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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Dravid starts with a win as coach, finishes with blank face; Boult gets the blues, Chapman riffs off Fleming

Emotional Rollercoaster: New era with Sharma-Dravid starts with a 5 wicket win for India, as Rishabh Pant hits winning runs.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: November 18, 2021 1:58:34 pm
Ind vs nzIndia defeat New Zealand by 5 wickets. (AP)

Age of the Pokerman begins

In the penultimate over with India flapping their legs vigorously but not quite moving ahead the camera focused on Rahul Dravid. The new coach was having a tough first day at the office. He had that Dravid expression on his face – pensive and thoughtful. Sunil Gavaskar, from the distant commentator’s box, would spot the sprouting of a new gray hair on the new coach’s scalp. Others would laugh. Soon Shreyas Iyer would get out, failing to clear the long off boundary. Dravid put his head down to scribble on his book. It was one lengthy note. Another Iyer, Venkatesh, would join. He would hit a boundary. Slow claps from the coach this time. He would get out playing the reverse sweep. No, Dravid didn’t throw his cap on the turf. Actually, he wasn’t wearing one when in the dugout. Pant would ensure that the coach would start with the win. There were no pumped fists, Dravid would welcome his first win as India coach with a blank face.

Boult gets the blues

Trent Boult had a mixed T20 World Cup final. He dismissed Australian skipper Aaron Finch early, didn’t give away too many runs but by the time he bowled David Warner it was a little too late. He looked forlorn at the end of the game in Dubai. One over in Jaipur extinguished any hopes the New Zealand fast bowler had of starting off well against India in this series. With swing not on offer, Boult went for the shorter stuff. But the strategy didn’t work. After a tidy first over, Rahul dispatched his short ball to the midwicket fence. Boult went for another bouncer, it missed everyone and went to the boundary. Boult was irked when the umpire credited the boundary to the batsmen. His frustration boiled over, when Rohit Sharma displayed sheer class by bisecting two fielders after leaning back to play late. Boult covered his face with one hand, before looking up and shouting in the direction of backward point. Things got worse when Rohit pulled the next delivery for a six. For someone who always seems to have his emotions in check, the display of frustration was uncharacteristic. Later on he got Sharma with a slow bouncer but the damage was done – to his reputation as a cool customer and New Zealand’s hopes in this game.

Chapman, your perfect Fleming-Greatbatch smoothie

Mark Chapman’s favourite cricketer was Stephen Fleming. So enthralled was he by Fleming that he calls him his first coach, though it was much later in life that he actually saw him in flesh and they had hardly exchanged any notes. “He was the guy who fired up my imagination, and by just watching him bat, I learned the basics of batting.” He does have a bit of Fleming in him, though he is shorter, more nuggety and power-packed than the languid Fleming. His leg-side strokes do have a Fleming-like efficiency about it, especially the flicks and the sweeps, where dwells timing more than power. A clinical sweeper, he barely spares leg-side balls. If there are not enough balls to be swept away, he manufactures the sweep, dragging balls from the fifth-stump line past square leg. If the bowlers err on the shorter side, he switches to Mark Greatbatch mode and bludgeons the ball through midwicket. Not a bad back-up the Kiwis have–someone who blends the apples-and-oranges pair of Fleming and Greatbatch.

Guptill’s midwicket tropical ice-crush

There are few ruthless swing-the-length-ball through midwicket sluggers than Martin Guptill. For much of the World T20, his batting was laboured, strokes trickling than flowing from his bat. But give him a length ball on off-stump or thereabouts, angling into his body, he would just murder them with a ferocious whip of his bat. Mohammed Siraj would know—the length ball into the right-hander is one of his trusted wicket-taking method; if Guptill had missed the ball, he would have been out, leg before wicket. But Guptill barely ever misses out, as he stood where he was, unbothered about shifting his weight to either foot, and just pummelled it over midwicket in a blur, with a concoction of cold-eyed power and timing. A fielder was stationed near the ropes specifically for this shot, or if he miscued one. He rarely does. And so ferociously struck that the fielder looked dazed when he went to gather the ball, fed from someone in the stands. And it was not the only time he made an Indian bowler endure that crushing feeling.

Back-foot, red-shot eyes & rage against the Marty machine

In the end Deepak Chahar was a relieved man, he finally had a wicket to show for his rewardless toil in his comeback game. But he had to endure few moments of agony for that moment of cathartic joy. Just as he was celebrating, the umpire intimated him that he was checking for a potential back-foot no-ball, to see if his back-foot had touched the return crease. It had not, and an agitated Chahar stared at Guptill with red-shot eyes. A stare that screamed all his pent-up rage. His first 19 balls had cost 40 runs, and bosom friends, swing and precision, had deserted him. The wicket put brakes on New Zealand’s breezy sprint and subsequently precipitated a collapse.

Rahul, Sachin, Rachin: the fusion vision

Maybe his father couldn’t decide which of the two Indian cricketers he loved more – Rahul Dravid or Sachin Tendulkar. So he named his son Rachin. Far away in New Zealand, Rachin was the Indian representative in a team famous for its inclusivity. T20 World Cup hero Jimmy Neesham’s late pull-out allowed the batsman to play in the country of his roots. In the dugout was coach Dravid, one of the protagonist of his bedtime stories. But as luck would have it, since Rachin was a last-minute replacement, the back of his T shirt was blank. Maybe, it was too late to get the printers. In his first game against India, he didn’t do much. His 7 runs from 8 balls was an anonymous outing for a boy with a blank shirt.

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