Sun sets on Warner
What to do when a franchise built on grinding out results starts to grind itself into the ground? This was the question asked by Sunrisers Hyderabad bosses this week and they chose to answer it, not unusually for IPL franchises, by making their captain the scapegoat. The perceived wisdom is that a poor auction strategy, in which the now deposed David Warner was not involved, is to blame for their dismal season. Nonetheless the skipper, known as “Mr IPL” for his excellence over twelve years in the tournament, was replaced by Kane Williamson and then dropped into the bargain. For all the goodwill in the game towards Williamson, in the context of a team with such structural design faults the move was largely seen as shuffling the cutlery on the Hindenburg.
Warner has undoubtedly mellowed since being banned for instigating the infamous Sandpapergate scandal. On his international return, his team mates started referring to him as “The Reverend'' for his near saintly conduct in the field and he has become far more difficult for his detractors to dislike. The opener is genuinely personable and self-deprecating in interviews, stood up for equal pay for his female counterparts in a salary dispute with Cricket Australia and has been playing with the name of his wife and daughters printed on his boots. The Tik Tok videos of him dancing with his family to Bollywood classics were also undeniably cute, albeit in both the traditional and commercial senses.
For all this, though, if you ask the average fan around the world what they think of Warner, you are unlikely to get a wholly positive reply, such is his history of snarling at and baiting the opposition. During Sunrisers’ inevitable defeat to Rajasthan on Sunday, a fan poll showed that 65% of viewers thought his sacking was a good decision, but these snap surveys are not always the greatest barometer of considered thinking.
The IPL this week said the tournament would continue amid India’s covid crisis. The statement, indicative of the event’s capacity for hyperbole, added that teams were “playing for humanity”. Sunrisers should probably have shown a little more of it towards their loyal and now former captain.
KP and the non-moving ball
“Why am I talking about batting when I’ve got Kevin Pietersen and Sunil Gavaskar beside me?” asked Alan Wilkins on Monday as KKR took on Kings Punjab. Well, one answer is that the former England star often talks about golf instead and he was at it again when a lofted Dinesh Karthik cover drive plugged into the dew-soaked outfield instead of zipping on for four. Pietersen and Simon Doull speculated about how happy they would be if they could land a nine-iron like that from 85 yards. The slippy-palmed Punjab slow bowlers probably also envied the purchase on the surface the veteran keeper-batsman managed to achieve.
I’d love to play golf in America. Looks unreal every week on TV! #BucketList
— Kevin Pietersen (@KP24) April 24, 2021
To the cynical, there was also a tiny bit of spin on display during the commentators' commendable and now familiar in-match COVID health warnings. Pietersen has been a vocal critic of lockdowns as a strategy for containing the disease in Britain, so there were a few eyebrows raised to see him now pop up in the role of safety advocate. The oddness of him urging people to stay at home was at least niftily avoided. While KP told people to get vaccinated, that particular piece of advice was left to Sunny.
Brar ties big three in knots
There are many reasons to dislike attending weddings. The awkward chit chat, the potential for old family feuds to erupt, the sense of disillusion if you are single. For Kings Punjab’s Harpreet Brar there was a unique cause of apprehension, namely that relatives would berate him for trying to pursue a career in cricket.
Luckily for the young left-arm orthodox bowler, he can now swagger into the next family event to which he’s invited. After making a breezy 25* off 17 balls against RCB, he then went on to dismiss Kohli, Maxwell and AB de Villiers, an achievement even Washington Sundar’s father might begrudgingly acknowledge was not bad. In terms of wizardry, spin or otherwise, it was the equivalent of fully decapitating Cerberus.
Kohli has been in pretty decent form, but that dismissal had a whiff of familiarity about it. It was the second time in recent memory he has been bowled swishing to leg over the top of a ball from a spinner and then looked in shock at the pitch. It also happened against Moeen Ali in the 3rd ODI of India’s series against England. On this varied batch of IPL pitches, some misjudgments of bounce are to be expected but Kohli won’t want to be dismissed in similar fashion again. Not least as he must be running out of aghast facial expressions.
Net gains thwarted by Jamieson
RCB will hope that match disappears from memory as quickly as an interview Kyle Jamieson gave vanished from the internet this week. The Kiwi was the guest on 'The Grade Cricketer' show alongside Dan Christian, who mentioned the slight frisson the upcoming World Test Championship final between India and New Zealand brings to RCB training sessions. After being skewered by James Anderson on his first tour of England, Kohli successfully honed his technique to counter the Dukes ball that will be used in the WTC final in Southampton. Unsurprisingly, this dedication to preparation continues. When Jamieson revealed he’d told his captain he had a couple of Dukes with him to bowl in the nets, Kohli immediately suggested he’d be happy to help him train by facing him.
That’s the sort of international cooperation and selflessness you get in IPL dressing rooms, but Jamieson wisely laughed off Kohli’s offer. There was less bonhomie a day later when The Grade Cricketer presenters, Ian Higgins and Sam Perry, were asked to take the episode down by RCB and told the franchise’s players would no longer be allowed to appear. It’s a great shame if cricket starts to go down this route of media micromanagement. Cricketers’ willingness to chat to podcasts is far greater than is seen in other sports and often reveals that those most obsessive about the game are its professional participants. As far as Kohli is concerned, if he wants a sneak peek of what he’ll be up against in the WTC final he can watch the bent double, clenched-fist wicket celebrations of another RCB bowler, Daniel Sams. They have an uncanny similarity to Neil Wagner’s.
Neesham speaks, Hardik doesn’t
Talking of players with an impressive closeness to fans, there are few who engage more readily than Mumbai Indians new boy, Jimmy Neesham. In Saturday’s El Clasico between the reigning champions and CSK, Jamieson’s compatriot came to the crease for the last ball of the penultimate over as his side remained just about in touch with their mammoth target of 219. Neesham tried a lap sweep so gentle it could have put a baby to sleep but instead saw cherub-faced Sam Curran screaming with joy as the ball nestled in the hands of Shardul Thakur at wide long leg. A golden duck on debut for your new side is never ideal and the rather lackadaisical nature of the shot brought fervent criticism from supporters.
Here’s the thing a lot of you don’t seem to understand: I would rather get a golden duck taking an option that gives my team the best chance of winning, than get a not out taking an option that preserves my personal record ♂️
— Jimmy Neesham (@JimmyNeesh) May 2, 2021
Neesham, who walked out to bat in the Super Over of the World Cup Final, is clearly not one to avoid fronting up and so took to Twitter to explain his thinking. “Here’s the thing a lot of you don’t seem to understand: I would rather get a golden duck taking an option that gives my team the best chance of winning, than get a not out taking an option that preserves my personal record”. Ultimately that one delivery didn’t matter as Kieron Pollard saw Mumbai home with a display of hitting that Hardik Pandya said left him speechless. Hardik Pandya lost for words? After his infamous but viral performance on Koffee with Karan a couple of years back, that really would be a disaster for interviewers.
Shaw stays grounded
Sunrisers lost that match against Rajasthan on Sunday in no small part to Jos Buttler’s stunning century, his first ever in the format. Interviewed afterwards the England star was keen to stress the most important part of the knock. "I'll finally have Alastair Cook stop telling me that he has one T20 hundred more than me,” he said.
As an opener, Delhi’s Prithvi Shaw won’t often be compared to Cook but he did show his own particular brand of consistency on Thursday, hitting every ball of Shivam Mavi’s over for four against KKR. Striking six boundaries but no sixes in an over seemed quite appropriate for someone whose career has at times seemed almost too stylishly effortless. Shaw stalks the crease with a slightly hunched demeanour which, along with his imploring eyes, make him reminiscent of classic Hollywood villain, Peter Lorre. Hitchcockian twists have not been lacking - his century on Test debut, a doping ban for steroid use, a loss of form and his international place and the famous photo of him staring blankly ahead during a team talk.
When Prithvi Shaw met Shivam Mavi after the match. pic.twitter.com/qG5vkwy2JL
— CricTracker (@Cricketracker) April 29, 2021
The pointless claim an out-of-form batter is “hitting them well in the nets” will thankfully never be heard from Shaw because, when he’s not in nick, he just doesn’t go in them. He is very much the individual, but one undoubtedly still with the world at his feet. Against Punjab Kings, he also found a clever way to ensure people mentioned him in the same breath as the very best batsmen in the IPL. After another blistering power play blitz, he was bowled by Harpreet Brar.
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