Jumbo's in the house

Spin wizards... Anil Kumble with Muttiah Muralitharan at the Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

During the CSK-RCB encounter in Chennai, journalists were at the receiving end of a pleasant surprise when Anil Kumble made his way to the Press Box. Over to Arun Venugopal.

Not often do media enclosures throw up surprises. They are usually spaces reserved for prosaic, at times lyrical, pursuits carried out in the face of that most unforgiving of entities — deadline. During the CSK-RCB encounter in Chennai, however, journalists were at the receiving end of a pleasant surprise when Anil Kumble made his way to the Press Box.

Some of them quickly gathered around the great man and took photographs with him. One reporter was quick to ask Kumble if he would make a comeback and bowl alongside Muttiah Muralitharan. His straight-faced response had a touch of understated humour. “It won't be a bad idea with one left-arm spinner (Daniel Vettori), an off-spinner and a leg-spinner. At least, there will be no trouble with the over-rate.”

Kumble also wore his famous, half-shy smile when he said: “I couldn't have been playing forever. I am really happy with what I am doing now.”

Lucky escape

The Mumbai Indians-Deccan Chargers thriller in Visakhapatnam was spoken about as much for the nail-munching behaviour it induced in fans as Harbhajan Singh and Munaf Patel's outburst. After Kumar Sangakkara wasn't ruled out when the latter was bowled, Mumbai skipper Harbhajan and Munaf took up the issue with the umpires (in hardly polite fashion, should it be added).

The duo had its way as the on-field umpires referred the decision to their colleague upstairs and Sangakkara was declared out. What took most people by surprise was the aftermath. Harbhajan, a habitual offender, got away with an official reprimand while Munaf was docked 25 per cent of his match fee!

The Sunil connection

Trust Sunil Gavaskar to roll out his wisecracks — stuffed with the right mix of sarcasm and wit — at the most opportune moment. A television presenter sought his views about Daniel Christian's last ball, a full toss which Rohit Sharma tonked for six to seal a win for Mumbai Indians in the aforementioned game against Deccan Chargers.

“The last ball was a benefit match full toss,” said Gavaskar. The analysts inside the studio had a tough time not falling off their chairs laughing.

While interviewing Sunil Narine, the Man-of-the-Match in KKR's contest with Kings XI Punjab, Gavaskar told the newly-anointed ‘mystery spinner': “your dad named you well.” The original Little Master mightn't have seen coming Narine's response. “Actually, I was named after you,” said the Trinidadian. Obviously, Sunny's name still works up a magic or two, especially in the Caribbean.

Murali gets irritated, almost

For all the bumbling that RCB did on the field in its incredible defeat against CSK, the team commissioned the right man for the post-match press enquiry — the unflappable Muralitharan. The legendary spinner had a broad smile fixed on his face as he defused queries with no apparent difficulty.

One scribe, though, ticked off Murali when he asked why Tillekeratne Dilshan hadn't been given a bowl. Now, Dilshan wasn't part of the playing XI in the match and Murali, just for a moment, seemed to be irritated with the question. But those anticipating an explosive response had to be disappointed as the smile was soon back on.

Rajasthan's pitch troubles return

Rajasthan Royals has had a history of problems with pitches. There were bitter verbal battles last year over the Jaipur wicket between Rajasthan Cricket Association Secretary Sanjay Dixit and Shane Warne.

This time the focus was on the surface at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai where the Royals went down gallantly to the home side.

Wicket-keeper Shreevats Goswami said recently that the wicket was changed at the last minute, catching the team unawares. Royals had opted to bowl first on a wicket that they thought would offer turn.

“We expected some turn but it turned out to be a different wicket. They were rolling another track when we were practising… We got to know that they had changed the wicket later on, without informing us,” said Goswami. Fortunately for everyone concerned, the matter didn't snowball into a controversy.

Ashwin's ‘Mankading' encore

Only two months ago, Ravichandran Ashwin was in the eye of a storm after he ‘Mankaded' Lahiru Thirimanne in Brisbane. In that case, India withdrew the appeal and there was to be no moral uproar over the ‘spirit of cricket' being compromised.

Recently, Ashwin warned Steve Smith of Pune Warriors for backing up too far. That soon led to a war of words between the two youngsters. “I took the bails off and he started to abuse me. I was well within the rights (rules) and there's no question of (my action) clashing with the spirit of the game. It's a rule that a batsman can become a run out victim at the bowler's end (while backing up too far and is out of his ground). Without knowing the rules he (Smith) has no right to abuse and that's why I hurled it back,'' said Ashwin of the incident.

Looks like here's one man who will continue to irk self-appointed preservers of the spirit of the game.