There never will be a dull moment when Warne is around

Shane the thick of pitch controversy.-Pics: PTI

Shane Warne, in his last few days as an active cricketer, has been nowhere close to simmering down. The spin wizard had more startling revelations up his sleeve when he admitted to Harsha Bhogle in an interview that he had threatened to walk out of the Royals camp during IPL-1. By Arun Venugopal.

Pitches in this year's IPL and the conspiracy theories surrounding them have sure given ample fodder for weekly tournament diaries. The Jaipur pitch saga is however on a different plane. Rapid, labyrinthine twists by the dozen have ensured that it is in serious contention for the Edgars. Like in the case of most controversies recently, the first information report was on Twitter.

“First time in four years we got told what wicket to play on — strange?” tweeted Shane Warne ahead of the Chennai Super Kings game. After a humiliating 63-run mauling, Warne let everyone know of his displeasure at being told to play on a pitch at one end of the square. The champion leggie was clearly no fan of “the kiddies boundary” although he gave credit to Chennai's performance.

A certain Lalit Kumar Modi, who had beaten Warne to the pre-match tweet, caused a stir with his comments on the Jaipur strip. “A little birdie just whispered that the big game in Jaipur has been moved to a side wicket on the square. Why? ask RCA official and CSK.” BCCI Secretary and CSK franchise owner N. Srinivasan was quick to rubbish his claims as irrelevant. He even chided the media for giving Modi “so much attention”.

Meanwhile, BCCI issued a statement clarifying that the wicket used was as per the decision of the curator and the Ground and Pitches Committee. Wear and tear of the tracks was cited as the reason. Sanjay Dixit, Rajasthan Cricket Association's honorary secretary and a senior bureaucrat in the Rajasthan government, said Royals was in the loop about the change of wicket from as early as May 2. “It was officially conveyed to them. So they had known this for about the week,” ESPNcricinfo quoted him as saying. The matter seemed to end there or so we thought.

The tale took another turn after RCA lodged a complaint with the IPL alleging that Warne had publicly abused Sanjay Dixit by calling him “a liar and egoistic” after Rajasthan went down to Royal Challengers. Matters seem to have simmered down for now after an apology has been tendered by the Rajasthan Royals management to Dixit.

But Shane Warne, in his last few days as an active cricketer, has been nowhere close to simmering down. He was reportedly caught on camera smoking inside the airport premises at Indore after Rajasthan arrived a day ahead of its game against Kochi Tuskers.

Chris Gayle...having a whale of a time.-

The spin wizard had more startling revelations up his sleeve when he admitted to Harsha Bhogle in an interview that he had threatened to walk out of the Royals camp during IPL-1.

“We were getting a little bit of pressure from certain people about playing certain players, and I said to the owners, who I had only known for 10 days, ‘Look, that's fine if you want X player in the squad, but book a flight on the QF9, I'm going home.' They said, ‘What do you mean?' I said, ‘Well, I have worked hard to get this squad together and these guys are all here on merit,' ” he said. Never a dull moment with Warnie around.

Hype, hoopla, and the return

After sitting out the games against Mumbai and Kings XI Punjab, Sourav Ganguly finally made his much hyped IPL appearance against Deccan Chargers. Although Pune fielded first, Ganguly was in the thick of things. Not the most agile man on the park, he let a ball slip through him at extra cover for four. The bowler Mitchell Marsh fumed and Ganguly looked down cursing himself.

Batting, though, proved to be a more rewarding experience. Coming in at number three, after Ryder had done most of the damage, the former Indian skipper could take it easy. While Ganguly unleashed his trademark step-out-and-hoick against Amit Mishra, he found the going tough against Dale Steyn.

His scratchy knock nevertheless resulted in an unbeaten 32 off as many balls. But what caught the photographers' fancy was a man rushing on to the field to touch Ganguly' feet. Suffice to say that tabloids had a field day the following morning.

An unlikely battle royale

Of all the duels in this year's IPL, this was the most unlikely of ‘em all. ‘Amit Mishra takes on Munaf Patel' doesn't really sound like an exciting headline, not if you missed out on the entertainment they provided. Deccan Chargers had meandered to 112 before Patel came on to bowl the last over. After hitting the first ball for six, Shikhar Dhawan turned over the strike.

Sourav Ganguly...back in action in the IPL. Dada is now playing for Pune Warriors.-

A top-edged boundary to fine leg by Mishra resulted in verbal exchanges with Patel. Dhawan joined in the act too before the umpire separated them. Peace reigned, only until the next ball, when Mishra looked to make eye-contact, a la Aamir Khan in Lagaan, with the bowler after clipping him for four over square leg.

As if to make the cinematic effect more pronounced, the duo collided when Mishra tried to get across to the other end. More chatter, more gesticulation. It was eventually Mishra who won the bragging rights as he walloped one over mid-wicket. The game's story through numbers: The last over produced 23 runs, Mishra notched up four consecutive boundaries and Mumbai lost by 10 runs! As for Munaf and Amit, they have enough time to thrash out the issue on the long flight to the Caribbean.

Vinay's Malinga act

If you can't beat them, sling ‘em' is one of the more significant after-effects of continued exposure to Lasith Malinga's bowling. Gayle, clad in green and gold supporting Royal Challengers' green initiative, showed no intent whatsoever of lending a helping hand to Prasanth Parameswaran thwacking him for 37 runs in one over. Vinay Kumar had seen enough. Going round the wicket, he delivered the ball with a low arm action. Gayle lost his off stump, Vinay roared. He did an encore of the Malinga impersonation against Punjab but his stop-and-sling ball to Mandeep Singh turned out to be a wide.

In another illustration of bowlers getting creative, Shadab Jakati rolled his arm over first without delivering it and then released it on the second attempt. Umpire Simon Taufel thought it was unfair play and promptly warned the bowler.

The name is Christopher Gayle

“Now I'm watching 'You don't mess with Chris Gayle'… O shocks, I meant ‘You don't mess with the Zohan'. We kick Bad Minds. Lol,” read Gayle's tweet ahead of the top table clash against Kolkata. His bowling wasn't as menacing though as Yusuf Pathan walloped him for a six. ‘Chris who?' flashed on the giant screen. The Jamaican merely walked away with a smile.

Chapter two of the match saw Brett Lee tear his blonde hair apart. Reason: Christopher Gayle (Now, how many times have we seen that) who was in the ‘He bowl, I hit maan' mode.

Edges, pushes, and thumps — make that five fours in an over. Lee soon had his revenge ending Gayle's sojourn at the crease. But the marauder had amassed 38 off 12 by then. Booming laughs punctuated his speech at the presentation ceremony. Gayle bagged yet another Man of the Match award and everything seemed alright with the world.