A game of 20 overs each, to be completed in less than four hours. A game of margins so small that every run stopped with a desperate dive and every single converted into a double, affects the outcome. A game that is played at a speed so high that you need ‘strategic’ timeouts to pause and take stock of where things stand.
A game that should suit fresh legs and young blood. The sight of 17-year old Sarfaraz Khan fearlessly hitting bowlers around the park on a tough pitch, and the excitement he creates by doing so, only reinforces that notion.
But don’t tell that to Ashish Nehra – who recently turned 36 – and Michael Hussey – who will turn 40 two days after Chennai and Mumbai go head-to-head on Sunday in the IPL final
The two veterans took the Chennai Super Kings past a young, spirited, Royal Challengers Bangalore side, masterminding a three-wicket victory with a ball to spare at the JSCA International Stadium in Ranchi.
Nehra has been in impressive, and surprising, form throughout this IPL. He has picked up 22 wickets, making this is his best season in the league.
“Casually, at lunch today, Nehra told us that he’s feeling 25 again, playing for CSK,” said Ashwin during the innings break.
Sure, Nehra is a liability on the field and he knows it. When Chris Gayle top-edged a sweep off Ashwin in the third over, the ball was hanging in the air for a long time, but nowhere close to Nehra. He still put in a clumsy dive, a good five feet away from where the ball landed. Later in the innings, while fielding at short-cover, he gathered the ball, saw that the non-striker was halfway down the pitch with no way back, ran very close to the stumps, threw under-arm, but missed the direct-hit comfortably. And then he broke into a smile.
Because he knows that he’s the archetypal ‘where do I hide this guy on the field’ player for his captain. But if he keeps bowling like he did on Friday – where he dismissed Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers in a single over – most captains will take the bad with the better.
There are no such issues with Hussey though. A thorough professional, who is still fit as a fiddle, is as safe a fielder as any in this CSK side. The catch that he took at long-leg to dismiss Mandeep Singh, running forward and holding the ball in two hands, with the elbows sliding across the turf, was technically perfect.
On the night though, it was his batting that sealed the game for Chennai. Chasing 140, Hussey paced his innings beautifully. He did what RCB’s top-order failed to do for the most part – run hard between the wickets - scoring 34 of his 52 runs in ones and twos.
Unlike Chris Gayle earlier, he didn’t merely wait for the bad balls to come his way. He made the good ones count. And when he did have to push on – when CSK needed 49 from 30 balls – he responded with two massive hits over legspinner Yuzvendra Chahal’s head in a single over.
This year Nehra and Hussey – along with Brad Hogg and Zaheer Khan – have shown that the shorter format can actually suit older players because they can still give their best in short bursts. And T20 cricket is all about short bursts.
As Virender Sehwag keeps reminding us every time 'Nehra ji' takes a wicket -- old is gold for Chennai Super Kings.
Updated Date: May 23, 2015 15:44:14 IST