Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Best of IPL Trilogy - Batting

So the news is on the front pages every day now. First the player auction, then the snub, then the excitement for the 2011 season, then the Youtube deal and surely by now, you would’ve also caught one of the teaser ads from Sony Max. Yes it’s here. And if the build-up itself has been such a cracker, one can only imagine the mania that awaits us from March, 2010.

Imagine having the comfort of knowing that post-work you can sack back at home or outside with friends or family or just with your dog or alone and have some cracking cricketing entertainment played out on your television screen for over 40 days at a stretch and all you will pay for it is your cable fees. The marketing packaging of the whole circus is that of entertainment but make no mistake, its cricketing skill in its rawest form. A lot of it is superhuman and somehow the frequency of brilliance is so rampant that one can hardly remember all of it at once. And that is quite a pity, considering that the levels of skill on display aren’t any different from that of an international match. A diving catch, a late in-swinger or a last-ball six against men of caliber and repute must be preserved in memory- whether in a test match or in a T20 game. However, the circus around the whole affair does take away the cricketing part of the tournament. More so often, when one doesn’t have any choice but to just grin-and-beer the Shettys and the Zintas of the world giggling right back at your face in the midst of all the action.

Last week, the Martin Scorcese tribute video for the 2010 Golden Globes ended with a quote from the man himself, “Movies are the memories of a lifetime. We must preserve them.” Similarly for cricket fans, the IPL is a wonderful basket of memories of joy. We must remember them. Starting this trilogy, is an infant-step towards that end.

I begin with batting performances.

Andrew Symonds- 117*(53) V RR, Hyderabad (2008): In what is till date, the best innings in IPL in a losing match, Andrew Symonds scored runs at a blistering pace coming in at 32-2 on a lovely batting track in Hyderabad. Warne brought himself on to stem the flow but to no avail – the contest between bat and ball was at its peak and Symonds was winning it hands down against his ex-team mate. Warne gave away 47 in 4 overs. Symonds took 35 of those. Ironically though, Warne had the last laugh in a stellar batting display off the last over bowled by none other than Symonds himself.

Adam Gilchrist- V MI, Mumbai (2008): I will leave the scorecard summary for this one.
Mumbai Indians: 154/7 - 20 overs: Bravo – 34(18), R.P. Singh -2-15
Deccan Chargers: 155/0 -12.0 overs: Gilchrist 109* (47)

Ten sixes! The highlight was the one that took him from 94 to 100.

Virendra Sehwag – 94*(41) V DC, Hyderabad ( 2008): Whatever you were upto on 22nd April, 2008, I hope you weren’t cheering for Deccan Chargers on this date. Because if you were, I doubt if the scars left by Sehwag’s blazing willow on your emotions have still healed. Mine haven’t. Rohit Sharma had played another one of his umpteen T20 gems and got DCto a respectable 142 for 8. He had taken 26 off one Maharoof over and I was left wondering, who else could beat this record.

I didn’t have to wait for long. Sehwag took 30 off one Symonds over barely an hour later. The scoring sequence: 4, 6, 4, 6, 4, 6. Can you feel the rhythm of that sequence?

Saurav Ganguly – 86*(53) V KEP, Kolkata (2008: If ever a captain took over an innings only for the sake of pride in front of a packed crowd, this was it. KKR were down and out by the time they played their last match of the 2008 season. Though they had begun the season with a thunder, their campaign soon fell on rocky terrain. By the time they came into this game, it was known that they will not make it to semis yet Ganguly played a lone hand in what to this date is his best innings in a T20 game. When Umar Gul had fallen at 155-7, KKR needed 20 runs of 9 balls to win the game. Ganguly’s next scoring shots were: 4, 1, and 6,2,6,1. Ganguly got those 20 in 6 and Ishant faced a delivery in between.

Shane Watson- 74(40) V DD, Jaipur (2008): In their home game, DD has decimated RR by 9 wickets but RR had made considerable progress by the time they got their home game against the Daredevils. By now, RR and DD were looking the most formidable outfits. The question was whether RR was just flattering to deceive. DD made a respectable 156 and were well and truly on top when they had RR at 15 for 2 at the end of 5 overs. At the end of 6 overs- they were at 21-2- the lowest score in the tournament till that time. And then Watson opened up in the seventh over taking 12 runs off one over. From then on, Watson maintained a cool head, hit 6 sixes, farmed or milked the strike as they say and brought up a very important win for the Royals- a win that made them believe they could easily beat opponents who had slashed them mercilessly just two weeks back.

Dinesh Karthik – 56*(32) V MI, Kotla: This is one of those innings that will just get buried in the sands of time because the man who played it isn’t headline material. What got him a lot of admiration on this one was because it was a must-win game for DD. The man came in to face a hatrick ball and a required run-rate of 9.66. And he won it for DD, with all leading names back in the pavilion and Maharoof at the other end. A six off Andre Nel in the 19th over – the piece de rĂ©sistance!

The Jacques Kallis and Robin Uthappa Show V MI, Wanderers (2009): All said and done, Uthappa’s walk-down-the-track -six is a lovely sight when it comes off. And so are Kallis’ textbook cover drives. Now combine both of them and there’s a sight to behold. More so, when the partnership lasts for over 15 overs and results in a win for RCB in a do-or-die situation

Rohit Sharma 32*(13) V KKR, Wanderers (2009): This deserves the title of the best cameo till date in IPL. Again a chase brought down to the last over that saw Mortaza taking on Sharma in what was a critical game for DC. 21 were required off the last over. Rohit hit the first ball for four and unexpectedly got a no-ball benefit as well. Then one more six and four followed. 1 was needed off the last ball. That delivery landed at least 15 rows back.

Ross Taylor 81*(33) V KKR, Centurion (2009: So the situation is a must-win for Bangalore and they’re down at the deep-end chasing 173 against KKR. After 12 overs, the required run-rate is 11.75 and RCB are delicately placed at 80-3. Ross has scored 11 off 7 by now. By the time RCB won, Ross had scored 81 off 33 balls. You do the math!

It works out to a strike rate of 269. What can’t be measured is the impetus this single innings gave to RCB’s campaign thereafter.

Adam Gilchrist – 85(35) V DD, Centurion (2009: Indisputably, the most important innings in IPL till date. There won’t be another that can surpass this innings. In due course, it’ll get matched, the strike rate will be overtaken but what no one will be able to take away from this innings is the fact that it came in a semi-final, in a winning chase and against the best bowling attack of IPL. Nannes was on fire all through IPL-II; in this match he was on-fire, if you can sense the difference being hinted at. I’ll leave only one other stat to refresh your memory on this. Nannes opened the bowling and Gilly opened him up with 5 successive fours in the first over. The game was over!

This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive, just memorable.

P.S. Memorability of innings mentioned above is defined as a complex function of (match situation, bowling attack, chanceless nature of batting and tournament context and a sprinkling of personal bias)