If the IPL game between Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab was overshadowed by Ravichandran Ashwin ‘Mankading’ Jos Buttler, the needle match between Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and Mumbai Indians (MI), two bottom rung teams aspiring for greater success, was marred by umpire S Ravi not spotting and calling a no-ball off the last ball of the match.
The match hung in a balance, with RCB requiring six runs off the last ball to tie the game. Had the no-ball been called, RCB would have got an extra run and a free-hit. They could have still been in the match, rather than losing it by six runs.
A livid RCB skipper Virat Kohli blasted the umpires after play.
“This is an IPL game, not some club cricket. That was a ridiculous call off the last ball. The umpires should have been alert, kept their eyes open. It was a no-ball by an inch. This is a game of margins. The umpire should have been more sharp and more careful,” he lashed out.
The winning captain Rohit Sharma was just as scathing: “I got to know of it after stepping out of the ground. These kind of mistakes aren't good for the game.”
Later, speaking to the media, he said that players are pulled up for all sorts of minor mistakes but umpires get away with much worse.
“I’m not one to keep quiet. If I see something wrong I will speak up. It does not matter that we won. That is a separate issue. We need better supervision. Earlier the umpire called a delivery wide when it was not.”
The contentious delivery that upset Kohli and the RCB team was bowled by the experienced Lasith Malinga, but with the dangerous AB de Villiers off strike. Shivam Dube could only slam the ball to long on and the batsmen crossed each other but did not bother to complete the run believing that it was a useless exercise anyway. Television replays showed that final delivery was a big no-ball. How it escaped the umpire’s notice especially when they are supposed to be alert to just this issue in such close finishes is a mystery.
Perhaps RCB would still not have won. But like Rohit said, that should not have mattered. The players, fans, public, IPL tournament, all still deserved to see flawless supervision of the game.
Be that as it may, one thing clear as daylight at this point of time is that RCB have to reconsider their decision to pack the playing eleven with Indian bowlers and off-set it with four foreign batsmen.
On Thursday, but for the dependable De Villiers (70 n.o, 41b, 4x4, 6x6), the rest of the foreign component struggled to come to terms with the relatively sluggish M Chinnaswamy Stadium pitch.
Actually, De Villiers too struggled to find his footing early. In fact he enjoyed a life at the start when Yuvraj Singh at slip dropped a fairly simple edge off leg spinner Mayank Markande. He was also rapped on the pads on a couple of occasions and seemed all at sea.
But just when it looked like the slow nature of the pitch had defeated him, the old war horse adjusted to the conditions and played a knock that almost knocked the stuffing out of Mumbai.
Earlier, RCB seemed relieved to play on a pitch that looked far more T20 batsman-friendly than the Chennai pitch where their batting was routed for a meagre 70. Still, their home base did not have the usual belter of a pitch. Rather, it called on batsmen to exhibit good timing and the ability to constantly middle the ball to coax shots to the fence and beyond.
But barring De Villiers who played a peach of an innings and Kohli, there was precious little to be enthused about the batting. Batting all-rounders Moeen Ali and Colin de Grandhomme were a bitter disappointment while the West Indian powerhouse Shimron Hetmyer looked like he still needed to sort out the vagaries of Indian pitches.
This ensured that the RCB ploy of trying to chase down any total with their array of big hitters came a cropper. The redoubtable Jasprit Bumrah, coming off a shoulder injury suffered in the last match was magnificent. But for his brilliant bowling (4-0-20-3) RCB would have probably chased down the total of 187 without rising too much of a sweat.
Mumbai Indians were also indebted to a cameo from Hardik Pandya (32 n.o; 14b, 2x4, 3x6) whose final overs slog was the difference between victory and defeat.
RCB’s Navdeep Saini and Mohammed Siraj who otherwise had a decent match wilted under Pandya’s onslaught. Kohli at this stage needed the experience of Tim Southee. He also missed Nathan Coulter-Nile who won’t join the team until 1 April.
Still the overwhelming evidence after Thursday’s debacle is that RCB’s Indian pacers panic when put under the pump and their foreign batsmen are not all that hot in Indian conditions.
True, these are early days and the players might still get a hang of things. But unless RCB get their act together rather quickly, theirs would be a lost cause.
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