Dada helps capitals get off the ground
Much to the despair of Danny Morrison, the “Double Ds” are no more, with the Delhi Daredevils replaced this year by the all new, well sort of new, Delhi Capitals. Hope doesn’t exactly spring eternal at the Feroz Shah Kotla, but the franchise has already successfully differentiated itself from its previous incarnation by playing an IPL game quite competently, defeating Mumbai in their first match on Sunday. The Capitals have retained Ricky Ponting as the coach, and have also brought in luminary Sourav Ganguly as an advisor.
The princely left-hander will certainly bring some leftfield ideas to the Capitals. Earlier this month, the former India captain said the mighty yet stoic Che Pujara should bat at four in India’s World Cup ODI starting XI, a suggestion that raised more eyebrows than a botox clinic. Stranger still was the sight of Dada out in the middle before the Capitals’ impressive victory at the Wankhede, wearing a baseball mitt and going through a selection of drills with the players. Perhaps after Ponting’s very dubious slip ‘catch’ of Dada in the infamous 2008 Sydney Test, Ganguly feels his team coach simply cannot be trusted to help impressionable young players with their fielding.
Jos sticks to his celestial targets
Unsurprisingly for a man whose eyes have more sparkle than most galaxies, Jos Buttler is always trying to set his sights on the stellar. During last year's tournament, Rajasthan's maverick batsman, clearly not content with plundering 548 runs at a strike rate of 155, decided to also take up the piano. It's not known how he got on, though if his musical skills are anything like his batting ones he can probably now play Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes blindfold with his fingers taped together. This year Buttler is aiming for an even higher goal, namely emulating Virat Kohli. Speaking to the Daily Mail, the England star said, “I know I can go to another level. Why couldn't you just stay at peak level? Someone like Kohli scores a hundred every game, he doesn't settle for: ‘Ah, that was ok, I'll peak at some point.’ Just do it every day. That's the sort of mindset I've been wanting to hit.” And when Buttler wants to hit something, he normally does.
The Beard not to be jeered
David Warner is back for this year's IPL having completed his year-long ban for instigating the biggest scandal in Australian cricket since Adam Zampa kept the same haircut for more than a month. He's also sporting a rather patchy beard, which looks like it has been crafted by a team of hipster chimpanzee barbers armed with bread knives. Warner did, however, receive a warm welcome on his return to the IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad, which either suggests Indian cricket fans are morally lacking or, more likely, Cricket Australia may have gone a bit over the top with their punishment.
Steve Smith has also returned to the fold with apparently a little bit of aesthetic enhancement, with some people suggesting his teeth looked suspiciously white and gleaming. Anyway, regardless of any superficial changes, Warner proved he is still an integral titan of the game, pummelling 85 off 53 on Sunday against KKR. Ironically, though, his efforts went in vain due to a blitzkrieg from Andre Russell, another player who, after his drugs ban in 2017, knows what it is like to sit on the sidelines for a long twelve months.
Bumrah always on hand
Cricket has its tribalism, of course, but one of its great traits as a sport is the perverse joy opposition supporters can take from seeing their side dismantled by brilliance. This was certainly the case in Australia a few months back, when home fans and pundits - when not passing judgment on the quality of Ranji Trophy canteen facilities - queued up to praise Jasprit Bumrah’s genius during India's Test series win.
The problem for sportsmen attaining greatness is that they'll always face accusations it has gone to their head. And so it was when Mumbai Indians released a video of Bumrah arriving at their pre-season camp in which he gets out of his car then appears to leave a hotel gateman hanging, or whatever the equivalent term is for ignoring the offer of a handshake. The star bowler was then reportedly “slammed” on social media for being a diva, despite the fact he nodded respectfully at the gentleman concerned and didn't actually seem to see the outstretched hand. The hotel staffer shouldn't be too concerned, though. He'll be far from the last person made to look a bit silly by Bumrah this IPL.
Bravo's continental drift
For noble reasons, there was no IPL opening ceremony this year. Yet for fans of musical extravaganzas all is not lost as Dwayne Bravo has, as inevitably as he used to land his brilliant late dip slow yorkers, released a new single. It’s entitled Asia and, if you’ve not heard it, you should probably try to keep things that way. The verses involve DJ repeating the names of famous Asian cricketers - “Mahela. Mahela. Mahela.”, “Shakib. Shakib. Shakib.” - while the chorus is the CSK stalwart singing “Asia. Asia, Asia, Asia” of the tune of football chant “Ole. Ole, Ole, Ole.” It’s hard to do full justice in print to the musical majesty, but hopefully, you get the idea. Cynicism aside, there was one good review for Bravo’s new ditty, with Shahid Afridi writing on Twitter that the tune was “definitely an improvement on the ‘Champion’ song”. It should be stressed, however, that the basis for this opinion was because, as Afridi noted with a winky smiley and characteristic modesty, “you’ve included me in the lineup”.
Come back, Imran
There was much talk last year about matches overrunning, with even IPL-crazed advertisers seeing limited value in promoting products at 2 am, which was when some games finished. So for this tournament strict rules have been introduced to try and quicken up over rates. The curator of the Chepauk in Chennai clearly sympathised with captains trying to cope with this more vigilant regime, preparing a pitch so slow and turny that CSK were able to whizz through their overs by bowling 13 of spin. Aside from people giggling at Royal Challengers Bangalore collapsing to 70 all out, such a pitch didn’t make for the most entertaining season opener, but it did at least ensure neither Kohli or Dhoni fell foul of officials’ tighter time-keeping. The only danger for CSK's over rate if such pitches are the norm for their home games is if Imran Tahir, who picked up 3-9 on Saturday, carries on being so prolific. Even at the ripe of age of 39, his mad dash puppy on cocaine wicket celebrations continue to take several weeks to conclude.