From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.20 :: May. 19, 2011

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CRICKET / IPL DIARY

Sohal, not subtle

Positioning himself well outside leg-stump, the Deccan Chargers batsman dangled his willow at everything that was thrown at him in the match against Chennai Super Kings. Over to Arun Venugopal.

K. PICHUMANI

Sunny Sohal in full flow against Chennai Super Kings.

Humour, when subtle, can orchestrate the most delightful of situations. But with Sunny Sohal being the lead farceur, niceties were duly dumped into the Marina. Albie Morkel, occupying the box seat, was definitely none too impressed with the ‘Hey I am the entertainer' act. To Sohal's credit though, his earnest attempt at pulling off the same trick 56,789 times rubbed enough salt into Chennai's scars.

Positioning himself well outside leg-stump, the Deccan Chargers batsman dangled his willow at everything that was thrown at him. The no-nonsense Morkel hurled one into his body. What does Sohal do? Simple, fall over and push it over third man for four. The following one was more conventional by Sohal's standards as he flayed the ball over covers for maximum.

Hell bent at causing more damage to Morkel's receding hairline, Sohal walloped the next two deliveries over — hold your breath — cover and third man again! The thrill-a-minute ride ended in patented Sohal style as he attempted a reverse hoick against Jakati. The fastish low full toss missed the swirling bat and, with a delicious twist of irony (blah), went through Sohal's legs for the sound that CSK was dying to hear — Clatter!

We are funny too!

In the same match, there were other players who were left disgruntled by Sohal's ascension as principal comedian. Desperate to provide belly aches, they rolled out a pantomime (Sohal most graciously played a supporting part). So when Shikhar Dhawan struck one to point, his partner Sohal rushed for a single while the former was still scanning the ball. The throw at the striker's end, which would have caught both men short, went wide and was clumsily backed up at mid-wicket. As Dhawan ran to the non-striker's end, the fielder recovered and threw the ball to Bollinger. Here's where the plot reached a decisive and hilarious climax. Collecting the ball cleanly, Bollinger, almost inexplicably, couldn't dislodge the bails. Frustrated, he threw the ball from close range only to miss again!

AP

Kochi Tuskers' captain Mahela Jayawardena (middle, above) reacts to a boundary hit by Delhi Daredevils' Yogesh Nagar (left, above) after the ball had slipped out of bowler Vinay Kumar's fingers.

If there was another game where bizarre action ruled the roost, it was the Kochi vs Delhi encounter at Kotla. Crazy shots and even crazier dismissals were dusted off in matter-of-fact fashion. To pull or pull out was the profound question raging inside McCullum's mind when Umesh Yadav served up a chest-high beamer. Initially sizing up for a pull, McCullum suddenly looked to back off and then eventually swivelled for a six over fine leg.

Delhi's Travis Birt had a similar tryst with the uncertainty of human behaviour as he went down on his knee for a paddle sweep. The ball, however, changed direction and so did Birt. Swaying backwards, he held out his bat almost vertically for a boundary to third man.

The third strange moment began when a harmless slower ball slipped out of Vinay Kumar's fingers. Yogesh Nagar, who had given the charge, was looking for the pull but the ball took an eternity to come. So he waited, walked further down as the ball bounced again, and smoked one over cow corner for four. Tuskers captain Jayawardene was unhappy with Nagar playing a shot and had a chat with the umpire perhaps suggesting that it should have been called a dead ball. One of those iffy decisions, you might think.

K. PICHUMANI

Gautam Gambhir... straight talk.

What was, however, not iffy was the way Mahela ran himself out. A huge lbw shout ensued after Van der Merwe's delivery ricocheted off his pads to third man. Looking anxiously at Suresh Shastri, Mahela failed to spot the fielder behind him. A direct hit left the red-faced batsman short of his crease. The fielder, by the way, was Yogesh Nagar.

A Gambhir situation

If there is one man who can give media personnel the jitters, it is Gautam Gambhir. A smouldering amalgam of Garam Dharam and the ‘angry young man' Amitabh Bachchan template of the 70s, Gambhir can be ticked off with ridiculous ease.

Try this for starters. On a query (ahead of an away game against Rajasthan) about what the Kolkata Knight Riders captain would seek to learn from Warne, Gambhir shot point blank: “What is there to learn? A captain is as good as his team. It is the team that wins and not just the captain. I have my own plans, my own style, my own temperament and I have no desire to learn anything from anyone.”

G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Chris Gayle...magic with both bat and ball against Kings XI Punjab.

The journos apparently didn't learn their lessons. At another pre-match conference, a scribe made the grave blunder of quizzing him about captaincy. “I always believed that there were never great captains and there will be no great captain. There are only great teams. No captain can win you the game,” was Gauti's straight-faced response.

Substitution troubles

“Thou shall endeavour to hide the slow fielders,” seems to be the diktat governing most substitutions. That's not something which would clearly endear oneself to the opposition. Gilchrist was miffed after an injured Rayudu, who was substituted in the third over, replaced Jacobs as the 'keeper in the 12th over. “Ambati was off the field injured. (But) I found it extraordinary when Jacobs had to go off and suddenly Ambati is fit again,” was Gilly's reaction.

Cameron White had a similar grievance against the Chennai Super Kings after substitute Faf du Plessis had taken a well-judged catch to dismiss him. White, whose lousy form has ensured that not many shots went beyond the square, was seen remonstrating with M. S. Dhoni even after the end of the game. Well, well, not many escape the clutches of Murphy's Law, do they?

Comebacks and Twitter farewells

Sourav Ganguly has come back into the IPL fold by the skin of his teeth. No, it's not with Shah Rukh's KKR. A lifeline, instead, has been handed out by the Pune Warriors which drafted him as a replacement for the injured Ashish Nehra. With six straight losses, the natural assumption was that Ganguly would play right away in the game against Mumbai Indians. Astonishingly, he was warming the benches making conversations with coach Geoff Marsh. Despite the former Indian captain arriving in time for the pre-match practice, the team remained hesitant in fielding him and wanted Ganguly to settle down first. Pune slumped to another defeat and now every match is, but, a mere formality.

Shane Warne, meanwhile, confirmed on Twitter that he would retire as a player after this year's IPL. “It's 100% my last 4 games of professional cricket unless we make finals — maybe I have 5 or 6 left”, the spin legend tweeted. Whatever happened to emotional farewells at press conferences? As Sidhu probably would say, goodness gracious me… the times have sure changed.

Gayle's tuk-tuk train

A whiff of Caribbean freshness wafted ever so serenely at the Chinnaswamy Stadium. The ultra slow-mo cam caught a pair of massive arms outstretched. With delicate air-punches, a tall Jamaican chugged around to do what he called the ‘tuk-tuk train'. Gayle's night, though, was anything but chugging around. After bombarding the opponent, Kings XI Punjab, with a 49-ball 107, he plucked out three of their batsmen. “Things will happen when I am out there,” Gayle said later. “I am unpredictable.” Should opposing teams take that as a prophecy for more acts of destruction?



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