Synopsis: Little man makes big splash before Mumbai seamers quash Punjab hopes heightened by the return of the Big Show.
Little man makes big splash
It was right after a lengthy practice session under lights at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai last week. Parthiv Patel had been put through a few fast laps by the Mumbai Indians trainer following his stint in the nets. And as he neared the steps leading up to the dressing-room balcony, the diminutive wicket-keeper batsman was drenched in sweat.
“Umar bhi ho gaya hai. Jyaada training karna padta hai (Age is catching up, that’s why I have to train harder these days),” Parthiv quipped as he passed a bunch of journalists with a playful smirk.
It’s somehow difficult to fathom that Patel is 31 now, and that he has actually aged — right in front of our eyes if you think about it. These days he sports a beard, a thick one with a few greys at that, almost like a testament to that fact. But still you just can’t help but feel that he’s just a shave away from returning to his cherubic self and looking not a day older than he did back in 2002 as he strode out at Trent Bridge and faced up gamely to men who were double his size and age.
Yes, it’s been that long. Parthiv Patel has been occupying our television screens — even if not as regularly as he did for the first half of a dozen years — or 14 years now. When he joined Mumbai last year, he became the first cricketer to represent six different IPL franchises. But still more or less Patel’s been an anonymous presence in the IPL, making sporadic appearances of note but generally overshadowed by some other power-hitter at the other end. He did pretty much that for the whole of last season, playing second fiddle to Lendl Simmons who piled on the runs.
With Rohit Sharma being dismissed off the first ball of the innings in a crucial match against Punjab on Monday, the onus was suddenly on Patel to lay the foundation for his team’s mighty middle-order. Throughout what has been a rollercoaster of a career, Patel’s remained a gutsy batsman who doesn’t back off from a challenge. Back in the day, it was he despite the inexperience that Sourav Ganguly would often promote as stand-in Test opener, regardless of opposition or condition. And here at the PCA Stadium, Sandeep Sharma was getting the ball to jag both ways while Mitchell Johnson was bowling at his nippiest. And at one point, Patel skied a weak hook shot to fine-leg, only for Johnson to have over-stepped the line — the first no-ball struggling Punjab have conceded all tournament. A few overs later, Patel looked to have been stumped as he dragged his foot while attempting a cut shot off Axar Patel, but survived. It was that kind of day. It was his day. And soon the diminutive left-hander began making the most of his fortune, charging down the ground and airlifting Pardeep Sahu over wide long-on.
At the other end, Ambati Rayudu was playing his role of the aggressor to perfection, taking risks and pulling them off. Rayudu was the first one to reach his half-century, armed with four sixes, and by the time he exited the scene for his 37-ball 65, the relatively low-profile members of Mumbai’s starcast had added 137 for the second wicket. Rayudu’s departure was the license for Patel to cut loose. And he did just that hitting four boundaries in five balls.
When he faced his second free-hit delivery of the day, he made room, and somehow muscled a length delivery that pitched on leg-stump over the non-striker’s head and beat the mid-off fielder to his left.
Then almost 18 years to the day, a little Indian was going after a big Australian fella, and winning the battle. And he smashed Johnson for two fours in an over — scything a cover-drive through a packed off-side field and then smacking the next over mid-wicket. He did eventually fall to the left-arm quick, but his 58-ball 81 had ensured that Mumbai posted a sizable total of 189/6 on the board.
Return of the Big Show
It’s amazing the fear-factor that Glenn Maxwell brings to the crease in the IPL despite rarely having set the stage on fire as you would imagined him to have. In fact, prior to Monday he had scored one half-century in 32 previous innings in IPL matches on Indian soil. But such is his enigmatic ability to produce a knock of spellbinding madness that despite his inconsistency, the Big Show’s aura has never left him. Though still not at his very best — a Maxwell in full flow will never miss two reverse-sweep attempts in one innings — the Australian maverick did seem to make a welcome return to form for Punjab’s sake with a well-stroked 39-ball 56. Like always he also got into a friendly exchange with Kieron Pollard upon his arrival at the crease. He did pull of a few trademark strikes, and for a brief period seemed to be posing a meaningful threat to Mumbai’s target. But it was never going to be enough.
Mumbai seamers quash hopes
Zaheer Khan and Chris Morris might have something to say about it, but few death-bowling pairs have looked more threatening in IPL history than Jasprit Bumrah and Mitchell McClenaghan. It has had as much to do with how different they are as bowlers as their uncanny ability to produce yorkers at will. While Bumrah mixes up his yorkers with changes of pace by rolling his fingers and the slow bouncer, McClenaghan is all brutish in his approach as well as in his deliveries. But he too has shown the ability in this tournament to use clever deceptions in terms of pace variations. Monday though was all about yorkers in the death, and Mumbai’s messengers of death delivered the killer blows to Punjab’s hopes by repeatedly setting off the LEDs as they kept uprooting the stumps.