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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

LSG v CSK: Evin Lewis, the poker-faced assassin, Bishnoi, the zid-zap-zoom bowler, Dushmantha’s fielding woes

Lucknow Super Giants bounce back from opening game loss to chase down defending champs CSK's 211 thanks to Evin Lewis's explosive half century

By: Express News Service |
Updated: April 1, 2022 12:03:54 pm
Lucknow turn giant killers with six-wicket win over CSK in high-scoring game

Lewis, the poker-faced assassin

Evin Lewis adores Chris Gayle. He blasts sixes like him too. But unlike him, he doesn’t pour emotion on the field. Mostly, he projects a deadpan face, concealing both angst and joy. Even after bludgeoning an unbeaten 55 off 23 balls that architected a heist, he did not, forget high-fiving or fist pumping, let out half a smile. With a blank expression on his face, he shook hands with fellow batsman Ayush Badoni, who seemed over the moon. Lewis casually removed his helmet and gloves and dragged himself back to the dug-out, nearly oblivious to the applause of his own teammates. The only time he shed emotion was when a shot that he intended, a thump down the ground off Shivam Dube, did not beget the required result. It turned out to be a four and not a six. He winced momentarily before wearing the deadpan face again.

Bishnoi, the zip-zap-zoom bowler

Commentators raved about how quickly Ravi Bishnoi had judged the nature of the pitch and increased the speed on his sliders. Not a surprise as he has been helping in preparing pitches by rolling black soil into a wicket and watering it as part of his formative years. The googly and sliders he always had, and when a slight problem crept up during his second IPL season, his coach Anil Kumble rested him from a few games and went to work on his run-up, which was creating the issues. Once that was sorted, the accuracy and the zip returned as Robin Uthappa found to his detriment. It skid in so quickly, over 100 kmph, that Uthappa lost his shape and was trapped in front. Though the umpire didn’t side with him, Bishnoi was so convinced that he frantically signalled to his captain KL Rahul to go upstairs. Moeen Ali too found the going tough against him, repeatedly getting beaten by the one that slid away at some pace.

Dushmantha’s fielding woes

Fielders are made to look silliest when they let the ball nutmeg them. Next on the embarrassing scale would be if they end up over-running the ball. Sri Lanka seamer Dushmantha Chameera, blessed with a powerful arm from the deep and fast legs, but not judgement, endured the blushes twice in the space of five balls. First, when he was sweeping the cover, he slid to pick the ball, only to realise that the ball was spinning away massively, akin to a wrong ’un. He did his best to pause the slide and change direction, but was no gymnast or trapeze artist to twist his body from reaching the ropes. He flashed a sorry smile. Soon, he was cursing himself at deep cover, as he over-ran a ball that went straight on and trickled to the boundary cushion. Perhaps, this time, he was expecting a wrong ’un.

LucKLess at Lucknow

Captains and coaching staff these days are often criticised for relying too much on data and not enough on gut instinct and a feel of the game. If KL Rahul and the Lucknow Super Giants had indeed delved into the stats, it didn’t seem so when Robin Uthappa took them to the cleaners during the Powerplay.

It’s an open secret that Uthappa’s Achilles Heel throughout his career has been the well-directed short ball. At 36 years of age, his reflexes are bound to be slower than in his younger days. Rahul even got a reminder in the first over – whenever Avesh Khan got the ball to climb chest-high or above, Uthappa was distinctly uncomfortable. In contrast, anything pitched in his half went the journey as he reached his 50 in half as many deliveries.

Rahul is very early in his captaincy role, and showed in South Africa that he has plenty to learn. His track record at Punjab Kings wasn’t too inspiring either. It’s the quest for a known Indian face and lack of options that may have put him in charge. Very often in franchise cricket, it is the coaching staff and wise heads in the dugout who call the shots. But going by events in the first two games, the franchise’s best hope would be that Rahul learns on the job, and that too quickly. If IPL captaincy is a testing ground for a future leadership role with the national side, Rahul is not getting good grades at the moment.

Robin’s 18 runs in Tye Tye Fish over

Robin Uthappa’s start-stop career fizzled out a few seasons ago, or so we thought. His last IPL of significance was in 2014; playing for KKR he finished as the highest run-getter of the tournament, making five fifties while batting in the middle order. CSK placed their faith in him last season and so he was united with old friend MS Dhoni. He made a fine 63 while batting at No.3 for CSK versus Delhi Capitals last season but Uthappa is most comfortable opening the batting. Now at CSK, he seems to have got the licence to thrill. Not that he throws his bat around, but plays proper attacking cricketing shots while not being afraid to improvise. He can pull, drive and is not afraid to move around at the crease to mess with bowlers’ angles. Fast bowlers who err a bit in line or length are cannon fodder for Uthappa, who even at nearly 37 seems to have lost none of his hand-eye-coordination. Flicking LSG medium pacer Dushmantha Chameera for a six was a good example of Uthappa’s fast hands, timing and sharp reflexes. He turned the clock back and smashed 18 off an Andrew Tye over en route to a 25-ball half-century. Leg-spinner Ravi Bishnoi trapped him in front with a faster delivery by which time Uthappa had helped CSK get off to an explosive start. Fans have a short memory, but this would be a good time to remember that Uthappa was in Dhoni’s team that won the inaugural ICC World T20 and was one of India’s original T20 stars.

The whooshing Bishnoi

No one seemed to watch the ball, after it dribbled off Ruturaj Gaikwad’s pads. The bowler, Avesh Khan, and the fielders in the ring were chorusing an appeal, an optimistic one, as Gaikwad had clearly inside-edged onto the pad. Gaikwad aimlessly took off for a non-existent single. ‘Keeper Quinton de Kock had already wrapped his face with his gloves, unable to grasp why the appeal was turned down. Only Ravi Bishnoi, prowling at point, seemed to track the ball. He rushed to the ball, with lithe grace and twinkling feet, swooped on it and flung it stump-wards from side-on in one fluid singular motion. So flat and so quick that it blasted the stumps even before Gaikwad realised where the ball was. It’s not just his wrong ’uns that sting but his bullet-throws as well. He has been so effervescent on the field that he is stationed where the best fielders of a team fields, at point. Often restless at his post, he is always moving this way or that, flapping his arms, ready to fling when the ball is even remotely trespassing into his territory. And all of it seemed effortless, like all great fielders make great fielding look like.

MS excels. MS. Word.

The CSK players stood in a circle, hands on each other’s shoulders just before the chase began. And who did all the talking? Former captain MS Dhoni, of course. To his right, stood Ravindra Jadeja, head down and listening intently as Dhoni went on for a while. Nothing has changed, it seemed. The last time he was in a mentor’s role, it ended in a debacle for India at the T20 World Cup. But he was spared the blushes as Ravi Shastri and his old support staff took the hit. Not many raised fingers at Dhoni, whose halo keeps increasing year after year in India. This IPL was his first real brush with cricket after that mentor role and he started by passing the baton to Jadeja. In the last two games, he has exploded nicely with the bat, pulling out all the nostalgic hits for the fans. His wise mutterings from behind the stumps have continued and the only thing remaining is that mother of all Dhoni nostalgia: A helicopter six.

No stink eyes for drops at CSK

An unwritten rule at Chennai Super Kings is that players don’t get castigated for a dropped catch. As conveyed by a franchise official, this has been laid out by MS Dhoni, for he believes that the fielder is hurting the most. So, when Moeen Ali dropped a sitter to give Quinton de Kock a reprieve off Dwayne Bravo’s bowling, it was sort of business as usual for the team. Moeen was obviously disappointed and Bravo was a bit on his knees, but there was no hard glare from the bowler. Skipper Ravindra Jadeja barely reacted. In the dug-out, CSK head coach Stephen Fleming lowered his brows and that was that.

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