A master-class from the master blaster

Sachin Tendulkar is always ready to offer a helping hand.-PTI

In the course of his interaction with lucky winners of a contest the world’s longest serving international cricketer explained why he is able to play the straight drive with near perfection.

Sachin Tendulkar had an opportunity to run a master-class for 125 privileged kids who won a master-blaster contest at a gaming and recreation centre ‘Smaash’ in Canberra, which is an exclusive ‘Mumbai Indians Ka Adda’ — an official hangout Lounge for its fans.

In the course of his interaction with lucky winners of the contest the world’s longest serving international cricketer explained why he is able to play the straight drive with near perfection. “To play the straight drive your head position has to be right and the balance has to be good,” he said. “If your balance is not good then you either drag it (the ball) with the bottom hand to mid-wicket or you slice it to cover or cover point. But when your body is aligned nicely, you have a good balance and a good head position. Then you can hit bowlers straight next to the stumps. For batting or bowling, you have got to have good body balance.”

Morris over the moon

Chris Morris has been thoroughly enjoying his time in the IPL, taking in the sights and sounds of India. The ‘Superstar treatment’ that he’s being receiving has left him a little embarrassed however. “I am not being allowed to handle even my own bag. I feel a little bad when someone’s doing it for me,” said the 26-year-old Chennai Super Kings (CSK) all-rounder.

The manic adulation bestowed by Indian fans on cricketers, according to Morris, is the best part. “The fans have been unbelievable. Also, the team’s fantastic; the guys are absolute superstars but they are good human beings. I am loving India; it’s a beautiful country, a beautiful place to play cricket in.”

As for coping with the Chennai heat, the South African quite wisely sought advice from his countrymen who are associated with CSK. “I had a chat with Faf (du Plessis) and our trainer Greg King about what to bring and what not to. The main thing that came out of the conversations was that Chennai was very hot. And, they weren’t wrong,” he smiled.

But that isn’t going to stop him from exploring the city and other parts of the country. “I haven’t really had a chance to get out. The other day I went out with Faf and his fiancée to the hotel down the road. I had some good food but I can’t remember the name of the dish. I am going to tag along with Faf or Dirk (Nannes) and do some sight-seeing in Chennai. I have also heard of the elephant rides at Rajasthan. I am quite excited about trying it out when we go to Jaipur.”

Gilly visit lights up students

After Steve Waugh’s work with a charitable school in the suburbs of Kolkata, another Aussie and the former’s teammate, Adam Gilchrist, has decided to lend a helping hand to St. Peter’s High School that patronises students from the slums and footpaths of the city.

The Kings XI Punjab captain, keeping the promise made last year, visited the school — established in 1957 by Mother Teresa in the heart of the city — and spent nearly an hour when he was in Kolkata for the Pepsi IPL-6 match against Kolkata Knight Riders on April 27.

The left-hander was bowled over by the response from the children and he was pleased to note the happy and smiling faces. More than 500 students were there to welcome him and be part of the programme. Gilchrist, according to Principal Fr. Peter Anthony, has agreed to help the school in his own way. The former Aussie wicketkeeper spoke about the difference the game has made in his life and hoped cricket would also help some of the boys from this school to make a career out of it.

Matters of the heart

The IPL may have the glitzy air of mega-dollars but it is also about cricketers’ sweat, the endless travel and stress under floodlights.

Amidst this medley of factors, a few players also manage to nurse matters of the heart. Last season, AB de Villiers whisked his girlfriend Danielle Swart to the Taj Mahal and proposed to her. The South African married her a week before the IPL’s latest edition and is now busy playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore.

So would there be another trip to the Taj? de Villiers, however, quickly replied that a re-visit would take some years. “Oh that was a very long day and we had a flight early that morning and we drove another five hours from Delhi to Agra. Don’t think we will do that now, may be we will do that after a few years. Say 10 years or 15 years or 20 years, may be come back to the spot I proposed to her but not every year because it is too far,” he said.

Anger management

Virat Kohli is an excitable young man. A few years back he did confess that he was blinded by off-field distractions but he quickly buckled down and made cricket his sole focus. The results were immediate as he emerged as India’s most valuable young batsman. This might be time for another bout of introspection especially with regard to his propensity to lose steam when needled by the opposition, a case in point being his recent flare-up with Gautam Gambhir in an IPL game in Bangalore.

Ray Jennings, Royal Challengers Bangalore’s coach and one of Kohli’s biggest supporters, said that his team’s captain is aware of the pitfalls of combusting with anger. “Virat’s not a stupid cricketer, he is a smart guy and he has a vision to captain India. And if he knows people at home are not accepting certain things that he does consistently and he makes the same mistake consistently, he will find out that the system is not going to buy into his system of behaviour or character. If Virat wants the job (Indian captaincy), he has got to accept that and he has got to learn to change,” Jennings said.

King Khan turns elusive

The glamour quotient in any home match for Kolkata Knight Riders always remains high. The reason is simple — the principal owner of the franchise Shah Rukh Khan always gets a constellation of stars being the king of the entertainment industry. With his team winning the crown last year, Shah Rukh’s company Red Chillies Entertainment organised the inaugural function, which showcased the best of Bollywood.

King Khan was present to cheer for his Knights who quelled Delhi Daredevils in the lung-opener of the tournament. Things looked rosy as the one of the most followed teams of the Indian Premier League made a “dream start” in the words of its captain Gautam Gambhir. Shah Rukh made a lap of honour with co-star Deepika Padukone to celebrate the great start. But as the Knights started faltering in their ‘away’ matches, King Khan chose to give his favourite venue — Eden Gardens — the slip.

Defeats and declining interests

Kolkata Knight Riders had made it a habit of playing to packed galleries, especially after lifting the title last year. The initial appearances of the defending champion saw a tremendous demand for tickets and the giant Eden Gardens was filled to its capacity as people exhausted all their means to get a ticket to the venue. But with the Knights falling to three successive defeats — two of which happened at Eden — the demand for tickets saw a drastic decline when the Knights came out against the Kings XI Punjab. The usual scenes of long queues outside the ticket counters were not visible and there were a lot of vacant seats visible during the match. But on the positive side around 35,000 turned up to support the home side, which suggests that many of KKR fans are still hopeful of their team making a turnaround. Gautam Gambhir and his men did justify this faith beating the visiting Kings of Punjab by six wickets.

‘Audience is always chasing winners’

Navjot Sidhu re-invented himself from a one-time stroke-less wonder into an aggressive batsman on the world stage. He is more vocal after retirement, attracting scorn and praise for a relentless stream of witty remarks as a cricket expert on television. For an introvert like him, the decision to get into broadcasting, politics and recently launch his own website, www.sherryontopp.com, appears to be a way of making up for years of intensity at the crease. “The life of the young generation revolves around the mobile phone and the App., the computer and I-pad. To connect with them and to link up with people, this is the most powerful medium. I have been elusive in the last decade. People don’t know where to reach me as I did not have an official website,” he said. “There are 70,000 to 80,000 imposter sites around, where people are spewing Sidhuisms using my name. I don’t want to hurt them. I wanted a destination for communicating with people.”

The former opening batsman also lent his voice for the neglected sporting disciplines in the country. “Sports have to be marketed properly. Earlier, parents used to say our children will become a doctor, an engineer. Now if a kid is playing cricket, even if has not completed matriculation, he is given an Inspector post as incentive,” he said. “Other sports in India need to be made more incentive-oriented and managed properly by people with credibility, so that merit is not ignored. Role models need to be created. In 1975 when Indian men won the World Cup Hockey, my heroes were Surjit Singh and Ajitpal Singh. I wish Indian hockey returns to those days when we used to win world titles and Olympic medals.”

A mean operator

“In T20 cricket, a dot ball is like a wicket,” said one bowler back in 2012, who currently plays for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. None seems to have heard it more clearly than Sunrisers Hyderabad’s (SRH) leg-spinner Karan Sharma.

The Railways bowler holds the record for the best economy rate (4.41) in the IPL for bowlers who have taken four or more wickets (till the match against the Chennai Super Kings at Chennai on April 25). In four matches, he has conceded just 53 runs from 12 overs and picked up four wickets.

“Karan Sharma has been great. Even though he is a leg-spinner he adds variety to the attack and he is a different style of spinner to what Mishra is,” said the Sunrisers’ coach Tom Moody.

Against the CSK at Chennai, he almost turned the match in his team’s favour by bowling a maiden in the 16th over with CSK needing 46 from five overs. Only a M.S. Dhoni blitz denied Sharma what would have been a worthy man-of-the-match effort (4-1-8-0). His was the most economical of all spells in IPL-6 until then.

“He is a strong competitor,” said Moody. “That is what I like about him. He is prepared to have a decent scrap out there. He has done well so far.”

Though a small cog in a large wheel — the Sunrisers’ attack comprises Dale Steyn, Amit Mishra and Ishant Sharma — for SRH to reach the semifinals, his performance will be vital.

Compiled by G. Viswanath, Arun Venugopal, S. Sabanayakan, K. C. Vijaya Kumar, Amitabha Das Sharma, Nandakumar Marar and N. Sudarshan