The haphazard development of The Hundred, the English franchise contest set to begin next year, might suggest the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has a monopoly on unnecessary innovation. But honing into view stroking his chin pensively this week was AB de Villiers, who suggested a new tournament called "Fives" where teams play, naturally enough, five-over-a-side matches in a best of three. The number of deliveries involved may at least get a few darts fans interested.
Of course a T10 tournament, clearly rather bloated, already takes place in the United Arab Emirates, but this is just knockabout fun compared to AB’s elaborate brainchild. "Possible advantages include sustained excitement with each batsman trying to hit every ball out of the park, the chance for supporters to see every member of the squad in action and a significant reduction of any advantage in winning the toss," the batsman wrote in his Times of India column.
It remains to be seen if the idea will get off the ground but de Villiers will be well-placed to star in such an event if it does. After all these years playing for the underperforming Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), he is certainly accustomed to short tournaments.
Hooda gets 'Keemown' over
This week has seen some of the most bizarre running since Tom Hanks put on a pair of white trainers and headed towards a shrimp boat. In the County Championship, Somerset and England legend Marcus Trescothick ran a two that involved him slipping over at each end like Bambi playing baseball on ice. In Friday’s second qualifier, two other veterans, Faf du Plessis and Shane Watson, came up with the neat trick of inducing overthrows by dashing to the middle of the wicket, having a panicky chat, then both heading to the same end.
So things can be difficult enough for batsmen without opponents assaulting them halfway down the wicket. This, though, was sadly the fate of Sunrisers Hyderabad’s Deepak Hooda during the eliminator against Delhi Capitals on Wednesday. The batsman missed a slower ball from Keemo Paul but non-striker Rashid Khan tried to steal a single as the ball dribbled off towards Capitals keeper Rishabh Pant, who eventually hurled at the stumps but missed. Paul then, for reasons unclear, attempted a diving interception of the ball halfway down the wicket.
The West Indian actually only succeeded in turning himself into a hybrid of Roy Keane and Hulk Hogan, his thighs felling poor Hooda and leaving the batsman looking up forlornly from the turf as the ball continued on its merry way into the stumps at the bowler’s end. Delhi Captain Shreyas Iyer sportingly tried to withdraw the appeal, but neither Pant nor the umpires were having any of it. Later in the same game, Amit Mishra then found himself given out for obstructing the field when Delhi needed just two to win. Unlike poor Hooda, the Capitals still managed to scramble home.
Testing times for Dhoni
MS Dhoni’s run out in Sunday’s final may have been fifty-fifty, but his record at the toss this year was far from even stevens. The Chennai Super Kings (CSK) captain won 12 and lost just five, granting his side a major advantage throughout the tournament. So what should other captains in next year’s IPL do to counter MS’s otherworldly manipulation of the odds? Kumar Sangakkara might be a bit tied up with his new job as MCC president but he could serve as an effective “Coin trajectory mentor” on someone’s backroom staff. With Dhoni his opposite number, the Sri Lanka skipper famously won the toss twice in one match at the 2011 World Cup final when the umpires failed to hear his initial correct call amid the cacophony of the Wankhede.
Dhoni and his flip-based talents have even found their way into the world of academia. This week the Indian Institute of Technology set an exam question where students, given information about hypothetical weather conditions for Wednesday's qualifier against Mumbai, had to say what Dhoni should do if he won the toss (he did…) at the Chepauk. The question was set by a Professor Vignesh, who found his innovative poser going viral and even tweeted out by the ICC. Hopefully his students, faced with a question about dew, didn't lose their grip on their intellectual faculties.
The Chahars' key inputs and crucial put downs
CSK’s Deepak Chahar has had an interesting IPL. He’s impersonated Imran Tahir's wicket celebrations, got the new ball to ping and swing, and taken swooping outfield catches with possibly an unnecessary amount of swooping. In Sunday’s final, however, his ever optimistic exuberance was tested to the max as his first over was bludgeoned for 20 by a rampaging Quinton de Kock.
With commendable valour, the man who has spoken of Dhoni's "key inputs" to his game returned to make a few of his own. Chahar’s second over went for precisely 20 fewer runs than his first and included the wicket of Rohit Sharma. He returned again later in the innings to trap Hardik Pandya in front shortly after the batsman, going helicopter-to-leather in this IPL, had just been given a life by Suresh Raina. For good measure, Chahar then dismissed his cousin Rahul, sometimes referred to as his brother as they were raised together, and sent him off with the cheekiest of grins. He got nothing more than a fraternal frown in return.
Later it was Rahul himself who see-sawed the match. First he bowled a miserly spell of 1-14 to drag Mumbai back into the game. He also, though, dropped the walloping Watson not once, but twice, the second such a lollipop that du Plessis almost tried to lick it and rub it on the ball. Mumbai hands hit their heads, Chahar's stomach churned. Fortunately Malinga’s outrageous arm slung a last-ball arrow into the shin of Shardul Thakur to crown Mumbai champions. It also spared Chahar the younger the misfortune of dropping both the match and his claims to family bragging rights.
The Hard Sell
Despite it being the fourth time Mumbai and Chennai have met in the final, tickets for Sunday's match apparently sold out within two minutes, incidentally just under the length of time it took Watson to turn for his fatal second run in the last over. Although this quickfire sale led to some accusations of malpractice, it also suggested that, even with ever more tournaments across the globe, enthusiasm for T20 is far from sated.
TV viewing figures for this IPL (and among female viewers to boot) have also been up and this unrelenting fervour will have been watched with green yet nervy eyes at the ECB ahead of that first Hundred tournament next year. All indications among existing English fans suggest they are not keen on attending so it is a good job it has been specifically designed to entice new supporters (especially women and children). The Hundred may be a cynic-skewering success, but especially after a vibrant and stunning IPL such as this one, T20 cricket doesn’t in any sense look broke. With apologies to the ECB and de Villiers, it can only be wondered why some people are so intent on fixing it.