The grim Gambhir tale

Gautam Gambhir with Jacques Kallis. Gambhir, the KKR captain, had to face a strange question at one of the press conferences.-PTI

Why isn’t the KKR captain smiling? Well, how can he when his team is doing badly!

Why do you look you so grim Gautam? Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir may be sharing the name of the progenitor of the great religion of Buddhism — Gautam Buddha — but his name and surname if read in Hindi coincidentally form an antonym of the now famous Fengshui idol ‘Laughing Buddha’. This may have been the reason that prompted a local journalist — in KKR’s new home Ranchi — to question the skipper as to why he was hardly to be seen smiling on the field.

With KKR’s performance not befitting that of a defending champion, Gambhir could not have been expected to shake off his grim countenance. The captain could not suppress a grin when placed with such a direct query on his on-field appearance. He promptly put forth a reply that mixed humour and reality. “People do not come to a match to see me smile. They come to the stadium to see KKR win. Our job is to perform well and bring a smile on the faces of our supporters.” Gambhir had indeed dispatched the unconventional query in the manner he would ‘free hit’ a no-ball — over the rope.

Stepping out of line

For the Royal Challengers Bangalore senior left-arm spinner Murali Kartik, who has previously played the more serious forms of cricket for the country, the Indian Premier League is no different when it comes to the spirit of the game. The bowler was visibly annoyed seeing the ‘infringements’ committed by the non-strikers as he came to bowl during his team’s outing against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Manoj Tiwary was the first to be warned and disciplined by the bowler and this was followed by a verbal joust as the two were seen debating the point. Kartik even came up and enacted the mistake Manoj had committed by showing Manoj how much he had overstepped the crease. This impromptu ‘play-acting’ — which happened in the 13th over — came as a great amusement for the KKR batsman who responded with a smile bringing a ‘happy’ end to the dispute.

Again, in the 16th over, Kartik got involved in a similar situation with Jacques Kallis. He had an exchange of words with the South African star all-rounder, who put up a wry smile as Kartik stopped short of delivering and made it known to the batsman about the infringement committed.

“As a bowler I am supposed to stick to the line while bowling, why shouldn’t the batsmen stick to the same principle?” Kartik said after the match.

Yusuf Pathan’s unique ‘kick’

Hailed by his captain Gambhir as the ‘impact player’ of the Kolkata Knight Riders, the explosive Yusuf Pathan could not create much of an impact with his bat for the defending champion. KKR unceremoniously crashed out of the IPL VI in the league stage and Pathan, on whom the team reposed great faith only created an ‘impact’ contrary to the spirit of the game, becoming the first batsman in the history of T20 to be dismissed for ‘obstructing the field.’

The Mumbai Indians' victory lap after an all-win home record at the Wankhede Stadium.-VIVEK BENDRE

The incident happened in KKR’s match against Pune Warriors India at the JSCA International Stadium, Ranchi when Pathan made the injudicious error that virtually ended his team’s existence in the current season of IPL. Having scored 72 and almost singlehandedly taken KKR near a win, Pathan suddenly lost focus and appeared to have wilfully kicked the ball away as the opponent bowler Wayne Parnell approached to pick it up. The two players also had a mild collision where Parnell seemed to have tugged Pathan by the hand, but the latter did a bigger mistake by kicking the ball away and the third umpire declared him out upon referral. “It is a tough pill to swallow. Pretty freak dismissal, something which I have not seen it in my career,” said Pathan’s biggest supporter, Gambhir, after the match.

Home, sweet home

Teams in this year’s IPL would tell you that the importance of support from the home crowd can’t be overstated enough. And, who would disagree with them? The likes of Rajasthan Royals, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Chennai Super Kings have had a whale of a time on their respective stomping grounds.

So, it was only reasonable that they repaid the fans with gratitude. The Royals set the tone, lapping the ground at Jaipur after the CSK game. Skipper Rahul Dravid was at the forefront, along with a few others, clapping and waving at the delirious crowd. T-shirts and other team memorabilia were tossed into the stands.

A few days later, CSK would do pretty much the same. As they did the lap of honour, some players unfurled a banner that read: ‘A big whistle to you Chennai! It’s your support that makes us roar.’ The ‘cheer for your home-crowd’ action then shifted to Mumbai and Bangalore.

Amit Mishra of Sunrisers Hyderabad, after his team’s victory over Rajasthan, gushed about how the Hyderabad crowd was “probably the best” he had seen over the last six years. SRH mentor Krishnamachari Srikkanth echoed Mishra’s comments and was visibly overwhelmed by the “positive energy” that the fans brought.

Gilly, the bowler

Adam Gilchrist had announced that the match against Mumbai Indians would be his last in the IPL. As he opened the innings one final time in India, there were many fans hoping for a signature knock. That, however, didn’t materialise as he was dismissed cheaply by countryman Nathan Coulter-Nile.

But the game itself did go in the right direction for him as Kings XI Punjab cruised to a big win. What made it more memorable was that Gilly came on to bowl in the last over of Mumbai’s innings (Praveen Kumar donned the ’keeper’s gloves). Guess what? His innocuous off-spin earned him Harbhajan Singh’s wicket off the very first ball. Gilchrist did his own version of the ‘Gangnam’ dance.

“The fact that they needed more than 36 runs (off the last over), because anything under that, I was never going to take the ball. Just a bit of fun, I guess,” the 41-year-old laughed. Although he ruled out the possibility of coming back to the IPL as a coach, he expressed a desire to do his bit in some capacity. “The IPL is such a fun, action-packed tournament (that) it will be hard to stay away from.”

He was earlier chaired around the picturesque ground at Dharamsala. With the Australian legend being in his element during his farewell party, things couldn’t have been better for the zestful Saturday crowd.

Amitabha Das Sharma & Arun Venugopal