There’s time for fun too

A great entertainer… Dwayne Bravo of Chennai Super Kings breaks out into a jig after the fall of Jacques Kallis of Kolkata Knight Riders. Enjoying the show is CSK skipper Mahendra Dhoni.-K. PICHUMANI

With the IPL being what it is — a mixture of cricket, showbiz, and everything razzle-dazzle — nasty spats, sledges, and controversies are, if not anything else, smart eyeball-catching exercises. But then, some cricketers have chosen to spread the fragrance of mirth through simple, heart-warming acts.

The side effect of an ultra-competitive atmosphere is, often, the disappearance of laughter. Professional sport, with its inbuilt rigour, doesn’t make much allowance for jollity — frowns, glares, and heated exchanges are, in fact, par for the course.

With the Indian Premier League being what it is — a mixture of cricket, showbiz, and everything razzle-dazzle — nasty spats, sledges, and controversies are, if not anything else, smart eyeball-catching exercises. But then, some cricketers have chosen to spread the fragrance of mirth through simple, heart-warming acts in this IPL.

Dale Steyn’s aura as a relentless pace-machine is nicely complemented by a disarming sense of humour. As one of the more charming cricketers around, the South African has always been a hit with women. During the Sunrisers Hyderabad versus Delhi Daredevils match in Hyderabad recently, a girl held aloft a poster that screamed ‘Dale Steyn, marry me.’

Steyn, shown on TV to be laughing, got hold of the poster and wrote: ‘Thank you so much for the proposal.’ The autographed-poster was then returned to the girl, leaving her gushing for the remainder of the game.

Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Chris Gayle has been a crowd favourite as much for his bewildering striking skills as his happy-go-lucky ways. After his slaughtering of Pune Warriors in Bangalore, the Jamaican, with a thumping guffaw, wrapped Ashoke Dinda in a bear hug.

Dinda was once again the recipient of Gayle’s affection at the end of the return encounter in Pune. His West Indies team-mate, Dwayne Bravo of Chennai Super Kings, has taken his role as an entertainer quite seriously. Although he doesn’t back away from verbal jousts, the accent is more on pulling off a new jig or two every time he picks up a wicket or takes a catch.

West Indies’ Test and T20 skipper Darren Sammy, in his maiden IPL outing, has stuck to geniality as well besides conjuring the ‘Pacifier’ celebration.

In the first match of this year’s IPL, between Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils, David Warner was seen making small talk with a ball boy, who, suffice to say, was visibly overawed. Sunil Gavaskar had, in his M. A. K. Pataudi Memorial Lecture a few months ago, called for cricketers to smile a bit and have a little more fun on the field.

These men seem to be doing just that. A believer in patience

When Chris Gayle takes guard, fans in the stands watch with rapt attention. Fielders on the boundary line keep an eye on him. For kids engrossed in watching the West Indian swat the ball with ease and toy with the bowling, there are home truths to be learnt. Gayle’s batting in T20 is built around patience, and the fans paying to watch him in action would benefit from knowing what goes on in his mind.

“When I bat in T20 cricket, I give myself time to get a feel of things,” said the West Indian opener, explaining the reason for his calm before the storm. “I don’t want to over-react in a T20 game and make it a slugfest from the first over. I am a type of batsman who can catch up in the end, so like to acclimatise to the conditions and then make adjustments in my batting.”

Gayle was addressing a gathering of enthusiasts at Pune’s Sahakar Nagar, home to the cricket museum ‘Blades of Glory’, owned by Rohan Pate. The West Indian jersey used by Gayle in the T20 World Cup is a prized exhibit here. The explosive batsman will donate the bat with which he smashed a world record 175 not out against Pune Warriors to the museum at the end of IPL-6.

Asked what his advice would be to kids wanting to bat like him, Gayle laughed and said, “It is difficult for a kid to try and bat like Gayle. Looking from a kid’s point of view, they have to start with the basics, know what will work for them and stick to being themselves. Work ethic is important and they have to keep at it. Kids need to know what they want in life, what is achievable and believe that they can do it.”

Stuck in the nineties…Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore grimaces after being run out at the threshold of the three-figure mark against Delhi Daredevils.-PTI

‘Nervous Nineties’ or ‘Stranded in the Nineties’?

This year’s IPL has so far (until the match between Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore on May 10) witnessed an unusually high number of individual scores in the nineties. There have been eight, which is double the previous high in the inaugural edition in 2008.

Out of the eight, five have been not outs. Shane Watson (98 against Sunrisers Hyderabad), Virat Kohli (93, also against Sunrisers) and Virender Sehwag (95 against Mumbai Indians) all batted second and were left with no more runs to chase when they entered their nineties. On the other hand, Suresh Raina (99 against Sunrisers) and Chris Gayle (92 against Mumbai) couldn’t do it for want of overs while batting first.

Of the remaining three, Michael Hussey (95 against Kolkata Knight Riders) was out trying to up the run-rate, Manvinder Bisla (92 against Chennai Super Kings) was dismissed while trying to chase down a stiff target and Kohli (99 against Delhi Daredevils) fell run-out while going for a second run, off the final ball of the innings.

When seen out of context, these seem like ‘Nervous Nineties’ which the Wikipedia defines as “a specific form of analysis paralysis where batsmen tend to bat in a more conservative manner when they are close to their century.”

However, with the word ‘conservative’ even remotely unfit to be part of T20 cricket lexicon, wouldn’t it be more apt to coin a separate term? May be ‘Stranded in the Nineties’?

It’s all in the game

It can be heart breaking. A team despite having the best of strikers in any form of the game (Virender Sehwag and David Warner), a modern day successful run-accumulator (Mahela Jayawardena) and one of the most sought-after fast bowlers in the game today (Morne Morkel) languishes at the bottom of the table in the current IPL!

For Kiran K. Grandhi, chairman of GMR Sports (the owner of Delhi Daredevils), it is a “process.” Of course, there is disappointment in the Delhi Daredevils camp, its fortunes undermined by the non-availability of Kevin Pietersen even before a ball had been bowled in IPL-6. The franchise owner, however, looks only at the positive side.

“We are a team. Success and setbacks are part of the game. I was a cricketer and I know how it feels when you don’t play to your potential. But we don’t lose our perspective or temper. Running down someone just because he has failed never helps. We don’t believe in using the whip. It is a process and we only look at the effort put in. Effort should be honest,” says Grandhi.

GMR Sports has concentrated on promoting local talent. Grandhi informs, “We conducted a tournament and picked 10 best bowlers who participated in the preparation of the team. They came and bowled to our batsmen in the nets, and I am sure they must have learnt some lessons. When you bowl to icons, you definitely grow.”

A former cricketer, Grandhi wants to contribute more to the game by setting up an academy. “We are looking at that possibility. It will be great if we can give India a player from the academy,” Grandhi concludes on an optimistic note.

‘T20 damaging real cricket’

Michael Holding, nicknamed ‘Whispering Death’ and ‘Jamaican Gazelle’, is a familiar figure in India. He was part of Clive Lloyd’s pace quartet and took 61 of his 249 Test wickets against India. Media assignments have brought him frequently to India, but on May 4, he was at the Wankhede Stadium to catch up with a handful of West Indian players playing for Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings.

Holding, who is not a great admirer of the IPL, was in the city to meet his wife, who is employed with the IMP Production feed team. He was stunned by the new-look Wankhede Stadium, the venue where he had taken six wickets (5 for 102 and 1 for 39) in the 1983-84 series against India. “The stadium is just so unrecognisable now; looks very different. The wicket too is very different. That Test match strip hardly had any grass. This one has a good grass covering and it is nice to see the carry that the quicks get. It’s nice to see them (West Indians) do well and it’s nice to also see them make good money. If I was their age and somebody said to me here are 6,00,000 dollars and come and play for six weeks, I’d be there before anybody else. At the same time, I think it’s going a little too far. It’s damaging the real cricket, but I’d do the same. Such is life,” he said.

According to Holding, it is difficult to predict the winner of the forthcoming ICC Champions Trophy. “One-Day International cricket is difficult to predict, but South Africa have the best team in the world right now. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to win. India’s batting is so strong. They can get a lot of runs even though their bowling is not so strong. But if you get a lot of runs, you win games. You can have an unbalanced team but still win,” he said. He was not impressed by India’s fast bowling department. “It’s ordinary, that’s all I can say. I’ve seen a few fast bowlers who come in and bowl quick when they start, but they don’t last which is unfortunate. Something is going wrong. I don’t know if it’s the training or whatever. Look at Ishant Sharma. When he came in, he was quick. Now he’s no longer quick. I’ve seen it happen to quite a few others too. They are still good bowlers, but the pace is not there and they don’t create as much havoc as they should,” Holding said.

Talking of the mushrooming of T20 tournaments and the Caribbean T20 in particular, the former West Indian fast bowler said, “That’s just another one. We have Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Big Bash and the IPL. A lot of people want to play in the Caribbean T20, but nowhere there is money like this. This (IPL) is champagne and that is soft drink (laughs).”

Arun Venugopal, Nandakumar Marar, N. Sudarshan, Vijay Lokapally & G. Viswanath