IPL Diary: CSK’s Jaipur connection and Russell mania

From a sea of yellow engulfing the Royals territory to a fan bearing the brunt of the Andre Russell mania, a sneak peek at the IPL frenzy off the 22 yards.

Monika, Ankit, Aditi and Sudarshan, the Sharmas of Jaipur, who are die-hard Chennai Super Kings fans.   -  P. K. Ajith Kumar

Dressed in yellow T-shirts and armed with yellow flags, they stand out from the other spectators patiently waiting outside the main gate at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium, a couple of hours before the start of the match. Most of the others are sporting pink, of course. This is the Rajasthan Royals territory, after all.

When asked, “Are you all from Chennai?”, “No,” says a bearded young man who looks like the leader of the group. “We are all from Jaipur. But we are supporters of Chennai Super Kings.”

Ankit Sharma is his name. An electronics engineering graduate, he is preparing for competitive examinations.

The others in the group are all from his family — sisters Monika and Aditi and cousin Sudarshan.

“CSK has been our favourite team always,” says Monika, who, too, is preparing for exams after working for Infosys as a software engineer. “And we all love M. S. Dhoni.”

Some six hours later, Dhoni makes all of them happy by leading a difficult chase to outwit Royals in a thrilling match that ends with the last ball. The captain kicks off a controversy, too, after entering the ground to debate with the umpires about a no ball bowled by Ben Stokes in the final over.

The Sharmas may be delighted, but our driver, Talat Ahamed, is furious that the Royals threw away a game that they should have won. “Imagine bowling a wide and a no ball in the last over!” he says. “I don’t know why Stokes was given that over.”

Safety first

Remember Andre Russell’s onslaught that punctured all hopes Royal Challengers Bangalore had on the revival of its Indian Premier League campaign this year?

Royal Challengers should have seen that coming! The West Indies all-rounder, walking in with the swagger of a champion after his recent whirlwind knocks, was seen dispatching the ball all around the stadium during Kolkata Knight Riders’ practice session at the Chinnaswamy Stadium the previous night. And so were his team-mates.

While it was a treat for most spectators to see the ball flying around during the nets session, one such fan bore the brunt of it.

An aerial shot hit an unassuming spectator sitting in the stands. The medical team of Kolkata Knight Riders, however, was quick to respond and treated the injured fan at the earliest. The fan was seen walking back to his spot after the treatment, much to the relief of the worried officials on the field. While it isn’t clear who hit that ball — Russell walking in for the session much later — the batsmen on the field were nonchalant about the incident. Nitish Rana was strongly suspected to be the batsman in question.

Delhi Capitals, which visited next, decided to target the Press Box for the six-hitting practice. After two close shaves, the eager scribes returned to the glass confines rather than the balcony to observe the nets. It was, after all, important to stay safe.

Chennai Super Kings skipper, M. S. Dhoni, entered the ground to debate with the umpires about a no ball bowled by Ben Stokes of Rajasthan Royals in the final over. He was let off with a fine of 50 per cent of his match fee.   -  Sportzpics / BCCI

 

Benny, the barber!

In cricket, Ben Stokes remains one of the most sought after all-rounders. But his teammates at Rajasthan Royals, recently saw the other side of ‘Benny’ — as they fondly call him.

At their team hotel in Jaipur, the Royals cricketers were busy watching the fixture between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab. As the match got intense, Stokes and a few other cricketers rooted for Mumbai, while New Zealand spinner, Ish Sodhi, rooted for Punjab.

And to spice things up, the players came up with an innovative bet — whoever wins would give a hair cut to the other. And, as Alzarri Joseph hit a couple of runs to seal the deal for Mumbai Indians, Stokes, who won the bet, decided to turn a barber and give a haircut to Sodhi.

After the match, all the players and the support staff gathered at the team room, where Stokes did the needful. “He brought an electric hair-clipper and gave a nice hair cut to Sodhi. All the team-mates were around, cheering for Benny. It was a fun thing and even Sodhi took it sportingly,” one of Royals officials said. Steve Smith, captain Ajinkya Rahane and coach Paddy Upton were present and some of them even clicked pictures to put them out on social media. “A man of his word… lost a bet and took it like a champion @ish_sodhi,” Stokes tweeted later.

The Jaipur-based franchise has always come up with innovative ideas to develop team bonding. During the time of captain Shane Warne, it had introduced Pinky, the pink doll. Pinky was handed over to players who broke rules, as a punishment, and it was followed even after Warne’s departure.