Rohit’s birthday treat
On Tuesday, Sachin Tendulkar’s years on Earth overtook his ODI batting average as he hit the grand old age of 45. Everything was in place for a decent celebration at the Wankhede as Mumbai looked set to overhaul a very modest Sunrisers total. However, as their chase started to falter, captain Rohit Sharma came up with a far more elaborate tribute to the great man than mere victory.
Sachin famously refused to play the cover drive during his masterful 241 not out in Sydney in 2004, an act of discipline nearly as difficult for him as resisting a prawn masala. Here Rohit decided to put away all other attacking shots and just play, well, only cover drives. Three in his six-ball innings, in fact — one struck for a two, one sliced to point and one nicked into the hands of slip which saw him trudge off forlornly. He was then forced to watch as Mumbai's potentially flying batsmen continued to all get caught in the suffocating web of the Sunrisers attack. Rohit, at least had a happy return to form against CSK a few days later.
Hair today, not gone yet
It seems Dhoni is now basing his haircuts on his batting philosophy, on Wednesday unveiling a close shave (with a phenomenal hipster twist) for CSK’s match against RCB. It’s often the case that men heading towards middle age buy a motorbike in a bid to retain feelings of youthfulness, but Dhoni is obviously well past that stage. Instead, alongside his dashingly voguish new hair, the CSK captain proved his vitality by first out-sprinting his teammates — whilst in his keeper gear — to save a boundary. He then pulled off a 'Captain Cool' special to see his side home, ending the game with a six cleaner than bleach. On the team balcony, Shane Watson let out the sort of giddy, wide-eyed scream rarely seen outside the front row of a Justin Bieber concert. The far from home-biased Chinnaswamy erupted. Dhoni calmly shook Dwayne Bravo’s hand and walked off.
Kohli, Gambhir, Sehwag. Delhi Daredevils might never have won the IPL but the city’s sons have certainly been some of the tournament's, and India's, most famous performers. Although the franchise spends more time near the bottom of tables than the average carpet, this year has at least given fans the opportunity to slaver over the side’s youngsters, Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer. Both incidentally born in the Mumbai region, the pair have put on a couple of sparkling partnerships which made you suspect you might be watching them do it together in another shade of blue before too long. But perhaps not, because it appears the national selectors are not even watching them play in the IPL. Or even anyone play. In a fascinating piece, Amrit Mathur reveals that those charged with picking India’s teams aren't even attending the tournament due to the complex, some may say petty, nature of the divisions between the BCCI and its flagship event. An odd state of affairs.
Peace in our time... but the end is still nigh
On Friday the world took a big step towards global peace as North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, held historic peace talks. Sadly, there were also signs the same day that the apocalypse was still upon us. Andre Russell is the complete T20 cricketer. He bowls with deathly steel, strikes the ball with biceps borrowed from Thor and, to prove it, has more medals than the Olympics. He normally also fields with a grace and agility that makes the would-be impossible plausible. Against King’s XI, however, he misfielded not once but twice, the ball perhaps squeezing through the kilometre-long space between his giant fingers. Those in the stadium surprisingly didn’t run for cover and immediately stock up on tinned food, but around the world terrified fans gasped at this terrifyingly rare occurrence.
Kohli a visionary between the wickets
RCB maybe be having a stuttering season, but off the pitch and online, captain Kohli’s social media game remains very strong. On Saturday he posted a picture of himself with some chic new glasses, albeit wearing the expression of a man who’d just been told Corey Anderson would remain his main death bowling option for the rest of the IPL. He then set up some sort of fitness challenge for fans, tweeting a video of him completing three runs in the middle of an empty pitch in just 8.90 seconds, asking, “Think you can run faster than me?” This sounds like one for MS, but obviously the biggest question fans would like to see is if Virat and Rohit, famously erratic when in the middle together, could complete three runs on that same empty pitch with no opposition fielders, umpires or, indeed, ball, without running each other out. Hard to say.
It can be tough being a globe-trotting franchise cricketer. Sure, those gym sessions can wile away the hours, those Instagram snaps won’t take themselves and there’s always a game of FIFA to be played, but there’s still huge chunks of time fill in between matches, training and travel. In his fantastic account of a 10-day stint embedded with Rajasthan Royals, Michael Atherton detailed the boredom that players endure, especially with many matches not starting till 8 pm local time, and how one thumb-twiddling star, Jos Buttler, has been using the time to learn the keyboard . Sadly no other details are available, but hopefully this will see renaissance in the piano amongst cricketers. Don Bradman himself was a fine pianist (averaging 99.94 percent correct notes of all he played), but in recent times the guitar has held sway with the likes of Brett Lee and Mark Butcher both keen strummers. Buttler could even start a band with one of his team mates on drums. Ben Stokes, perhaps, might have the necessary skills.
Bow down to Archer
It's been a great joy watching the plethora of young domestic fast bowlers in the IPL. Siddart Kaul and his knuckle balls are in danger of giving headbands a good name after years of Ashok Dinda trashing their reputation. Ankit Rajpoot, Shivam Mavi and Avesh Khan have all also bowled with pace or verve or both, the later two being fined for overly aggressive field behaviour, a misdemeanour which will at least have impressed Kohli. It has been a young overseas player, though, who perhaps bowled the most intriguing ball of the IPL so far.
Potential England star Jofra Archer finally made his Rajasthan Royals debut after injury on Sunday and came up with a toe-crusher to remove Sunrisers’ Shakib al-Hasan on his way to 3-26. What was odd was that the Bangladeshi all-rounder seemed to get a decent bit of bat on the ball, but the willow just bounced away as the leather continued on the same trajectory. Katy Perry once opened the IPL by dancing with Doug Bollinger. By finding a delivery that destroys all before it, has Archer found his inner Miley Cyrus by developing what can only be termed a ‘wrecking ball’?
Double trouble for Double Gs
Forget Danny Morrison’s “Double Ds” or even his alliteratively inferior “Double Rs”, the week’s greatest drama belonged to 'Double Gs'. After a poor run of form personally and for his Delhi side, Gautam Gambhir on Monday sat in the dugout chewing his nails nervously as his team slid to another defeat against King’s XI. The hero of two world finals has never been someone you could describe as having a laid back character, but even for him he looked particularly agitated. Two days later he stood down as Delhi captain, and on Friday missed his first game in the IPL since March 2010. He had a very decent Ranji going into the tournament and in last season’s IPL finished second in the run scorers table to David Warner (a man who tampers with his fingernails in other ways). Hopefully he’ll rediscover his mojo soon. The IPL without GG is still special. But not VV special.