Ishant's lively spell

Ishant Sharma of Deccan Chargers was at his menacing best against Kochi Tuskers Kerala.-H. VIBHU

Twenty20 may not be the exact barometer to measure cricketing excellence but Ishant's spell in Kochi on April 27 that scorched Kochi Tuskers Kerala in an Indian Premier League game, augurs well. By K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Ishant Sharma's nerve-wracking spell to Ricky Ponting in Perth in the 2007-08 series is the stuff of folklore and has often drawn eye balls to Youtube. However, as the lanky speedster lost his pace and way under the arc-lights of international cricket, that past video evoked sighs and the fervent hope that yet another talent will not wither away.

All is not lost yet. Twenty20 may not be the exact barometer to measure cricketing excellence but Ishant's spell in Kochi on April 27 that scorched Kochi Tuskers Kerala in an Indian Premier League game, augurs well. The length was apt, the line was on the coin, the angles were spot on and all this allied with speed meant that Kochi was staring at a top-order saddled with pin-code scores. After Dale Steyn had prised out Brendon McCullum, Ishant got rid of Parthiv Patel with one that seamed away.

The collapse got worse as Raiphi Vincent Gomez and Brad Hodge had no clue to Ishant's specials that darted in and dismantled the stumps. Kedhar Jadhav was then trapped on the shuffle and the home team captain Mahela Jayawardene was done in by one bowled back of length and screamed up with vehemence. A prod, a snick and Jayawardene was gone caught behind by his friend Kumar Sangakkara. Ishant was on top of the moon though later he guardedly said: “Still a long way to go for me.”

Ishant's 3-0-12-5 not only reflects well on him but also on the harassed bowling community that is often mauled in Twenty20 cricket. The Delhi spearhead's five-for sunk Kochi and the Decccan Chargers were up and running though Jayawardene had his issues with the pitch.

Creaming it in style

The words slam bang are often peddled with Twenty20 cricket but Virat Kohli proved that runs can be made with finesse over-riding force through his two half centuries in key matches against Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors. Not an ugly shot was played as the Royal Challengers Bangalore mainstay threaded shots through the in-field at the Feroze Shah Kotla while scoring a 56 (38b, 8x4, 2x6) and a similar vein was repeated in his 67 (42b, 4x4, 4x6) at Bangalore against a hapless Pune attack.

“I wanted to do well at Delhi as it is my home ground and my family and friends had come to watch the match but I should have stayed on and if that had happened then maybe we could have won three overs earlier. Not that I played a rash shot. It just happened,” Kohli later said about his innings that ruined Daredevils' skipper Virender Sehwag's well-laid plans.

Virat Kohli's (Royal Challengers Bangalore) knock against Pune Warriors was a treat to watch.-G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

Kohli walked in after Ashok Dinda had scalped Tillakaratne Dilshan while Chris Gayle was yet to gather force but the youngster drove, cut and flicked Dinda and Irfan Pathan to distraction and though Royal Challengers Bangalore contrived to inject artificial excitement with the loss of a few wickets, victory was achieved thanks to the platform laid by Kohli and Gayle to a certain extent.

Back at Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium, Kohli displayed a broad bat and played rousing shots high on power and aesthetics. A cover drive that left the off-side cordon stunned was the pick as he continued to harass bowlers while mentor Yuvraj Singh, the captain of Pune Warriors, looked lost for ideas. “I am glad that I stayed there for a longer time,” said Kohli while the orange cap sat smug on his head as he jumped to the top spot of the batting pile with 294 runs.

The unsung hero

Subramaniam Badrinath, the spine of Tamil Nadu's batting, remains an understated cricketer. With remarkable consistency he does the job of scoring runs and shoring up the batting order but is often forgotten amidst the bevy of flamboyant cricketers who strut their wares across India.

Badrinath has continued his work ethic with the Chennai Super Kings too and his unbeaten 63 (44b, 6x4, 2x6) that helped M.S. Dhoni's men defeat Pune Warriors at Mumbai is a case in point. The knock reiterated Badrinath's adaptability to switch gears without fuss and the uncanny knock of drilling boundaries much to the chagrin of rival captains. Within his team, Badrinath has a player with similar mindset and approach — Michael Hussey. Like the great Australian, who got his just desserts late, Badrinath too is awaiting his turn though he has had brief stints with the Indian team in the past.

The rifle return

David Warner's 60-yard throw that knocked down the stumps at the bowler's end and forced A.B. de Villiers to trudge back to the dugout, was an act of sheer athleticism. In a match that Delhi Dardevils lost abjectly to the Royal Challengers Bangalore at the Feroze Shah Kotla Stadium, Warner's brilliance offered brief solace and it was also a larger hint at the improving levels of fielding as the IPL gathered pace and slowly but surely began to emerge out of the World Cup's shadow.

The failed scoop

A batsman, who has patented the scoop over the head that confounds bowlers, is now looking a wee bit lost in a format that he made his own, especially in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2009. Tillakaratne Dilshan has failed to fire upfront for the Royal Challengers Bangalore as his 120 runs from the first seven matches would testify. Dilshan has threatened to break free before an injudicious shot has caused his downfall time and again while the Bangalore outfit has tided past his stutter thanks to Chris Gayle's arrival and Virat Kohli's solidity.

Badrinath on the rampage against Pune Warriors at the D. Y. Patil Stadium in Mumbai.-VIVEK BENDRE

Being named captain of the Sri Lankan squad, Dilshan, had shed his blonde streaks and reverted to black in a bid to present a sober picture in keeping with his job profile. He has made the right noises too and perhaps all this has weighed on his mind and affected his tenure in the IPL. He is still fielding with elan and if only he could extend his blink-and-miss tenures, the Royal Challengers will have more reasons for cheer.

The slump

Yuvraj Singh and Virender Sehwag were among the most effusive players when India won the World Cup at Mumbai on April 2. However in a span of four weeks, the duo are looking skywards as their respective teams — Pune Warriors and Delhi Daredevils — have sulked with a series of losses. As skippers, they have dug a lone furrow with their bats but the rest have not contributed adequately. After seven games both teams scraped the bottom with four points each and need to string consecutive victories and bank on other teams to stumble, if semifinal dreams are to be nurtured.