Pathan scores in Hyderabad, travel free in Valsad

RCB sets up a ‘DogOut’ for pet fans, an unrecognisable face at a press conference and more from the opening days of IPL 12.

Javed Shah has a special offer for passengers every time Yusuf Pathan scores big.   -  Special Arrangement

If you happen to be in the small, quaint town of Valsad in Gujarat during this edition of the Indian Premier League, you are bound to be find out about Javed Shah, the 33-year-old auto-rickshaw driver who is a die-hard fan of Yusuf Pathan.

For three years, Shah has been offering free or discount-rate rides to passengers every time Pathan, playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad this season, scores big. Till 2018, he offered discounts ranging from 25 percent to 75 percent, but there’s a slight change of plan this time around.

“This year, every time Yusuf bhai scores 50 or more runs for Sunrisers Hyderabad, passengers will get a free ride within Valsad city. I will not charge a penny,” Shah said. “Until last year, I gave a 25 percent discount on the total fare every time he scored 25-30 runs. The percentage would go up depending on the runs he scored. But he did not score too many runs, so I could not offer a 100 percent discount to anybody.”

“I am confident that Yusuf bhai will contribute a lot for Sunrisers this time,” adds Shah, who has freshly painted his vehicle and decorated it with posters of the all-rounder. “Many fans celebrate by visiting the ground. I show my love for bhai by serving people.”

Javed Shah with his bhai Yusuf Pathan.   -  Special Arrangement


Being the sole breadwinner in the family, life is tough for Shah, but he is happy to do his bit for his bhai. “I live in a small house with wife, two children and mother. It is tough to make ends meet but then, this is the least I can do to help people,” Shah says.

Shah’s love for Pathan blossomed about three years ago when the cricketer travelled to Valsad with the Baroda team for a Ranji Trophy fixture. “I met Yusuf bhai and he later called me for a meal. It was such an honour to spend some time with him. I still cherish those moments,” Shah says.

He has been in touch with Pathan ever since.

In 2017, Pathan played for the Kolkata Knight Riders, before switching to SRH last year, prompting Shah to change allegiance as well. “I had put up a KKR poster back then. But now I have shifted to SRH. Wherever he plays, I will support that team,” Shah says.

With no games scheduled in Gujarat, Shah will not be able to watch any IPL games from the stands, but he will watch every single game of SRH. “I want them to win and bhai should score. That’s all matters.”

In the spirit of the game?

With Jos Buttler in ominous touch, the Rajasthan Royals seemed well on course to open its campaign on a winning note in Jaipur. In game four of the IPL, the host, with plenty of batting still to come, was well placed to chase down the challenging target set by Kings XI Punjab.

Then, in the 12th over, something extraordinary happened.

As Punjab captain R. Ashwin came in to bowl the fifth ball of the 12th over, he stopped and took the bails off while Buttler was backing up too far out of the non-strikers’ crease.

Ashwin appealed. Buttler was given out. All hell broke loose.

It was for the first time in 12 years of the IPL that a batsman was getting out this way — being mankaded, the term named after Vinoo Mankad, the Indian all-rounder who dismissed Australia’s Bill Brown twice in this manner during the 1947 tour of Australia.

Buttler, understandably, was livid. He refused to shake hands with Ashwin after the match, which KXIP won by 14 runs.

Rajasthan’s coach Paddy Upton didn’t mince words at the press conference. “Ashwin’s actions speak for him and represent him,” he said. “When I looked in the eyes of his teammates, I am not sure they represented his teammates.”

A little later, Ashwin defended his action. “It was very instinctive on my part,” he explained. “It was not planned or anything like that. It is there in the rules of the game.”

The dismissal became a talking point around the cricketing world. A comparison of Ashwin’s action with Courtney Walsh’s gesture of not running out Pakistan’s Saleem Jaffar in a similar situation in a far more important match – during the 1987 World Cup in Lahore – was inevitable.

The matter trended on Twitter, too. Not surprisingly, there were sharp comments against Ashwin’s action, but there were words of strong support as well.

#RCBLovesFurry at the Chinnaswamy

Inspired by captain Kohli’s love for his furry friends, RCB has decided to set up a special pet lounge called the DogOut at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru.   -  K. Murali Kumar


It is no secret that Virat Kohli adores pets, but so do the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Inspired by the captain’s love for his furry friends, RCB decided to set up a special pet lounge called the DogOut at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru, allowing fans to enjoy IPL matches with their pets this year.<EP>“Royal Challengers Bangalore believes in being compassionate and inclusive. We care about all the fans that are dearly associated with the team. One such group of fans is pet-parents and lovers. Pets are extensions of their families and we as RCB would like to make them very much a part of our RCB family,” the team said in a statement.

The special stand with picket fencing had 10 pets along with their pet parents enjoying RCB’s first home game against the Mumbai Indians. There were also provisions for dry pet grooming in the stadium to pamper them.

Technology to the rescue!

There is always a sense of anticipation before post-match press conferences. Journalists, at least those covering the IPL, aren’t aware of who will address the media till minutes before the interaction starts.

After the Chennai Super Kings handed a royal drubbing to Royal Challengers Bangalore in the opening match of the 12th season, handful of scribes were eager to get to know RCB’s point of view.

As the team entourage – the media manager, an anti-corruption official, the local media liaison officer and one person in an RCB jersey – made its way into the room, most of the journalists looked confused.

The team’s nominee to address the media looked familiar, but what was his name? The journalists looked around seeking an answer, and the local media liaison officer looked equally confused.

One journalist went ahead with a question despite not knowing the nominee’s name. Midway through the question, another sitting in the back rows took the help of technology and the Internet to identify the person: It was Vikram Solanki, RCB’s batting consultant.

By the time Solanki was done answering that question, everyone knew who he was.

Dhoni and the special fan

Pooja Sisodiya’s 3D picture of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his daughter Ziva.   -  Special Arrangement

That Mahendra Singh Dhoni is always calm and composed is no secret. The Chennai Super Kings skipper is also known to be very down to earth when it comes to greeting and mingling with fans.

Pooja Sisodiya is one such fan who holds Dhoni in high esteem for the way he treats his fans. “He is extremely humble and understands how fans are, their behaviour and respects them. That is the best about Dhoni,” the Chennai resident says.

Going the extra mile isn’t new for the CSK captain, but what stumped Sisodiya is the way he goes that extra distance to make his fans happy. When she dropped a letter for the CSK captain requesting for autographs at the team hotel, Dhoni made it a point to sign 40 postcards and courier them to her. On another occasion, he fulfilled another request — to sign a miniature bat and wish her friend a happy birthday. He also sent the friend a signed picture of hime after receiving the Padma Bhushan award.

Sisodiya makes sure she too surprises Dhoni whenever possible. She gatecrashed the team hotel once with a box of cupcakes — which the CSK skipper loved — and also made a 3D picture of Dhoni and his daughter Ziva.

“He was surprised and couldn’t stop beaming. He appreciated my creativity and sent a personalised note that he loved them,” Sisodiya says.

Pooja, who has a ‘Mahi 7’ tattoo on her forearm, says she loves that he refers to her as the tattoo girl. “The excitement keeps increasing every time I meet him. He greets us every time, smiles and this melts our heart. I am proud to be his fan and Dhoni knows me as ‘the tattoo girl’ and what more can I ask for!”