Synopsis: Iceman Stoinis ends Agarwal’s night on tragic note
The Indian Premier League might have begun on Saturday, but it hit the ground running only on Sunday with a textbook T20 match that drained the full range of emotions. It was a strange slow-burning match that exploded towards the final stretch. Then it was all a blur, twists and turns springing from every corner.
Delhi had the match in their grasp until Mayank Agarwal cut loose. But just when he seemed to steer Punjab to a famous win, he held out tiresomely, eventually taking the match to super-over, which turned out to be a non-event. Punjab made the lowest score in a powerplay, which Delhi surpassed without fuss. Add to the intrigue a run that was called short — the third ball of the 19th over in Punjab’s innings. It was helter-skelter, exhaustive stuff by the time Rishabh Pant seized victory off the third ball of the Super Over. But the real story is how it reached the Super Over.
On a topsy-turvy night, it was Marcus Stoinis who imparted the decisive twist to the match. Defending 13 off the last over, he conceded 12 off his first three, but then managed a dot ball with a wide short delivery, before taking out Agarwal and Chris Jordan off the last two balls. Both of them were arguably boundary balls, but Stoinis could do no wrong on the night. And how Stoinis trusted himself and had fun.
Whenever Stoinis strides out to the field, he hears his father’s voice inside his head: “Have fun, trust yourself.” It was his late father’s advice on the morning of his T20 debut five years ago. The advice is more sentimental to him these days, as his father died in 2018 after a long battle with cancer.
— Stoinis And KG Fan Account (@DelhiCapitals) September 20, 2020
But living his father’s words on the field in international cricket has not been as straightforward. For every time he walks onto a field, it seems as if an unbearable burden is thrust on his square shoulders. Too many thoughts churning and spinning inside his head perhaps, drowning out his father’s voice. As a consequence, his Australia career has so far swung between uncertainty and instability. So have been his IPL stints, into his fifth year with negligible credentials. “I don’t know what goes wrong,” he once confessed to australia.com.au.
Then he began listening to the podcasts of feted industrial designer Elon Musk and American marathon runner David Goggins, besides consulting a noted Sydney-based sports psychologist Dave Diggle. Soon he realised: “It’s more about mindset. It’s more about the energy you’ve got to get ready to perform, it’s about following the process and keeping a clear mind, more so than taking a big front step forward.”
Gradually, he detoxed his mind, and as his father had counselled, he began to trust himself and have more fun. As he did on Sunday, single-handedly lifting his side to a competitive total with a whirlwind 21-ball 53. An on-side favoured player, he began his carnage by smearing Jordan’s off-cutter over long, just waiting on his back-foot and bludgeoning the delivery. A stroke that was all muscle and bottom hand. Soon he began shuffling in the crease to dishevel the bowlers’ lengths, a recent improvisation to his game that resulted in a jackpot BBL — he registered a record 705 runs from 17 matches at a phenomenal average of 54.23. “I was more willing to move around the crease a little bit (during the BBL) and create a few options and change the dynamic of the game,” Stoinis told reporters in England.
IPL is a battle of fine margins. Short run, missed no ball … Bade bade tournaments mein chhoti chhoti baatein hoti rehti hain. Credit to Rabada and Stoinis who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat!#DCvKXIP pic.twitter.com/xARr6PFNZY
— Mohammad Kaif (@MohammadKaif) September 20, 2020
But even when he’s moving, his head is still and the body supremely balanced, so that he can make late adjustments like when he realised that a Jordan delivery was shorter than he had anticipated. He was already bending down for the ramp, but he froze in his movement, waited for the delivery and glided it over fine-leg with nuclear-tipped precision. His batting was a perfect storm of power and ingenuity. Poor Jordan, who was at his wits’ end in containing him, especially in the last over wherein he plundered 24 runs off his first five deliveries, toying with his lengths as if he were first-term rookie and not an experienced T20 speed merchant. The 57 runs that Delhi amassed in the last three overs turned out to be the difference in the end. And 36 came off 11 balls Stoinis faced.
Tragic hero Mayank
If IPL was the one unticked box off his career — the last two years have been about proving himself in the longest format — Mayank Agarwal demonstrated with a knock of utter callousness that this might be the edition that would see his emergence as a T20 player.
As remarkable as his stroke-play was his serenity. Kings XI Punjab were in strife from time to time, the required run-rate was shooting over the roof, the support batsmen were running, his own strike-rate was middling, but he remained unflustered, egging himself on between every delivery and wiping the thick beads of sweat dripping down his brows. His knock was almost MS Dhoni like in rendition — scoring just above run-a-ball, biding his time, assessing his bowlers, surveying the gaps and weighing up his options. He was 38 off 39 at the 16th over, Delhi requiring 53 off 24 deliveries, with just lower-order for company.
— Kings XI Punjab (@lionsdenkxip) September 20, 2020
And then he embraced beast mode, spanking Andre Nortje for a brace of delicious boundaries, first a chip over mid-off and then a slap behind point, two of his most staple strokes. Next was Mohit Sharma’s turn to bear the furious brunt of his batting. Aggarwal probably sensed a weak-link in him and went full pelt, massacring 17 runs. Rabada’s next over yielded 12 runs and Kings were sniffing the victory before a manic last over. Agarwal smacked 12 off the first three balls, but perished on the penultimate delivery with his side just a run away from the target. The tie took the match to the Super Over, which Delhi Capital won. A disconsolate Mayank would be wondering how a single run turned him from a potential hero to a tragic hero.
Delhi Capitals: 157/8 and 3/0 (Marcus Stoinis 53, Shreyas Iyer 39, Mohammad Shami 3/15; Sheldon Cottrel 2/24) defeat Kings XI Punjab: 157/8 and 2/2 (Mayank Agarwal 89; Ravi Ashwin 2/1; Marcus Stoinis 2/29) in the Super Over.
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