Rohit Sharma has an unwanted IPL record to his name: most number of ducks. He 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.
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.
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.”
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 to commence another chat. How quickly he slipped into the margdarshak mentor role after getting the 16 runs needed off the final four.