Who is quicker between the wickets ?
There aren’t too many facets of his game that MS Dhoni takes vocal pride in. But he certainly does so with his speed across the 22 yards of the pitch. So much so that he often raves about being the fastest runner between the wickets in the Indian dressing-room despite his advancing years. And on Sunday night, around 45 minutes after they’d lifted the IPL 2018 trophy, Dhoni walked back to the centre of the Wankhede along with Dwayne Bravo for an impromptu test of speed. Considering Shane Watson had ensured that neither of them was required to bat, the two would have been rather fresh anyway. Dhoni and Bravo each held a bat in one of their hands while media manager Russell Radhakrishnan stood behind the stumps timing runs on a stopwatch. The object of the competition was to complete a double-run to the non-striker’s end and back. And while they stayed neck and neck for most parts, it’s likely that the slow-motion cameras might have caught Bravo’s bat sliding into the crease a quarter of a frame earlier than Dhoni’s. But that decision’s up for a referral.
Chahar’s moon ball
It was the highly impressive Deepak Chahar’s intended knuckle ball, one of the several tricks he has added this season. But in Qualifier 1, as he propelled the ball, it slipped out of his fingertips, looped in the air, three feet above the unsuspecting batsman, Shakib Al Hasan, who let out a fabled is-it-plane-or-a-bird guffaw. The Bangladesh all-rounder coiled for the pull, then pulled away from the stroke, and watched it bounce spongy where a leg-slip would’ve been. Had the Spidercam been around, like last year, it would’ve taken a knocking.
Poor Shakib, though. It was his second time under a similar looping projectile. Two years ago, Guyana Amazon Warrior pacer Steven Jacobs was spotted bowling a similar delivery in the Caribbean Premier League. It was even wilder, probably four feet over the batsman. The commentators had a word for it, quite aptly, the ‘moon ball’. Shakib’s response was identical, drawing the trajectory of the ball in the air and vociferously protesting the umpire’s decision to call it a dead ball, gesturing it was a wide. In the commentator’s box, Simon Doull deemed it was a no ball. “I don’t think you can get away with that Sunny (Sunil Gavaskar), that’s no-ball. It’s not above the waist, but the head,” he screamed.
Then even Jacobs can’t self-deprecatingly claim credit to the moon ball. It’s legitimate inventor (not the exact ball but the word) is an offie-turned-sports psychologist, Jeremy Snape. Though he never had the courage to bowl it in competitive cricket, he slipped in the moon ball unabashedly at the nets. “At 40mph, a bit like Russian roulette,” he explains. It was envisaged as a spinner’s knuckle ball, which looped in the air and almost fell dead on the bounce. Who knows, with a bit of polish, this could be the next novelty weapon in T20s.
Karn Sharma seems to have become a surety to IPL success. Going into the final, the leggie had featured only in five matches for Chennai Super Kings, taking three wickets at an economy rate over nine runs per over. At Wankhede on Sunday, playing as Harbhajan Singh’s replacement, Sharma dismissed Kane Williamson but his claim to being the lucky mascot goes beyond. He has been part of three successive IPL winning teams in the last three years. He played for Hyderabad in 2016 – didn’t pick a wicket in five matches – and the ‘Oranje’ (Indian version) won their maiden IPL title. Sharma moved to Mumbai Indians last year and the blue brigade became the first team to lift the IPL crown thrice. When CSK bought Sharma for Rs 5 crore at the auction this season, it felt like an expensive backup plan, because the franchise already had Imran Tahir to bowl wrist-spin. The franchise though, made a roaring return to the IPL, winning their third title.
Clarke’s pyjama striptease
The BCCI has always tried to Indianize the IPL final in every way possible, and it’s often led to all their commentators, domestic and foreign, being decked in glitzy kurtas and pyjamas. Incidentally, Star ended up having their Hindi commentators look dapper in suits. Now while the likes of Simon Doull and Matthew Hayden have become used to dealing with the complexities of wearing them in extreme humidity over the many seasons of the IPL, it’s not always easy for the new-comers. Graeme Smith and Michael Slater-who had the advantage of having worn one during the Pakistan Super League and even dished out a few push-ups on Sunday night-to their credit didn’t seem too perturbed. But poor Michael Clarke had a really tough time keeping his baby pink attire in place with the wires of his microphone adding to the sartorial melee. At one point, he ended up indulging in a strip-show, peeling off his pyjama and inadvertently showing off his underwear to a section of the North Stand crowd while fixing his dress. The last Australian cricketer to do it in public glare became engulfed in a dramatic controversy but then he had a sandpaper. Fortunately for Clarke, he didn’t seem to have any more visible discomfort thereafter; though he was the first commentator to leave the ground soon after the final was done and dusted.
Prince returns a pauper
Yuvraj Singh is a World Cup hero, of the 50-over and 20-over formats. But one wouldn’t know judging by his fleeting appearances in this IPL. He has never been hot in IPL – his best performance in any year almost equals the worst performance of Suresh Raina, but this IPL showed how steep the fall has been. A tally of 65 runs in six innings is damning enough, and a strike rate of less than 90 doesn’t help.
Kings XI Punjab tried to play him at various numbers in the batting order, without any success. He started in the middle order but couldn’t get going. Then they promoted him to No. 3 against Mumbai Indians, he wasted a good start. In the return fixture against Mumbai, he was sent in with a few balls left where a few big hits could have made him a hero, but he struggled to even make contact with the ball. Of his six brief innings, only one was scored at better than a run a ball. Gautam Gambhir stepped down from the Delhi Daredevils captaincy and never got another game. One wonders whether we will see Yuvraj in action next season.
Verma bats for CSK, Srini
How can you not love BCCI politics and its fickleness? Irony redefined itself at the gates of the Wankhede Stadium late on IPL final night, as stepping out of a car donning a tight Chennai Super Kings jersey, was Aditya Verma. The man chiefly responsible for CSK having had to sit out the last two editions of the IPL sported a wide grin and seemed very pleased with the team’s success. It was Verma whose petition and subsequent legal battle against former BCCI boss N Srinivasan that led to the investigation into the IPL spot-fixing affair and culminated in the two-year suspension for CSK. Verma, a vocal critic of Srinivasan and everything CSK, had earlier this year revealed to have got his son, Lakhan Raja, to bowl in the CSK nets, claiming that it was skipper MS Dhoni who allowed him to do so. Indian cricket’s controversial whistle-blower has been in high spirits ever since the Supreme Court asked for his state Bihar to be reinstated into the domestic cricket scene. But when asked about being spotted in a CSK jersey, Verma was open about his change of heart. “I have no hesitation in saying that N Srinivasan is the best administrator in the country,” Verma said. The secretary of the unrecognized Cricket Association of Bihar also said that he had met Srinivasan on two occasions recently. “I told Srinivasan that my battle was not a personal battle. My battle for Bihar with the BCCI started in 2005,” Verma added.