As we near the halfway mark – 27 out of 60 matches – of the 2017 edition of the Indian Premier League, it’s a good enough time to do a little stocktaking.
I was wondering how to go about it. I can’t claim to have watched every moment, every ball and every hit, and thrill and spill and commentary shrill. No. Far from it.
But the stories – yes, those aren’t too difficult to follow, or tell, especially with pictures giving out so much more than just what’s in them.
So here are some of them, let’s say ten, in no particular order of preference.
Friends Season 10, someone? After the rather acrimonious Test series, Steven Smith said sorry. But Virat Kohli looked like the boy in school whose tiffin had been stolen while he was on a toilet break and said he was never going to be friends with some Australian cricketers again. He didn’t mention Smith specifically. But he must have been talking ‘katti’ with Smith. Who else? Change those colourful shirts for the whites of Test cricket and chances are the two young men won’t be looking so brothers-in-armsy, but for now, in keeping with the spirit of the season, this is it.
All right, anyone here who doesn’t like Yuvraj Singh, who doesn’t think back to Nairobi 2000 or Lord’s 2003, or Kingsmead 2007 or the entire 2011 World Cup, without a bit of joy? No? Thought so. He isn’t who he was any more and might never be. But at this edition of the IPL, I have loved what I have seen of Yuvraj. He has looked cool – that new hairstyle helps – and every bit the senior statesman he is in the Sunrisers Hyderabad side. Big brotherly even.
There is a pile of photographs of him with the youngsters, but this one does it for me more than any other – with Rashid Khan celebrating a wicket. This is followed by a little chase as he runs off with Rashid and the other Sunrisers boys after him.
So the Goenkas – Harsh, at least – might not think too much of our man from Ranchi, but the respect he still commands, even from his seniors in the Indian team, the ones who got there first and ended up being led by him, is something to see and note. Some things are worth arguing about and debating – Dhoni’s class and ability are not among those.
Does he still have enough in the tank to keep doing it, like he did the other night against Hyderabad, is something no one – possibly not even Dhoni – knows. But it’s clear that not everyone can do what Dhoni can, even now, whether his bosses at Rising Pune Supergiant (what do you say of people who call their team that?) want him to or not. Waiting for Dhoni to fail – yes, that one’s going to be quite Godot-like.
I love this photograph. This is Pratyush Singh, a 22-going-on-23 batsman from Dhoni’s state, Jharkhand, but not from Ranchi. He is from the densely forested and very beautiful (though hot) town of Hazaribagh. He hasn’t played in IPL 10 yet. One hopes he does, at some point.
But this picture sums up the IPL from the point of view of the young, small-town man with stars in his eyes for me. And there have been so many of them. Pratyush is part of the Delhi Daredevils camp. Bib on, ferrying drinks, and doing what spare players do. And earning more money than he might have if the IPL hadn’t happened. And dreaming. Big.
This is another photograph I really like. Once upon a time, when he burst on to the scene in Kolkata, Manoj Tiwary was referred to as ‘Chhoti Dadi’ – the Bengali way of saying it would have been ‘Chhoto Dada’, with Dada, or Dadi, being Sourav Ganguly’s nickname. Tiwary was also called ‘KP’ by friends, because, it was felt, his batting style was a lot like Pietersen’s.
Pietersen’s international career didn’t quite end the way he would have expected, but it’s not a patch on the way Tiwary’s career has gone. One of the many almost-men of Indian cricket, Tiwary was a little hard done-by when he didn’t quite get the chances he might have when at his peak. And then the form went south. He has made a strong comeback, though, and while a place in the Indian team might be far away, he is starting to get back in the reckoning. There’s a lot in the careers of those two men that are worth discussing. Even if I don’t like the idea of a commentator, even if it’s KP, chatting with a player when he is in the middle of action.
You’ll likely include them both – Hashim Amla and Kane Williamson – in a list of best modern-day batsmen, but you’d include them more for their classical batsmanship, their very anti-T20 style of batting. They can do the fast track too, of course, as they have shown during the IPL. And it’s the understated celebration – yes, that’s what is so endearing. In this era of pumping fists and swinging bats and, occasionally, cuss words, isn’t this nice to see?
The IPL is a time for old mates – friends-turned-foes-turned-friends-turned-whatever – to catch up. This photograph has two people with 1217 Test wickets between them and the other two with 27,735 Test runs combined. Two of them would make most World XIs, of all time even, and the other two wouldn’t be too far behind. The IPL might be pyjama-electronica cricket, but what the heck! Not to forget, all four of them were at the same place as on this occasion, the Wankhede, back on April 2, 2011.
The best face-fuzz of the tournament – here you are.
Cricket in the time of social media overdose (and that’s putting it mildly) – here’s a sneak peek.
This will, most certainly, go down as one of the great catches.
A top-edge off an attempted pull that goes very, very high will invariably swirl big time on its way down. This one from Mandeep Singh did. It also didn’t just go up, but long, almost to the boundary behind the wicketkeeper. But Wriddhiman Saha, a catcher if there ever was one, ran back, back, back, within sniffing distance of the advertising hoardings, got under the ball, realised it was moving away from him, and put in a dive to pouch it. You might prefer the ones where the fielder flies in and out and in the boundary rope, but I’ll take this one.
This is No. 11. You know, if you can have a trilogy in six parts, why not a Top 10 in 11?
This must make the list, if only for the expression on Gautam Gambhir’s face as he spills it. Brilliant! He recovered to catch it? This part is better.
And why not a Top 10 in 12 parts then?
Spirit of sportsmanship? Yes, sir. This is after the sunhat-trick thingy. A time for love and respect and all that …
That’s that then. Maybe another such photo blog if enough of you like this one. Cheers!