ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 lighter side Week 5: Mitchell Starc in wounded beast mode, Imad Wasim refuses to go gentle, no substitute for Ravindra Jadeja

  • James Marsh
  • July 1st, 2019
  • 14:10:53 IST

Starc in wounded beast mode
Cornered tigers are cricket's most feared animal, but an even more ferocious beast is an injured Mitchell Starc. Four years ago during the inaugural Day/Night Test, Australia's fragile quick was sent out to bat against New Zealand with a broken foot despite other players being available and only two runs needed for victory. Steve Smith certainly made worse decisions as an Australian captain, but this one seemed particularly coarse. Starc still managed to limp his side to victory.

Then in 2017, the pacer required 30 stitches in his shin after, rather enigmatically, “colliding with training equipment”. In his first match back he took 4-71 in South Africa’s first innings at the WACA. Last year he missed the Indian Premier League (IPL) due to injury but again bared his teeth, choosing to sue Kolkata Knight Riders’ insurers for $1.5 million.

Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates after picking up a wicket. AFP

Australia's Mitchell Starc celebrates after picking up a wicket. AFP

Ben Stokes on Tuesday looked as if might pull off an unlikely chase for England against Starc’s Australia despite himself suffering from an injury. England’s physio had to come on the field to administer a leg massage while a prostrate Stokes nonchalantly munched on a banana. This seemed to give Starc ideas for he later disturbed the all-rounder’s stumps with a delivery that bent so much it could have been peeled and made into a sundae. Stokes, out of incredulity, disappointment and frustration kicked his bat away as the zing bails lay blinking on the floor for a couple of seconds. England’s chances had just flatlined.

Before the hosts commenced their innings, Starc had been seen rubbing his thigh. At the time home fans thought it was a good omen. In hindsight, it wasn’t. Always beware the wounded Starc. He’s a dangerous beast.

Rohit’s twitter game in good nick
Earlier on in the tournament, Rohit Sharma was asked about the controversy over MS Dhoni's army insignia gloves after the Indian keeper had backed down and worn a plain pair. "I have no idea about that," he said with a look suggesting the journalist might like to ask a different question quite quickly.

This week he was rather more forthcoming about pieces of cricket equipment, namely his own bat and pad. India's opener had been at his purring best early on against the West Indies in Manchester, but when on 18 he played at a sharp one from Kemar Roach that nipped back through the gate. Shai Hope completed a sharp take and, as there had been a sound, went up for the catch. Umpire Richard Illingworth remained unmoved. The West Indies, however, moved with an urgency not often seen from them this World Cup. The review was called within seconds.

The video seemed inconclusive at best yet the third umpire, Michael Gough, overturned the decision and in doing so made himself even less popular in the Old Trafford region than the Glazers -- owners of Premier League club Manchester United. Only this time it was the hordes in blue who were aggrieved. Rohit walked off.

On Friday morning, the batsman posted a tweet with photos of the review accompanied by a facepalm and incredulous eyes emoticons. Players are often sanctioned for impetuous and instantaneous on-field shows of dissent towards umpires. Even glancing at their bat to suggest an LBW decision was wrong can result in a significant proportion of their match fee being lost. By instead tweeting his displeasure and hoping the ICC didn’t notice, Rohit showed he has become a player of great guile and maturity.

Bairstow stems the panic
Before the World Cup, Mark Wood rather oddly invoked Newcastle United’s 1996 title implosion to illustrate the dangers of disturbing a settled side with new players. Jofra Archer was cast in the role of Tino Asprilla. This week England did another passable impression of Kevin Keegan when Jonny Bairstow had a bit of an I-would-love-it moment. “People were waiting for us to fail. They are not willing us on to win, in many ways,” said the England opener. “They are waiting for you to get that loss, so they can jump on your throat. It’s a typical English thing to do — in every sport.”

Jonny Bairstow's ton helped England beat India. AFP

Jonny Bairstow's ton helped England beat India. AFP

Without sounding in any way panicky, Bairstow then bemoaned about the sense of panic in the media. “We’re still in the running. Everyone’s talking as if we’re eighth or ninth in the table, it’s like, 'Bloody Nora. Chill out, guys. You’re panicking.'" For younger and non-British readers not familiar with the phrase, “Bloody Nora”, it is Yorkshire for 'OMG!' The batsman actually also went on to take aim at his Headingley brethren, Michael Vaughan, with a “Twitter spat” ensuing.

Bairstow gave the best possible answer to his detractors, real or imagined, with his century against India on Sunday. Vaughan at least fronted up and tweeted his congratulations. Well, sort of. “That’s the way to do it,” he wrote. It’s not known if the two shook hands and made up after the match. Although, as Cameron Bancroft found out during the last Ashes, a handshake from Jonny Bairstow isn't always conciliatory.

Imad refuses to go gentle
“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

When it comes to Swansea’s famous sons, it is perhaps fair to say that Dylan Thomas is slightly higher up the list than Imad Wasim. The all-rounder is very much of Welsh stock, though, having been born in the city while his father was working there. He then spent his formative years back in Pakistan, the nation whose World Cup hopes he rescued on Saturday.

Imad's staunch knock at Headingley was enough to see his side beat Afghanistan with a chase so exciting, not even captain Sarfaraz Ahmed yawned. Imad was aided by some bumbling fielding and had more luck against Rashid Khan than most T20 franchise batsmen have in a career. His innings was still, by the frenetic standards of Pakistan's tournament, a beacon of composure.

Imad is far from a shrinking violet, as his occasional Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired wicket celebrations show. Yet he is not particularly a rager. After the match, he advised fans to be more respectful following the unpleasant violence at the ground with the same measured sense he displayed on the field. At the crease, there is a touch, and this is a compliment, of Ashley Giles about his batting. Like Giles in the 2005 Trent Bridge Ashes Test, Imad even won the game by drilling a full toss through the cover. He is not even a raging turner of the ball but earlier in the match, his tweakers, which again opened the bowling, were enough to take a parsimonious 2-48 off his ten overs.

Not a rager, then. But when Pakistan’s World Cup light was dying, it was Imad who refused to go gentle into the darkness.

No substitute for Jadeja
Whenever a low catch is sent upstairs there should be three possible soft signals: "Out", "Not out" or “Jadeja”. Admittedly the first and third of these are basically the same, but the TV umpire should be given all the help necessary to make the correct decision. Being immediately informed the fielder is Jadeja, a man whose palms swallow up more the average black hole, would assist them no end in deciding to send the unfortunate batsman on his way.

Jadeja was famously termed “Rockstar” by his captain Shane Warne during their successful time together at Rajasthan Royals. It was another Australian, however, who came to mind on Sunday as Jason Roy trudged off having been brilliantly caught by the all-rounder at long on. Jadeja, as so often, was on as a substitute fielder when he took the catch and the England opener appeared to give a disgruntled look up at the changing rooms when he reached the boundary. It was reminiscent of Ricky Ponting’s glare and mutterings at Duncan Fletcher after England’s own substitute, Gary Pratt, had run him out in that very same Ashes Test in Nottingham fourteen years ago.

There is nothing technically illegal about India sneaking Jadeja on whenever possible. Roy, returning and still recovering after injury, was unable to field after being struck an unfortunate, yet convenient, blow by Bumrah. Jadeja’s presence is felt a little bit more than that of James Vince, though. Not to devalue India’s now generally very competent fielding, but Jadeja still noticeably improves it. Why play your own bunker shots when you have Phil Mickelson on hand to play them for you?

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Updated Date: July 01, 2019 14:10:53 IST

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