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The Pepsi Indian Premier League 2014 juggernaut rolls on and as the second weekend of the season drew to a close, one was witness to plenty of mind-blowing action. Here are some of the top picks from the week that has gone by:
Glenn Maxwell had blown away two formidable sides in the first five days of the season. Chennai Super Kings – despite posting 205 on the board – were demolished by the Australian who smashed 95 off 43 balls. The Rajasthan Royals were at the receiving end next; playing a wide range of shots, finding the unmanned regions on the field precisely and packing some muscle in his strokes, Maxwell smashed six sixes and eight fours in his 45-ball 89.
Maxwell’s first innings last week mirrored his efforts against CSK. His 43-ball 95 versus SRH contained an incredible nine sixes – including a 98 m hit, which set the record for the longest six in the tournament at that point. The leg-side was undoubtedly his preferred scoring area – he scored 74 percent of his runs on that side of the pitch. There was a lot of rationale in Maxwell’s choice of shots; he normally packed a punch in his sweeps and slog-sweeps, but he pulled out the unorthodox reverse-sweep and switch-hit from his repertoire when the bowlers packed the leg-side field and bowled a restrictive line. And he picked the gaps playing those unorthodox shots too!
Dropped catches continued to cost teams during Week 2; some 16 catches were put down in the 10 matches played in that period. However, there were some screamers too.
Chennai Super Kings’ Faf du Plessis pulled off two stunning catches in the space of one over in Chennai Super Kings’ match against the Delhi Daredevils. The two catches he took – to send back Murali Vijayand Manoj Tiwary – reflected on how complete an athlete he is. With the airborne cricket ball flying away from him, du Plessis – stationed at mid-off – ran in pursuit of it, covering a lot of ground. He kept looking upwards to keep his eyes on the ball, and as the ball came crashing down, he lunged and came up with the ball in both hands.
The second effort was even better – he had to stretch completely at the last moment and had to be airborne for a moment even as the ball made contact with his palms. Such catches happen once in a while. But to pull it off twice in quick succession is simply astounding. Lynn’s Limbo near the Fence
If one thought du Plessis had set the new standards for catching, there was more to come in Week 2. Kolkata Knight Riders’ Chris Lynn pulled off a screamer against Royal Challengers Bangalore. With RCB on the brink of victory, AB de Villiers made good connection as he attempted to deposit R Vinay Kumar into the stands at midwicket. Chris Lynn positioned squarer on the leg-side boundary, ran to his left in an attempt to take the catch.
Just as he appeared to get to the position where the ball was coming down, he slipped – right on the edge of the fence – almost as if he was doing the limbo. The Australian was not one bit distracted despite losing his footing. He held his poise, settled down nicely under the ball, with his knees firmly on the ground. And as the ball came down, he raised himself ever so slightly, and then, arched backwards to come up with the ball.
What was more astonishing was the follow-up. The 24-year-old lost his balance during the act of arching backwards to get enough elevation to come in contact with the ball. However, he showed good awareness as he realized the momentum would have resulted in his head landing on the padding of the boundary rope. He dragged his body forward just enough to ensure he landed inside the field of play with the ball in his hand. Unreal!
One of the innovations of Pepsi IPL 2014 has been wiring the on-field Umpires with cameras and getting to see bits of action from their perspective. And one got to see two fantastic visuals from the Umpire’s Cam during Week 2. First up, in RCB’s match against KKR, the camera mounted on Umpire Vineet Kulkarni’s hat provided visuals of Yuvraj Singh muscling Umesh Yadav for a six over midwicket. The camera gave an insight into the pace of things in the middle – the speed at which the ball travels to the batsman, the time the batsman has to react and play the shot, how well Yuvraj Singh middled it on that occasion, and finally how far he hit it.
There was another piece of brilliance captured by the Umpire’s Cam in the match between the Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils. DD opener Quinton de Kock pounced on a wide delivery from Corey Anderson and cut it right out of the middle of the bat. But 38-year-old Michael Hussey, positioned at point, moved swiftly to his left and pulled off a sharp catch right in front of the Umpire at the striker’s end. The Umpire’s Cam gave us a good look into the positioning of the point fielder, how quickly the ball traveled to him and how agile Hussey was to move swiftly to his left and pluck a sharp catch.
This is as close as one can get to all the action in the centre!
Selection of the Week
‘Why fix things when they ain’t broke?’ they say. But Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir made the huge decision of leaving out R Vinay Kumar, who had bowled the fantastic last over – successfully defending nine runs – in KKR’s previous match against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Speaking at the toss, Gambhir explained his team was going with “horses for courses” and had hence picked leg-spinner Piyush Chawla for their match against Kings XI Punjab. And didn’t the move work! The 25-year-old spinner returned as the most successful bowler for KKR with figures of 4-0-19-3. Who were his three scalps? The dangerous David Miller, George Bailey and Virender Sehwag!
We talk about hunting in pairs and many a times have referred to batting partnerships in cricketing folklore that have become iconic. Be it in whites or in coloured clothing, partnerships have always been about complementing one another and enjoying each other’s success and company on and off the field. In the shortest format of the game, this camaraderie between players becomes equally important. It is the duo at the top that sets the platform for the players to follow. If they get off to a cracker, the foundation for a big score is laid.
Such has been the case with Chennai Super Kings’ brand new opening pair that has got the team off to a rollicking start this IPL. They started off with a bang with a 123-run stand against Kings XI Punjab, and in the following games, they pitched in with two half-century partnerships for their side. In their first match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum scripted yet another flying start that helped their side chase a target of 146 with ease.
Smith was severe as he smashed five sixes in his match-winning half-century and was complemented by Brendon McCullum at the other end, who scored a 33-ball 40. In his post-match chat with IPLT20.com, McCullum was all praises for his new batting partner – “The Doctor." We also got a little peek into the duo’s psyche while opening the batting for CSK.
Excerpts from his interview:
CSK’s UAE leg comes to an end. Four out of five sure makes for good reading.
It has been a good time here. We have played some good cricket, and if we had been given four out of five wins for this part of the tournament before the start of the competition, we would have been pretty happy. We have played well and gelled quite nicely as a team with a couple of new changes with me coming into the unit too. Hopefully, we continue that form when we get to India.
Dwayne Smith and you seem to be enjoying batting at the top in yellow.
There is still a long way to go in the tournament, but I have certainly enjoyed my partnership with Dwayne Smith, “The Doctor”. It is great to bat with him because he is so powerful and has a lot of options in his batting. He is a very intelligent cricketer as well. We seem to have a good rapport and get a good partnership going. It is nice to be able to contribute, and personally too I am enjoying my time with CSK so far.
Two explosive batsmen at the top. Do you feel CSK has the most explosive opening pair in the IPL?
So far we have done well. We may not be the most explosive pair, but in terms of how we have been playing, we have managed to give our team a good start in most games. We are pretty lucky that both of us hit the ball and hit it in different areas. I saw a comment from our captain, MS Dhoni, earlier in the week when he said that Smith and I don’t compete against each other but we complement each other,which is nice to have in an opening partnership. We also have so much power to follow that we both have the confidence to play positively.
All these years, CSK have had Michael Hussey and Murali Vijay opening the batting. Hussey would play anchor most times with Vijay going for his shots. What do you do given that both you and Smith are aggressive batsmen by nature?
Michael Hussey did outstandingly well for the Chennai Super Kings all these years and those are tough shoes to fill for the two of us at the moment. Hussey has served this franchise incredibly well and now we have this opportunity to do the same. We have started well and there is still long way to go.
The captain and the coach have complemented our abilities to play our games. They don’t want us to be too aggressive, but just play the style of cricket, which has got us to where we are in world cricket at the moment. It is always nice to get a leadership team like that to give the confidence to go out and play. What we have seen are reasonably aggressive starts from us, which are in character with how we are as players. We are not trying to be what we are not; we are just trying to play our natural game and be as good as we can at the top.
What kind of talks do you and Smith share while batting?
Smithy normally talks. (Laughs) We get along really well, which is helpful. We enjoy each other’s company and enjoy each other’s batting and have struck up decent enough partnerships till now. Some of the other things we talk about are the tactical stuff in the middle, but we also talk about the confidence and approach to certain situations of the game. I am not going to give too many secrets away, but certainly I enjoying batting with him. I enjoy how wise a head he has about his game. He has certainly shown his experience in this format of the game.
UAE done, will be back in India soon. Can't wait to play at Chennai, can you?
It will be fun to be back in India and play at Chennai. I have played there against Chennai Super Kings a few times and it will be nice now that I am playing with them. I am sure we will get good support there as well. If we keep playing good cricket, it will certainly help.