The sixth week of the Indian Premier League (IPL) was a tense affair but we still managed to find a funnier side to it
Sunny delights in Rahul
Back in April, Ish Sodhi made an unbeaten 56 to save the second Test against England and thus win the series for New Zealand. As the spinner trudged off the pitch, commentator and former Black Caps keeper, Ian Smith, sounded in near tears eulogising his countryman. It was rather uplifting to hear Smith, a gnarled veteran of 63 Tests be so moved by a young player’s achievements, and he will doubtless be pleased at Sodhi continuing his fine and canny form in the IPL.
This week there was another elder statesman of the game waxing lyrical about another young talent, as Sunil Gavaskar lavished praise on the highly praiseworthy shoulders of KL Rahul. The 26-year-old King’s XI opener made 94 off 60 balls in his side’s ultimately futile chase against Mumbai Indians and, although the harshest judges found the knock amid the carnage around him too slow, Sunny’s compliments came thick and fast. “Exceptional”, “Fully in control” and the “future of Indian cricket”, said one of the greatest heroes of its past.
Gavaskar’s ardour was fully confirmed when one of his golden rules was broken by Rahul late in his innings. Normally Sunny is famously overjoyed when a player hits a maximum then takes a single the next ball. “Good cricket,” he will remark sagely, acknowledging the batsman’s self control after the rush of adrenaline that comes with striking a six. In the sixteenth over, Rahul carelessly hit two maximums in a row off the spin of Markande and Gavaskar was still beside himself with adoration. True love, indeed.
A sporting strip
With the World Cup in Russia just around the corner, cricketers have decided to go even more football crazy than usual. Not content spending hours playing FIFA and having endless games of 5-a-side as pre-match warm-ups, they have now adopted another tradition, namely shirt swapping. After that innings against Mumbai, KL and opponent Hardik Pandya decided to put on each other’s jerseys in a display which was widely regarded as superb sportsmanship. To do such a thing must have been particularly difficult for Hardik because, as anyone who follows his instagram account knows, he absolutely hates having to get his six-pack out in public. “Look we’ve seen this happening in football and obviously Hardik and I are good friends and I felt it would be nice to collect some jerseys and then bring the tradition to cricket,” said Rahul after the game. This all very well but, in the week when Priyanka Chopra’s dress sense almost upstaged the new Duchess of Sussex, these shirt swaps could lead to some horrific colour clashes giving a bad name to Indian fashion. Luckily, there’s no chance of King’s XI playing Chennai until next year at the earliest.
Taking things up a notch
On the topic of fashion, this week an IPL umpire was spotted sporting a belt by Louis Vuitton. This haute couture from a finger raiser raised a few eyebrows, but officials are quite well financially rewarded these days so why shouldn’t they splash out? This could even herald a new era of style for cricket, with sides’ kits henceforth being made in the fashion houses of Paris and Rome. Clare Waight Keller, the Givenchy designer who came up with Meghan Markle's wedding dress, might even be persuaded to produce a bridesmaid-themed team uniform. It would be perfect for RCB.
Thinking out of the Bok Boks
This week AB de Villiers came up with another one of those moments that had everyone wondering if the Aliens landed in Pretoria 34 years ago and planted a superbeing among us. Against Sunrisers he took a ridiculous one-handed catch on the running jump, contorting his body in the air to ensure he landed back within the boundary. In his post-match interview, the Proteas superstar chastised himself for initially getting his positioning wrong, which was rather like Leonardo da Vinci claiming he had his easel set at the wrong angle before painting the Mona Lisa.
Not content with sewing up one of the all-time great catches, AB then proceeded to have everyone back in South Africa in stitches when he said “My Bok Boks” in the same interview. This was a reference to Saffer golfer Jared Harvey, who had mistakenly sent a slushy voice message meant for his girlfriend (his “Bok Boks” in fact) to a Whatsapp group instead, which then of course went viral. It was actually rather romantic from Harvey, but the ribbing he received was inevitably merciless, not least from De Villiers. Surely instead he should have helped his compatriot out of this awkward social media bunker by putting him in touch with Suresh Raina? Or, better still, Raina’s nephew.
Coin tossed out the window
As Kohli departs for his stint at Surrey, there was a further sign the County Championship is cricket’s hippest gig when the ICC announced the coin toss in Tests might be scrapped. The idea is already used in England's First Class tournament, where the away captain may simply choose to bowl if they wish. The aim is to prevent pitches being doctored to suit the home side, but many former international captains reacted with indignation to the plan.
One man that probably won’t be behind the move is Delhi skipper and would-be shot-putter, Shreyas Iyer, who on Friday decided to take the toss to a whole new level. When handed the coin against CSK, he then hurled it about five metres across the pitch in front of him. Seeing someone from Delhi to throw money away is nothing new, of course. They do it every IPL auction. But it’s still not quite clear what Iyer was up to here. Throwing a coin up in the air and seeing what side it lands on seems such a simple process, but in fairness Indian cricket does have history in this area. When working as TV presenters, both Ravi Shastri and Murali Kartik have had problems identifying heads from tails.
Packet in, Virat
As noted many time before, the IPL isn’t short of bizarre marketing campaigns, but this week Kohli took the biscuit. Or rather the potato chips. Or rather the crisps (as he will have to call them during his time in England). The India captain was seen in an advert eating the unhealthy snack and the response from fans, he alleged, was so fearful he was forced to put out a statement on Twitter telling them not to worry about his diet.
Putting aside the fact that the greatest Indian batsman of all time, Sachin, was hardly picky about what he ate, it then later transpired that the whole thing was a promotional gimmick. All publicity is good publicity they say, but this stunt was was just a bit weird. And it seems as if when Kohli gets to The Oval his calorie count will go through the roof anyway. Rory Burns, who as Surrey skipper will be the first man to lead Kohli in a game of cricket since January 2017, has said he wants to take his new batsman down to the coast and treat him to the English delicacy of fish’n’chips.
It’s always hard to captain a megastar, but this is certainly one way of making sure that Virat knows his plaice.
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