Written by  //  April 28, 2011  //  Sport  //  Comments Off on Highlights

Why would anyone want to watch the highlights of an IPL match?

Especially when, by its very nature, T20 and more so, the IPL, is hit and giggle fluff that one watches to forget.
Especially, when one has written off this IPL as a travesty and a sham on this website (in the comments) and tried to popularize the #iplsucks hashtag on twitter.
Especially when one has no connection, emotional or parochial, to any of the teams in question.

Why would anyone want to watch the highlights of an IPL match?

I did. Today. For the first time ever, of the Kochi Tuskers Kerala v Deccan Chargers match.

May I advance two pieces of evidence in my defence?

Exhibit 1

A friend and me were talking cricket yesterday and he wistfully remarked that he’d like, just for once, to be able to see an Indian bowler glide into the crease, leap like a gazelle and swing the ball at 90mph into the batsman’s stumps. Repeatedly. Both of us having no memories of Kapil Dev in the pomp, we couldn’t do more than remind ourselves of Perth 2008, when Ishant Sharma suddenly turned into a lanky, Indian Dennis Lillee. Minus the magnificent mo.

Our hopes for the future were small. Injuries, loss of form, general insanity and an unmanageable workload were slowly breaking down our brightest fast bowling hopes, or worse, turning them into workaday seamers.

Exhibit 2

You don’t expect to be woken up at 11.00 p.m. in the first stages of REM sleep by a phone call from your father excitedly asking you if you were watching the match.

Who? What match? It’s the IPL. Why would I be watching it?

He describes to you the sequence of wickets falling, barely stopping to catch his breath as rattles off the fall of wickets (1-0, 2-1, 3-1, 4-2, 5-6, 6-11!!!) and then goes on to describe the scorecard at one stage (0,4,0,0,0,)

It’s the IPL, who cares.

Then he says something about Ishant Sharma, five wickets and fast bowling and it just about registers in your brain.

uhuh. Right.

It was something else, he says. It was beautiful. He’s lost for words. There’s the sound of someone who’s seen something remarkable and amazing and is struggling to find the right words in about two different languages to capture it. He gives up after a point of time.

You go back to sleep.

In the morning, you wake up, see the scorecard, and realize that Ishant Sharma has caused complete mayhem. You want to see the highlights now.

It. Is. So. Totally. Worth. It.

Right from the start you are treated to an RP Singh special. Bounding in from over the left-armer’s over the wicket, he pitches it perfectly on the good length, on middle and off and swings it in, just enough to beat the batsman’s prod, hit him on the pads but not too far to be missing the long stump. LBW. In front.

2007. That was when we last saw RP at his best. In that match against South Africa and right through the World Cup in South Africa he bounded in, got the ball to pitch middle and off and made the ball swing both ways. At pace. He was the Next-Great-Left-Arm-Swing-Bowling-Hope after Zaheer Khan seemed to fade away and Irfan Pathan disappeared right off the map. Zaheer’s back now, and Irfan’s still gone, but there was always, and remains, hope for RP.

Next and most stunning of all, was Sreesanth bowling for the Kochi Tuskers. Bowling at full tilt and swinging the ball away from the left hander he was more than a handful on this pitch.

And he was in full control of his emotions.

Then he unfurled, undoubtedly, the ball of the match.

Bowling over the wicket to the left hander (Kumar Sangakkara), he got the ball to land on a good length on the left hander’s off stump and knocked out middle stump. Through the hard-to-discern gap between bat and pad. Kumar Sangakkara is easily one of the best left handers going around these days, but even he stood no chance against this gem of a ball.

Except, it was a no-ball.

Amazingly, Sreesanth, sporting a sane haircut and a lot less bling, showed no emotion this time as well, as he walked back to his mark and continued his spell.

Sreesanth and RP’s spells were only the set up. The opening gigs to Metallica. The hors d’oeuvres to a grand entree.

Ishant’s spell.

He was fast, he was magnificent, he was brutal.

Hair streaming behind him, his bling swaying from his neck as he ran into the crease with all the intent of a particularly vicious velociraptor. Sure, he won’t win any Michael Holding prizes for the smoothness of his run up, but the same intent and venom was evident.

In his first over, he picked up three wickets. Three balls that the best batsmen, on the best of days would have been hard pressed to keep their wickets intact to.

The first landed on a good length and took off as Parthiv Patel, all of five-foot-nothing, fended off ungainly and could only feather an edge to the ‘keeper. You may blame the pitch, but when a six-foot-five seamer lands it on a length and at 145kmph, you’d want to credit the bowler on that. 2 down for 1

The next was the mirror image of Sreesanth’s pearler. On the right handed batsman’s off stump line and curling in, beating the batsman completely for pace. Raiphi Gomez (who’s the spitting image of Salman Butt) probably doesn’t face this kind of pace in the Plate League of the Ranji or any of India’s first class tournaments, and the look of surprise was understandable. Three down.

Brad Hodge, on the other hand, is from the complete opposite end of the quality spectrum from Raiphi Gomez, having been oh-so-close to selection into the great Australian team of old. He was stunned by the full length inswinger that slammed into the base of his stumps. He looked around like a man who’d just seen a monster. Four down.

Another fast and furious one does for Jadhav in the next Ishant over as he can’t get his pads out of the way. Five down.

Next comes another pearler. On a good length, around off stump, would have been hitting the top of off stump if it didn’t take off like a rocket and aim for Mahela Jayawardene’s body. He fended off, in the same manner as Parthiv, only to get the edge to Sangakkara, in the same manner as Parthiv. Six down.

Few batsmen acknowledge that they’ve been beating by great bowling. Mahela looked down at the pitch as though some untamed demon lay there. He said as much in the press conference. But when really pressed (hah! a pun), he wouldn’t deny the brilliance of Ishant’s spell.

5 for 12 and he only bowled 3 overs.

This from the bowler who looked exhausted and jaded the last one saw him playing for India and struggling with injuries that kept him out of the World Cup.

What one saw was not just another good bowling performance. It was something glorious.

Three young, fast bowlers, sprinting into the crease, leaping in full rhythm and unleashing terrific spells of fast swing bowling. Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara will be on anyone’s list of all-time greats and they were blown away by the bowling (or at least would have been but for a no-ball).

The brilliance and the sheer visual spectacle of this still defies words.

And this was just the highlights.

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