Celebrating wickets? It’s a passe
Wickets per se don’t matter as much in T20 as they do in ODIs and Tests. It’s apparent in the way the bowlers routinely target the wide marker rather than the top-of-off/base of the stumps. It’s evident, too, in the manner in which the batsmen walk outside off in a manifestly suicidal fashion as they attempt a cheeky scoop over the wicket-keeper’s head. As the distance between T20 and the other two form grows wider, it’s safe to expect that in the near future a wicket would be seen more as a dot ball than what it is: the ultimate goal for bowlers. Celebration for disturbing the furniture, then, would be no different than making the batsman play and miss, say, a wide yorker. Which is to say non-existent.
Ravindra Jadeja nearly gave us a glimpse of that future in the Chennai Super Kings versus Royal Challengers Bangalore match last week when he nailed Virat Kohli’s off-stump with a vicious arm ball. Jadeja’s hands went halfway up and there was just an “ooooh!” that escaped his lips. You wouldn’t know from his expression that he had just taken a wicket. Not only a wicket, but THE wicket in contemporary cricket.
The commentators were uncharitable and social media, as is its wont, trolled him. The former said he was paying respect to the national captain. Twitter saw it as chamchagiri — and attempt by an out-of-favour India bowler to make up to his boss after accidentally dismissing him. It’s an absolute insult to Sir Jadeja’s intelligence. He gets T20 at a meta level. Why else would he not celebrate Parthiv Patel’s dismissal in the same match? Surely, he can’t be eyeing a place in the Gujarat Ranji team next season when Kohli and his men tour Australia.
Selection after siesta
David Willey provided a little window into the world of MS Dhoni and the laid-back pace at which things work under his reign. Asked about when he finds out whether he’s getting a game or not in the IPL, he said, “probably at 4’o’clock in the afternoon when MS wakes up.” While Michael Clarke who’d asked him the question couldn’t hold back his laughter, it’s just how MS goes about things. He’s known to be a late riser during IPL , and being someone who doesn’t spend much time in team meetings and briefings, his players, as Willey found out, have to wait for a word from him in the evening to know whether they’re getting a game or not.
Days after his comment, Willey was selected for a game by Dhoni. In a weekly capsule about how English cricketers are faring in IPL, Sky Sports had the finer details. “Willey located swing, had Colin de Grandhomme caught at extra-cover and conceded only 24 runs from his four overs. in Pune.”
Yuvraj’s best matches Raina’s worst
The other day, Aaron Finch fell prey to the Yuvraj syndrome. For some reason, despite evidence, many like to mouth the standard lines when it comes to Yuvraj’s performances in IPL. Like Finch did: “Yuvraj has been hitting the ball really well and is a world-class player. We have seen him do the job not just in the IPL, but also for India over the years. I have no doubt he will come back to his best very soon.” Nope, not true. The evidence is damning.
It’s a mystery how Yuvraj has played 7 matches this year. This year has been terrible, in particular: 74 runs from 7 games and his 91.42 is the worst strike rate among those who have faced more than 50 balls. This isn’t a surprise as he has rarely sparkled in IPL. He averages 25 — 2651 runs at a strike rate of 129.82 from 127 games. His best years were in 2011 and 2014 when he averaged 34.30 and 34.18.
The numbers don’t get better. His highest run tally in IPL in the 10 years was 376, in 2014. In contrast, 374 (in 2015) is the lowest run tally of Suresh Raina in any year.
Knuckle ball? Oh, you mean the butterfly ball?
These days, it seems, all (relatively) fast bowlers in the IPL bowl the knuckle ball, the latest baseball influence in cricket. But knuckle… kaisaa naam hai rey? Thankfully, our neighbours from Bangladesh have come to the rescue. A couple of days ago in Mirpur, Rubel Hossain, who will be playing a Test series in West Indies in a week’s time, reminded us what the Bangladeshis call it: Butterfly ball. “We actually called it a butterfly delivery. I used the butterfly delivery a few times back in the New Zealand tour. This is a good variation,” Hossain said.
Why butterfly though? During the 2011 World Cup, Ian Pont, Bangladesh’s bowling coach, had claimed he had a new delivery up his sleeve. “It’s a ball that doesn’t rotate in the air, it just floats like a butterfly,” he said. “It looks like a normal delivery and if it is bowled properly it is dramatic. It just drops like a stone and doesn’t go anywhere.” Hossain, who was in that 2011 squad, first talked about the ball in 2016. “I may try to bowl a new type of slower in Premier League. “My new bowling action’s name is butterfly. It should be gripped at the top of the fingers. Then the delivery will be slower at the same action.” Considering Charl Langeveldt was bowling it in the aughts, and Zaheer Khan resuscitated it in the 2011 World Cup, the debate over knuckleball and Butterfly comes down to fingers tips. Literally. Hossain and other Pont-ians say they grip the ball at the top of fingers. But if Hossain says knuckleball is indeed Butterfly ball, why not assume the other name? We need a Tony Greig to propagate this.
Why would anyone get out?
The cricketing lore has it that when the stylish Rohan Kanhai saw the flat pitch at Guyana for the first time, he went, “People get out here?” MS Dhoni seems to have a similar reaction about getting out anywhere in a T20 game.
Guess who has remained not out the most in history of T20? Not Dhoni, the man who likes to drag it till the end, but Kieron Pollard, the big-hitting Trinidadian, whose form, though has ebbed dramatically this season.
However, Dhoni is rapidly closing in on him. That despite playing 133 matches less than Pollard. Dhoni has remained unbeaten 104 times, from 287 games, and needs just one more not out situation to equal Pollard’s record. It’s now a matter of when than if, for Dhoni to claim the record.
Mo’ On Lynn
Chris Lynn’s burly good cop moustache, more Allan Border than David Boon in topography, amused the perennially clean-shaven commentators, David Lloyd and Michael Slater, no less during the rain-break of the Kolkata-Bangalore match. Bumble and Slats did a quick bit of improvisation and made a paper ‘tache and began mimicking Lynn, who had a good laugh sitting in the dugout, before his teammates began pulling his facial art.
When the rain stopped, Lynn went on and smacked an unbeaten 62 to pull them through. Lynn, suddenly, was seized with a belief that his good form was down to the moustache and swears to not disturb it. “Got to keep the moustache now. Was going to get rid of it yesterday. Now we’ve got to get it trending in Kolkata,” he said. But his two subsequent knocks fetched him only 29 runs. A rethink, Chris?