the match from there, we had to play bad cricket. But even though we did everything right, Mitchell on the night was too good for us. He scored 69 in that match and watching the England match, I just couldn’t help but draw parallels,” Sriram, who played club cricket in Chennai, said.
Although he was made to open in the World Cup for the first time following an injury to Tim Seifert, it is the finisher’s role that he was playing earlier for New Zealand which was alien to him. At Northern Districts he was predominantly a top-order bat, who always preferred to take the game deep.
“This role is not new to him. He prefers to get his eye in and then go hammer and tongs at the death. That has been his strength. Since he is opening, if Martin Guptill perishes early, he has to go for the big hits, but in the middle-overs, he prefers rotating the strike and getting the odd boundary. He is always measured in his approach and if we look at his data, the number of dot balls he faces is very less,” Sriram said.
On Sunday, with Seifert expected to take Devon Conway’s place, Mitchell could drop to No 3 or 4. It will alter New Zealand’s settled batting line-up.
Given Australia’s bowling prowess, New Zealand would believe a flexible batting line-up could unsettle the opposition and hand them their maiden World Cup title.