By Nishad Pai Vaidya
Ravindra Jadeja’s brilliant all-round performance swept the Deccan Chargers towards a crushing defeat and opened the account for the defending champions. His knock of 48 rallied the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) through troubled waters. Jadeja then followed it up with a five-wicket haul that decimated the Deccan batting. Such was the power of his performance that it overshadowed a whirlwind 18-ball 43 (five sixes) by Dwayne Bravo and beat him to win the man of the match award.
Jadeja’s haul of five for 16 is the first bowling effort that has been rewarded with a man of the match award during the Indian Premier League (IPL) season five, though his batting was a contributing factor. Four days through the tournament, we have witnessed quite a few fantastic bowling performances that titled the balance of the game. However, dominating batting performances beat those sparkling efforts in the race to win the coveted award at the end of the game. It is a batsman’s game after all.
During the first game of the season, Richard Levi thrilled the spectators with big hits on a difficult pitch at Chennai. While most batsmen struggled to get going, Levi bludgeoned the bowling to all parts of the ground. His exploits overshadowed the magnificent Mumbai bowling that made life difficult for the Chennai batting in their own den. Pragyan Ojha, in particular, was exceptional as he strangled the batsmen with a tight spell of two for 17 in his four overs.
Irfan Pathan’s knock of 42 in 20 balls ensured Delhi crossed the line against Kolkata Knight Riders in a rain-shortened game at Eden Gardens. In 12 overs, Kolkata managed to score 97 – a small score, considering the power hitters in their line-up. It was Morne Morkel’s vicious yorkers that the hosts weren’t able to come to grips with. His toe crushers got rid of Jacques Kallis and Manoj Tiwary in successive deliveries and almost did Yusuf Pathan as well. He finished with figures of three for 18.
The Wankhede Stadium was a witness to an upset as Pune Warriors defended a modest total against the favourites Mumbai Indians. Ashok Dinda and Murali Karthik kept denting the Mumbai batting and checked their progress at regular intervals. They bowled in the right areas and embarrassed one of the strongest batting sides in the competition. The wicket wasn’t the easiest to bat on and MI found defending 130 difficult However, it was Steve Smith whose knock of 39 that took the award. His innings may have ensured Pune got to 129, but defending it wouldn’t have been possible without a disciplined bowling effort. In fact, Karthik added crucial runs at the end during Pune’s batting and could have been a strong contender.
Kevon Cooper made a superb IPL debut as he contributed in every possible way to the Rajasthan Royals victory over Kings XI Punjab. Had his four-wicket haul not come on the same day as Ajinkya Rahane’s 98, Cooper would have bagged every award at the presentation ceremony.
Muttiah Muralitharan’s enthusiasm for the game is unparalleled. Even though he has retired from international cricket, the zest and energy hasn’t diminished. His three-wicket haul against Delhi crippled their run chase from a position of strength. At the innings break, Bangalore wouldn’t have been comfortable with their total of 157 and would have felt that they were at least 20 runs short. AB de Villiers anchored the innings to the eventual score. Nevertheless, it was Muralitharan’s contribution that should have been rewarded as it was a good batting track and Delhi were moving smoothly when he came on to bowl.
In the days to come, let’s hope individual bowling performances such as the ones discussed above are recognised and given their due. The most memorable instance in this regard happened during IPL 2011 when Pune and Mumbai face each other. Kieron Pollard and Tirumalasetti Suman’s aggressive knocks put the target out of Pune’s reach. The target would have been even higher had Rahul Shrama not produced stunning figures of two for seven in four overs. That effort was rightly rewarded ahead of the hard-hitting displays.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)