IPL Diary: Lara the perceptive commentator

The West Indies legend picks Indian stars for the future, the Aussie and Kiwis commemorate Anzac Day, and a cleanliness drive.

Steve Smith at the Commonwealth Graves in Kolkata’s Bhawanipore Cemetery on Anzac Day.   -  Special Arrangement

The Indian Premier League is made for television. This time around, the coverage of the world’s most glamorous cricket league on Star Sports has been probably the best ever, thanks largely to the presence of some perceptive commentators, many of them not regular faces and voices.

Brian Lara was definitely one of the biggest attractions, not just because of his stature as one of the legends of the game. The former West Indies captain, who still holds some significant batting records, displayed great insight and made some astonishing predictions that came true, such as Virat Kohli’s hundred against Kolkata Knight Riders and the dismissal of Andre Russell in one of the games.

Brian Lara feels Prithvi Shaw could break some of the batting records that he had set.   -  AP

Lara, however, had to leave the commentary team before the IPL reached its business end. But before his departure, he picked five Indian players for the future – Prithvi Shaw, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer and Rahul Chahar.

He feels Shaw could break some of the batting records that he had set. “He is a very attacking player, someone, I believe — with how cricket is being played now — he can target a 400,” Lara said. “But he has to work a little on his technique.”

Lara expects Pant and Samson to take over from M. S. Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik. “Those two guys are pretty much coming to the end of their career,” he said. “I believe Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson can control all the formats of cricket for India. I am very, very impressed with them.”

Lara said he was also impressed with the captaincy of Delhi Capitals’ Shreyas Iyer and Mumbai Indians’ teenaged leg-spinner Rahul Chahar.

A day of remembrance

Some of the top cricketers from Australia and New Zealand may be far away from home for the IPL. But that did not stop them from commemorating Anzac Day on April 25 — a day of remembrance that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations and for the contribution and suffering of those who have served in such operations.

At the Commonwealth Graves in Kolkata’s Bhawanipore Cemetery, Australians Steve Smith, the captain of Rajasthan Royals; Simon Katich, assistant coach at Kolkata Knight Riders; Ashton Turner and John Gloster attended the wreath-laying ceremony along with New Zealand internationals Ish Sodhi and Lochie Ferguson.

While the cricketers paid homage to their countrymen, they made it a point to interact with the Australian high commissioner to India, Harinder Sidhu, and Andrew Ford, the Australian consul general in Kolkata. Smith, on behalf of the Royals, handed over a bat with signatures from all the players to Ford as a goodwill gesture. He even posted pictures from the programme on social media.

Their cause is cleanliness

A day before the start of the IPL, CSK batsman and fan-favourite Suresh Raina announced the launch of a cleanliness drive to promote clean stadiums across the country, working together with Gracia Raina Foundation (GRF), an NGO co-founded by the India international and his wife Priyanka, dedicated to the aid of underprivileged mothers.

CSK’s match against Kolkata Knight Riders saw a review go against M. S. Dhoni after he gave in to a confident Imran Tahir’s request.   -  K. R. Deepak

In response to that, the Yellow Army did its bit for the campaign when a few members of the club joined hands to clean the F-Lower stand at Chepauk and helped dispose of over 10kg of garbage.

Prabhu D., co-founder of the Whistle Podu Army, said, “We were joined by some twenty fans who helped us through this. Happy to have been of help. Chinna Thala acknowledging our efforts and tweeting about us makes me happy. We had talked with the CSK management beforehand and they too were supportive of this move.

“We have seen cleanliness drives like this before during the FIFA World Cup and PSL as well. Have been trying to do that since the first match, but match timings and other factors stood in the way.”

Dhoni and DRS

When it comes to the Decision Review System, Dhoni is mostly spot on, with his fans demanding the technology to be renamed the ‘Dhoni Review System’. But CSK’s match against Kolkata Knight Riders at the M. A. Chidambaram Stadium saw a review go against him after he gave in to a confident Imran Tahir’s request.

KKR was reeling at 74 for 6 and Tahir thought he had trapped Andre Russell in front of the stumps in the 15th over. The South African leg-spinner was convinced of the ball crashing the stumps, despite the umpire being unmoved with his loud appeals. He then rushed towards his captain, urging him to review the decision. Dhoni looked unconvinced but obliged with a smile and made the ‘T’ signal.

As Dhoni would have expected, the verdict was out on the big screen at the ground with the ball missing the stumps. CSK lost a review but it reiterated the point that Dhoni can never go wrong on DRS.

Soon enough the incident went viral on the social media, with fans doffing their hats to ‘Thala’ Dhoni.