By Nishad Pai Vaidya
The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2012 saw some spectacular moments that will remain etched in our memories for a long, long time to come.
Here are the top 10 breathtaking cricketing moments in IPL 2012:
1. Steve Smith’s Superman-like save on the boundary
The Kolkata Knight Riders-Pune Warriors India game at Eden Gardens was built up as Sourav Ganguly’s homecoming, but it was Steve Smith who came up with an extraordinary act of brilliance. As Kolkata moved towards a huge total, Yusuf Pathan attempted to clear the ground over long-on. Smith sprinted to his right and flung himself, parallel to the ground. With his out-stretched right hand, he caught the ball but realised that he was going to land outside the boundary. In a split-second decision, Smith threw the ball back into play milliseconds after he had grabbed it. It was magical. The speed of thought and timing left everybody who saw it – either live on the ground or on TV – absolutely numb in disbelief.
2. Dwayne Bravo’s fall-over shot
The Chennai Super Kings made a backdoor entry into the play-offs and unleashed their dominance immediately. Dwayne Bravo was a vital cog of that resurgence as he dazzled the stage with some brilliant batting. None could be more astonishing that the six he hit off Dhawal Kulkarni in the eliminator against Mumbai. Kulkarni pitched it full outside the off stump and Bravo went after it – not quite there to the pitch, but yet managed to test the elasticity of his body to come with never-before-seen shot. Bravo waded into the shot and was almost imbalanced and airborne when his blazing bat met the ball. The ball sailed over the ropes and spectators were left bewildered with the magic that Bravo conjured.
3. Ajinkya Rahane and Johan Botha’s jugalbandi
Ajit Chandila’s hat-trick dented Pune early and they never recovered. The match was heading towards a dull finish as Rajasthan Royals looked to wrap things up quickly. Suddenly, the whole stadium was abuzz as Botha and Rahane pulled off something stunning to dismiss Rahul Sharma. With the ball sailing towards the boundary, Botha plucked it and realised that his momentum would take him outside the boundary. He immediately relayed it back to Rahane who was in perfect position to complete the catch. Both fielders had to time their actions to perfection. Rahane had to be in perfect position to take the relay and Botha had to throw it back perfectly.
4. Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s helicopter shot off Lasith Malinga
Mahendra Singh Dhoni took matters in his own hands once his team was given a lifeline. In the eliminator against Mumbai, he produced a gem that set up an emphatic victory for his side. He was aggressive from the word go and the moment that signified that was when he played his trademark helicopter shot off Malinga – the most dangerous T20 bowler in the world. Malinga’s yorkers are lethal threats, but Dhoni swivelled back, converted it into a half volley and hit it over mid-wicket - the signature helicopter shot. With that shot it became clear that Dhoni was a man on a mission and in the zone to destroy the bowling attack.
5. AB de Villiers reverse-hitting fast bowlers
Chris Gayle may have stolen the show with some thunderous hitting, but it was de Villiers’s stroke play that mesmerised. Throughout the season, he played numerous idiosyncratic shots that defied logic. In the game against Delhi Daredevils, he rescued Royal Challengers Bangalore’s innings after an early stutter. In the slog overs, he reverse hit Irfan Pathan twice (a six and a four) in the same over. He maintained a balanced position and only wafted his bat in the other direction to guide the ball over third man. Such a shot isn’t easy to execute even against the spinners, but de Villiers managed to play it against a much quicker bowler.
6. AB de Villiers scoop off Dale Steyn
In one of the most remarkable duels in IPL history, de Villiers smashed his countryman Steyn to all parts of the ground. It was a contest between the world’s best fast bowler and one of the most destructive batsmen going around in world cricket. Deccan Chargers were pushing Bangalore towards the wall during their run chase and it was the de Villiers assault that brought them back into the game. With absolutely no fear of pace, de Villiers sat down on one knee and scooped a 142 kmph delivery over fine-leg for a boundary. Steyn could do nothing but appreciate the quality and guts of his South African teammate.
7. Ajinkya Rahane’s carved six over point off Umesh Yadav
Rahane was a purists’ delight during the entire IPL 2012. The elegance in his batting was a sight for sore eyes. As the Delhi Daredevils-Rajasthan Royals encounter neared a thrilling finish, Rahane produced a moment of absolute brilliance. With 10 required off three deliveries, Rahane deftly carved an Umesh Yadav delivery over point’s head for a six. It was an effortless shot as he merely used his wrists to guide the ball and opened the face of the bat perfectly. Rajasthan went on to lose that thriller, but that shot would remain etched in memory.
8. Ajinkya Rahane’s six fours in an over
Sceptics who said that only power could get you runs in T20 cricket were made to eat their words. His scintillating hundred against Bangalore was a classy display. There wasn’t a shot played with brute force; it was touch and grace. Sreenath Aravind bore the brunt of his delicate destruction when Rahane hit him for six fours in an over. There was no brutal hitting and Rahane relied on his natural timing to get the ball to the boundary. There were two straight drives, a cover drive and a scoop over the keeper. The sixth four was a delicately guided to third man – a shot that described Rahane’s entire approach to the game.
9. Robin Peterson’s reverse shots off Piyush Chawla
With 32 to get off 12, Mumbai looked out of the contest. However, Robin Peterson had other ideas as he took on Piyush Chawla to turn the tide in Mumbai’s favour. Off the first ball, Peterson reverse swept the ball over third-man for a four. The next shot was even more fantastic as he played switch-hit and sent the ball towards cover for another four. It was remarkable to see Peterson using such a strategy to unnerve the bowler. It clearly caught Chawla off-guard and he lost the plot from thereon. It required great courage from Peterson to try such audacious shots at such a stage in the game.
10. Chris Gayle’s five sixes
During IPL 2012, Gayle was unusually calm during the power-plays and went berserk after the 10th over mark. His knock against Pune is the prime example as he teed off in some style. With the asking rate climbing, Gayle decided it was time to unleash his fury. Rahul Sharma was dispatched for five sixes – all of zipping past like a tracer bullet (to use a Ravi Shastri cliché). It looked like child’s play as Gayle made power-batting look like a cinch. The humongous blows contested each other in distance, power and elevation. All the fielders could do was to watch them sail over their heads.
Someone rightly said, “When Gayle bats, the fielders become spectators and the spectators become fielders!”
(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)