Things ‘happen in the heat of the moment’

Unpleasant scene...Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper, are involved in an on-field fight and Rajat Bhatia (middle) had to intervene to avert any untoward incident.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH Unpleasant scene...Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli, the Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper, are involved in an on-field fight and Rajat Bhatia (middle) had to intervene to avert any untoward incident.

Chris Gayle’s hurricane knock ensured that RCB thumped KKR by eight wickets but the spat between Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir became the talking-point.

Of warmth and brands

On the eve of the IPL match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders in Bangalore on April 11, two events showcased divergent realities — the sheer warmth of buddies and the suave ways of brand promotion.

Friendship was in vogue at the Ravindra Bharati Global School (RBGS) in HSR Layout, a suburb in Bangalore.

Former India ‘A’ player J. Arunkumar, who has also led Karnataka besides being the State’s current batting coach, unveiled his academy’s second branch and applauding him from the dais were two of his cricketing pals: V. V. S. Laxman and Murali Kartik.

The duo split by teams (Laxman is Sunrisers Hyderabad’s mentor and Kartik is a key spinner for Royal Challengers Bangalore) and united by a strong emotional bond, praised Arunkumar. The three — Laxman, Kartik and Arunkumar — may have attained different shades of success but when it came to friendship, they just had one overwhelming texture of bonhomie.

Later at night, a different heat was kicked up as watch major Seiko signed up with Kolkata Knight Riders as a brand partner. Fittingly, the company’s watches were unveiled with models revealing their watch-laden wrists to the shutterbugs.

The models also accompanied the KKR players, ranging from Brett Lee to Sunil Narine, on the ramp and it was all about psychedelic lights and corporate jargon while the IPL’s fine-print of commerce was spelt out in big, bold letters.

Delhi firepower

Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir are team-mates in various dressing rooms ranging from Delhi to India. However when they turned out as leaders of their respective IPL teams — Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders — the sparks that flew even threatened to upstage the belligerence displayed by Chris Gayle (85 not out) in Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium on April 11.

The Caribbean opener’s hurricane knock ensured that RCB thumped KKR by eight wickets but the spat between Kohli and Gambhir became the talking-point. It all started when a retreating Kohli, after being dismissed by L. Balaji, and a feisty Gambhir almost threatened to have a punch-up before their common Delhi pal — Rajat Bhatia — intervened and split the duo.

Later Gambhir said that things ‘happen in the heat of the moment’ and added that ‘cricket is a man’s game.’ When the queries in the post-match press conference hinged on that singular episode, the KKR skipper expressed his displeasure and mumbled about ‘other questions that need to be asked’ and walked away.

Fast track... Waqar Younis, the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowling consultant, with Dale Styen and Ishant Sharma.-K.RAMESH BABU

Match referee David Boon reprimanded both the players after the Delhi duo admitted to their guilt while IPL’s latest edition had its first taste of controversy!

The leader rises

Ray Jennings, all gentle words with adequate pauses, in his interactions with the media, has always been emphatic about Virat Kohli’s leadership skills. Even before the Indian selectors mulled over Kohli’s potential as a future captain, Jennings, the Royal Challengers Bangalore coach, has been saying for the last two years that the Delhi lad is the one for the hot-seat. The theme was replayed again this time around when Jennings said: “We need to make sure that Kohli is ready (for the Indian captaincy) in the future.”

Now firmly in the saddle as RCB’s captain, Kohli added further value to his coach’s expectations when he notched up an unbeaten 93 to guide his team to a seven-wicket victory over Sunrisers Hyderabad in an IPL match in Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium on April 9. The innings had depth and an acute self-awareness that propelled Kohli despite the cheap dismissals of Chris Gayle and AB de Villiers. Triumph was secured and by guiding his team past the winning post, Kohli proved that he had what it takes to shepherd RCB’s fortunes.

The evolution of Kohli from an ‘angst-ridden adolescent’ to a ‘man assurance’ has been an interesting feature of the RCB dug-out since 2008. In the past, Kohli, in chats with the media, had candidly admitted to being distracted by off-field issues in his early days. He also spoke about how he had worked hard to put his career back on track. The efforts have borne fruit over the last couple of years.

Memories of another day

Time heals, lends perspective besides adding dollops of that romantic mystique called nostalgia. All these elements were at play when Waqar Younis strode towards the dug-out during the match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Bangalore’s Chinnaswamy Stadium on April 9.

Younis, the bowling coach of the visiting team, had a supervisory stint with Dale Steyn and company during the break and as he returned, the fans cheered him. The applause was spontaneous and Younis’ reciprocal gesture was instinctive: a raised hand, acknowledging the warmth seeping in from the stands.

The symbiotic moment of appreciation had many layers of remembrance to it because it was at this same venue that Younis in his prime then, suffered perhaps the worst caning from a batsman. Ajay Jadeja’s sensational assault (45 of 25 balls) on the Pakistani bowlers, especially Younis, during the 1996 World Cup quarterfinal in Bangalore is the stuff of legend.

Perhaps it’s a nightmare that Younis would love to forget. Now, after 17 years since that feverish night when MG Road and Brigade Road were chock-a-block with revellers, Younis perhaps has made his peace. And for the fans, the great Pakistani bowler was part of a gripping piece of drama that they can never forget. The sporting spirit was in vogue again though it was a sidelight in the larger picture dished out by RCB and Sunrisers.

Dream debut

A Man of the Match effort on IPL debut requires a slice of luck and the guts to capitalise on the first opportunity. Manan Vohra had both in ample measure, cracking an unbeaten 43 in Kings XI Punjab’s eight-wicket win over Pune Warriors India in an away game.

The Punjab youngster slammed seven boundaries, feeding off the confidence of Mandeep Singh at the other end.

Both strokeplayers were earmarked as special talent. While Manan missed out on a place in the Indian team for the U-19 World Cup due to a finger injury, Mandeep played for India U-19 in an earlier World Cup under skipper Ashok Menaria. Following strong domestic performances with the bat he is seen as captaincy material for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy. Manan, who idolises his senior partner, had to wait patiently for IPL-6 to enjoy fame.

“God pitches everything at the right time. The team showed faith in me and gave me a chance, so you can say God was kind to me,” summed up the KXIP debutant.

Mutual respect

The IPL is a great platform for some of the biggest names in world cricket to join hands for a common cause.

Sunrisers Hyderabad has two great fast bowlers — former Pakistan great Waqar Younis and South African pace ace Dale Steyn — often sharing a few thoughts on the art of fast bowling at the nets.

Importantly, the two great cricketers have mutual respect for each other.

“Steyn is the most complete fast bowler in contemporary cricket — one who can bowl at the same speed and with the same intensity right through the day. And what I like in him is his body language, the aggro image,” says Waqar.

For his part, Steyn says that it is a terrific experience for him to share the ‘nets’ with someone like Waqar, whom he had always admired as a youngster, for his bowling skills.

“You know, in the South African side we’ve had Allan Donald and he was one of the guys I used to watch when I was young. Now I am excited to work with someone like Waqar. He was an incredible bowler of reverse swing and yorkers at extreme pace. And, like I said, I’m living my childhood dream right now by working with these guys. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the tournament,” says the Sunrisers’ frontline bowler.

Rising to thev occasion

At 19, when you are asked to share the new ball with the best pace bowler in contemporary cricket, there is a possibility of getting nervous and failing to meet the challenge.

But Gade Hanuma Vihari of Sunrisers Hyderabad showed remarkable composure while bowling to the best T20 batsman, Chris Gayle, of Royal Challengers Bangalore.

To the delight of his teammates, Vihari proved to be equal to the task. His gentle off-break saw the hard-hitting West Indian go for the cut and end up offering a simple catch to wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel.

What was more memorable for Vihari was that he got a wicket off his first ball ever in the IPL (it is his maiden season and it was only his second game).

“Well, there is no better joy than getting the wicket of Gayle. I was not tense for I was told about this move a day before by the team management,” an elated Vihari said. “I was told that Gayle is a slow starter against spin and is not comfortable against off-spin. So, all I wanted to do was just bowl on a length and it was a pleasant surprise that I got the wicket with the first ball of the second over of the innings.”

To cap it all, Vihari was eventually declared the Man of the Match for his gritty, unbeaten 44 which resulted in the match ending in a tie, leading to the super over in which the home team emerged winner.

Hoping to shine

Ishant Sharma is the senior-most international player from India figuring in the Sunrisers’ IPL-6 campaign. And he has some advice for those who are hoping to make it big.

“In any format of the game, I always believe that the good length ball is the wicket-taking delivery,” Ishant says. “All bowlers, regardless of what sort of attack they believe in, must first master line and length.”

About his Sunrisers teammates, he says: “Dale Steyn is one of those great fast bowlers who make even a small total very challenging, for he hates to give away easy runs. You pick up several new things in the art of bowling when you play alongside such players.

“Waqar paaji is a very knowledgeable coach. He knows it is important not to tamper with the bowling style of someone who has already played international cricket. He gives helpful tips only when something goes wrong.

“My confidence level is high after a very satisfying Test series against Australia. Getting wickets on flat tracks really lifts your morale. And, I am eagerly looking to keep improving in the long season ahead. With injury affecting my stint in IPL last year, I am really happy that I am in the right frame of mind this time.

“We have players who are capable of changing the course of a game. I hope to have a more satisfying IPL this year,” says Ishant.

Among the runs

Dinesh Karthik may not have done full justice to his talent playing for India in Test matches (23 matches, 1000 runs, 1x100, 2x50s, 51 catches and 5 stumpings), one-day internationals (52 matches, 1008 runs, 5x50s, 31 catches and 5 stumpings) and Twenty20 Internationals (9 matches, 100 runs, 5 catches and 2 stumpings), but he appears to have delivered the goods for Mumbai Indians in IPL-6. The meteoric rise in form and fame of Mahendra Singh Dhoni virtually ended the aspirations of Parthiv Patel and Karthik. And now Wriddhiman Saha has joined the list. Karthik, however, is making a serious bid to take the No. 2 position.

Always regarded as a brave and bold cricketer, Karthik kept wickets for Delhi Daredevils in 42 IPL matches in the first three years. He was picked by Kings XI Punjab for the fourth season before he moved to Mumbai Indians for IPL-5. Somehow MI did not manage to pick the right man for the wicketkeeper’s job. The side had to make do with Ambati Rayudu for two seasons (2010 and 2011) before it chose Karthik.

Last year Karthik played 17 matches, scored 238 runs at 18.31, held 5 catches and effected 2 stumpings. Given the responsibility at No. 3 he has shown signs of justifying the faith MI has reposed on him. He’s already scored 183 runs this season at 61.00 with two half centuries (before the match against Pune Warriors India at the Wankhede). He has done reasonably well though scoring 490 runs at No. 4 in 23 matches, 404 at No. 5 in 22 matches and 315 runs at No. 6 in 14 matches in IPL.

After his Man of the Match performance against Delhi Daredevils, Karthik said: “No. 3 is a slot that I like to bat in; it gives me an opportunity to play in the power-play. So, when a team like Mumbai Indians gives me an opportunity, I have to vindicate their faith, make some effort and get runs. I am very confident that given a chance in any format of the game I will be able to do the best I can. So I am just motivated enough to get runs on the board.”

Karthik has made an excellent start and sustaining it right through IPL-6 will only make his claims stronger for future India selections.

Compiled by K. C. Vijaya Kumar, Nandakumar Marar, V. V. Subrahmanyam & G. Viswanath