Relax with Virat
With strategic time-outs offering the chance for quiet contemplation and commentators worshipping at the temple of Tata Nexon, no one can doubt the Indian Premier League (IPL) is the true home of sporting spirituality. Now, after revelations of Chris Gayle's adoption of yoga, further evidence has emerged of the tournament's indelible links to zen thinking. Before taking the field against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) on Monday, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) captain and noted advocate of inner calm, Virat Kohli, had his team in a huddle doing what appeared to be deep breathing exercises. This striving for mental tranquility was a little undermined by the great man himself giggling as he led the respiratory therapy, but the exercise certainly came in useful a few days later. On Saturday during his match-winning knock, AB de Villiers played a shot that left Kohli (and everyone else) gasping in disbelief.
Deep breaths, Virat, deep breaths.
Yusuf gets fruity
Fielding standards in the IPL can vary a little but on the whole fans are treated to a high level of intensity and skill. Trent Boult, in particular, is conducting a one-man catch of the tournament contest, but this week a surprising new sticky-handed rival emerged. With Kohli on 30 off 39 balls and looking to tee off against Sunrisers, a delivery from Shakib Al Hasan caught the leading edge and went flying over backward point and seemingly towards the fence.
But wait a second. Who was this dashing, and surely young, fielder leaping in the air like a salmon on steroids, arching his back to pull off a stunning take way over his head? Manish Pandey? Sundeep Sharma? David de Gea? No it was veteran Yusuf Pathan, who then nonchalantly walked over to his stunned team mates in celebration. The veteran’s fielding hasn’t always been tip top in the tournament in recent years, but this special effort saw him get a congratulatory tweet from his brother and former IPL star, Irfan, who asked him, “Have you taken a catch or plucked a mango?” It’s a pity the much missed Tony Greig, famed for his on air mentions of the fruit (especially juicy Sri Lankan ones) wasn’t doing the commentary.
Award of the tournament
The IPL has never missed a trick when it comes to marketing and awards are no exception. The post-match ceremonies now go on for ages as viewers are shown the 'Vivo Perfect Catch of the Match', the 'Tata Nexon Striker of the Match', the 'FBB Stylish Player of the Match', the 'Star Plus Nayi Soch Award' and seemingly a dozen others. Next season can be awaited with baited breath just to see what other categories are added to the list. The 'Pepsi Award for best received award'? The 'Sony Award for best presentation of an award by a CEO who doesn't really know the sweaty cricketer to whom they’re giving an award'? Or even the 'Kingfisher award for most innovative use of Chris Gayle’s head'?
Cheeky young devils
It's a truism that bowlers win you T20 tournaments. Sadly for now eliminated Delhi, their attack has had all the bite of a goldfish with toothache. Their batting, though, has shimmered with youthful vibrancy, with Prithvi Shaw, Shreyas Iyer, and Rishabh Pant all lighting up the tournament.
This week against RCB, Pant notched a ton of such schoolboy cheek it ran the risk of being put in detention. On his way to an unbeaten 128 off 63 balls, the young left-hander played a trio of signature stand and deliver scoops — against death maestro Bhuvneshwar Kumar, no less — which required a mix of deftness and insane bravery.
Then on Saturday another young starlet emerged, 17-year-old Abhishek Sharma, who played a terrific cameo at the death against RCB. Delhi still lost, but in the chase even one of their bowlers covered themselves in glory when another 17-year-old, Sandeep Lamichhane, became the first Nepalese player to ever appear in the tournament. Along with Ireland making their Test debut, Lamichhane’s tidy bowling against even Kohli and de Villiers made this a pretty decent week for the game’s global evolution. As for Delhi, their IPL might be over, but some seeds of hope for next year have at least been planted at Eden Gardens.
A regal row
There have been a few juicy battles in this IPL: Jos Buttler versus anyone brave enough to bowl at him, Rashid Khan vs de Villiers, Stuart Binny versus gravity. Now, allegedly, we have Preity Zinta vs Virender Sehwag. Bollywood superstar Zinta, owner of both King's XI, is apparently upset with some of the decision-making of her team’s coach, Viru. Against Rajasthan on Wednesday, Ashwin moved up the order to number three, only to then display the minimalist footwork of Sehwag, but sadly no other trait and was bowled second ball by Gowtham.
The off spinner, who started the season suggesting he would also be a leg-spinner, is in danger of ending it with more variations than wickets, although he did silence his batting doubters a little with a plucky knock the next game. Regardless, the franchise supported by the greatest advocate of peace on the planet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, currently seems anything but harmonious. They could always ask Virat to pop round and do some breathing exercises with them all.
More Australian ball-tampering
It’s odd to hear an Australian admit they would still alter the condition of the ball, but that’s exactly what Shannon Gill, Head of Communications for IPL supplier Kookaburra, did in an interview with NDTV. Gill stated the firm are always monitoring the bat vs ball debate in light of perceptions that life as a bowler is far too tricky. He even suggested that, while there’s not a great deal Kookaburra could do to make a ball more bowler-friendly, tinkering with the design was still actually an option. He was doubtless referring to ways of keeping the ball harder and shinier for longer, but it raised the possibility of just what else could be done. A bigger seam maybe? Or perhaps some sort of ten pin bowling-style holes so that players like young Afghanistani, Mujeeb ur Rahman, could make their finger ball even more devastating than it already is? Over to you, ICC.