IPL 2023 emotional rollercoaster: Varun Chakravarthy, an around the stumps hero, Venkatesh Iyer’s travails and Shardul Thakur’s Midas touch

Iyer’s travails

Venkatesh Iyer’s back-foot proficiency comes with a rider. While he is an instinctive player of the horizontal bat strokes, rides the bounce, maximizes his height to stand tall and upright the crease, scores most of his runs with pulls and cuts, short-pitch bowling at high pace rattles him. It was his undoing in the few international games he had donned the national stripes, and it was exposed again by the beanpole South Africa quick Marco Jansen. Straightaway, he purchased extra bounce, and made Iyer fend awkwardly at a lifter from back-of-length. The ensuing outside edge eluded the first slip. But Iyer was frazzled, and he responded with a shimmy down the track next ball and worked the ball off his hips for three runs. A Jason Roy single brought Iyer back to strike and Jansen ripped a bouncer into his neck. Iyer froze, then tried to hook, more like a retaliatory measure than a shot of intent. His alignment was in fine mess—body losing shape, head wavering, eyes shut and bat held diagonally. He seemed purposeless, though the bouncer was all purpose and seamed into him and took his glove to the keeper. If this IPL has been about rediscovery, his weakness against high pace remains.

Twinkle-toed Rinku

Rinku Singh has twinkling feet. The ball from Mayank Markande was too slow that it took an eternity to land. But Rinku kept charging, until the ball was in his arc. Then he stopped and stretched his arms to swing the ball over Markande’s head. It was a googly, to go by the release and seam-position, it drifted away a bit from him, but he was crystal-clear about his intention and kept his shape as got behind the ball and thumped it towards the sight-screen. It’s his twinkling feet that helps him get into good position when unfurling the scoops and ramps as well.

Tigerish fielding

Nowhere did the urgency to push for a knockout spot, drifting away from Sunrisers Hyderabad with each passing game, reflect than on their fielding. Captain Aiden Markram took a stunning catch to end Nitish Rana’s rampage. He backpedalled 20-odd yards and lunged sideways, stretching every sinew of his, to pull off a stunner. In the last over, the hitherto invisible Abdul Samad dived forward to pocket the mistimed slog of Rinku Singh, another dangerous batsman. The catch T Nararajan took to snuff a blossoming Andre Russell knock in the bud, too was not straightforward, as the ball floated in the air and Natarajan had initially misjudged its trajectory. The left-arm seamer then effected a run Harshit Rana out in the last over.

Inheritor of unfulfilled renown

Rahul Tripathi is an exquisite stroke-maker, just that his numbers don’t fully capture his potential. Yet another promising knock travelled the glorious inheritor of unfulfilled renowned lane. His 9-ball 20 featured some outrageous strokes, including a dexterous scoop, a brace of thunderous cover drives, where power amalgams with grace, and a delightful flick. And then, as is his wont, he chose to self-destroy. He had just plundered 14 runs off two legal Andre Russell deliveries. The required run-rate was manageable, the target of 172 was not too steep, and wisdom suggested him to calm down. Yet, he could not resist to scoop Russell. Of all shots, scoop, when there is no pressing need for it. He shuffled across, found decent timing, but the fielder was perfectly stationed to gobble up the catch. He shrugged his head in dismay, as he had a hundred times in his career. Almost every time he gets out. Then, this is his start-stop career in a nutshell, and he departed in an all too familiar way. Gorgeous 20 runs, but just 20 runs after all.

Shardul’s Midas touch

The shoulders were drooping. Faces getting anxious. The trusted spinners looking deflated. The Sunrisers pair Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram were purring along, taking the match away from Kolkata, without embracing too many risks. Then just like that Nitish Rana summoned Shardul Thakur. He ambled in. He fired a full-length loosener on the fourth stump. Klaasen’s eye lit up and he shoved the ball towards the direction of midwicket. But he did not get the required timing or elevation and ended up in the palms of Andre Russell. From nowhere, KKR found a ray of hope. And as often, the hope-giver was Thakur, with the most ordinary of deliveries.

Varun, an around the stumps hero

Varun Chakravarthy struck the statue pose after defending nine runs in the last over. His night had begun horridly with Aiden Markram cutting him for fours in his first over. He struggled to grip the ball, maybe had to blame the intermittent spell of drizzle for it. The redemption, though, began from the third ball of his third over, when he decided to go around the wicket to the right-handed batsmen. No more run was scored off the over. The ploy worked, he would most slant the ball across them, flattish to come down the track and with no room to cut. Abdul Samad, anyway, is no expert cutter. He would then bring the odd ball back into the pads.Still, Chakravarthy was something of a left-field choice to bowl the last over, more so as rain had begun to pound and spinners would struggle to grip the ball. He continued bowling from around the stumps, compressing Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Samad for room to free their arms. A shortish skidded foxed Samad into mis-slicing in the deep. And he was too good for Bhuvneshwar and Mayank Markande. SRH needed a six off the last ball, and Chakravarthy shrewdly flung a quicker one that clocked 107kph, and from which Bhuvneshwar managed just a run. That is he conceded just two runs off his nine balls from around the stumps.

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