Dhoni the margdarshak and finisher , Rohit’s drought continues, Pollard’s ego gets the better of him and Bravo’s slow beauty

It’s what MS Dhoni did immediately after hitting the final-ball four that brought a smile. He had a decently long chat with Ishan Kishan, animatedly describing an arc in the field, and then spotted the young debutant Hrithik Shokeen, patted his back from him to commence another chat. How quickly he slipped into the margdarshak mentor role after getting the 16 runs needed off the final four.

He first smashed Jaydev Unadkat to the straight boundary, calmly hooked the slow bouncer to fine-leg advertising boards, wrested a two to retain the strike for the final ball where he dragged an attempted yorker past the short fine-leg fielder. All the Dhoni touches were visible: dragging the game to its last breath, knowing there were two overs from Unadkat left to target, first calming down Pretorius, who seemed hellbent in running out himself or Dhoni, before signing off the game in his style, with a last-ball boundary and chats with youngsters.
Sriram Vera.

Bravo’s gorgeous honey trap

It’s one of the most beautiful slower balls in business, Dwayne Bravo’s drop-dead killer. It suspends in the air, almost, just above the eye-level of the batsman. Is it at that point the batsmen, Daniel Sams in this case, know that he is about to be done? He is just about committed to a shot when that illusionary suspension happens; then it begins to drop dead. Unlike most other pace deliveries, where a batsman almost doesn’t see what’s happening be it because of the sheer pace or a nasty bouncer or a vicious cutter, here he can see his own demise and the weapon all that much clearer. So, Sams watched in what must be rapidly escalating panic, that he is not going to survive.

“For the dipper, just before release, I twist the wrist and pull down on the side of the ball. The thumb and fingers don’t work much but sort of flick it out.” he had told this newspaper. “I go for his thigh pad. What I am really looking to bowl is a full toss! The batsman feels it’s going to be a beamer before it dips so fast on him.”

Some batsmen try to complete the bat swing and hope against hope that there is some wood on leather. Some try to change their intended shot and sort of flail their bat around in what they think would be the line. Sams went for the hurt jab-down but he jammed the ground just outside the line of the ball which had sneaked through to rap his pad in line of the off stump. Trapped lbw, trapped by Bravo’s gorgeous honey trap.

Shokeen’s heartache

The Delhi youngster Hrithik Shokeen thought he had his first IPL wicket in his first over but it wasn’t to be. He had taken a low return catch, jumped, roared, glared at the batsman Robin Uthappa, who just stood there chewing his gum. Inevitably, the umpires refereed it upstairs to check the legality of the catch. Uthappa kept chewing, Shokeen seemed still confident as his team-mates huddled around him. “Oh he has dragged it along the ground,” Matthew Hayden would say on air. “You see what you wish to see,” Harsha Bhogle would pipe up. As the not-out verdict flashed on the screen, and the Mumbai fielders’ shoulders slumped, Uthappa would flash a lovely smile. Next ball, he crash-landed the youngster’s loopy delivery over the sightscreen. Shokeen would reach out for his collar, and wipe his mouth.

Pollard swallows the bait

The fielding position is appropriately called the ‘straight hit’. Rarely seen in top-level cricket but a common sight in weekend cricket. Almost bang in the middle and right in front of the sightscreen – between what would have been a very straight long-on and a very straight long-off stood CSK’s Shivam Dub. MS Dhoni placed him there for Kieron Pollard. Or rather it was a dare for Pollard as there was a long on too. In the previous over, Pollard had warmed up with a six over long-on against Maheesh Theekshana, the Lankan spinner. This time Theekshana pulled back the length a bit but the six-hitter in Pollard didn’t shy away from the challenge. The ball got the toe end of the bat and though it traveled high it dropped safely into the hands of Dube who hardly moved. Pollard had just swallowed the bait and Dhoni reeled in the line.

Duck tales with Rohit

rohit sharma has an unwanted IPL record to his name: most number of ducks. I have moved past Harbhajan Singh and Piyush Chawla to get his 14th duck when he had the softest of the dismissals in the second ball against Chennai Super Kings. It was a good ball, alright, swinging in late on the off and middle line from the left-armer Mukesh Chowdhary and perhaps it was the late inswing that did it.

A touch hesitant, uncommitted on the front foot, Rohit just swayed a bit forward and tapped the ball rather hesitantly. It looped up to mid-on and Sharma had to trudge back. In 7 games now, he has scored just 114 runs this IPL and the pressure on India’s white-ball captain continues to escalate.

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