Munaf Patel (left) and Ishant Sharma © AFP


By Nishad Pai Vaidya


It may be a batsmen’s game, but there are bowlers out there who are putting their hands up and saying, “Hang on! We, too, make an impact.”


The Indian Premier League (IPL) 2011 has witnessed some fantastic spells. It’s not just been about the wicket bursts; it’s also about choking the batsmen in their quest for runs.


Ten spells that captured the imagination in IPL4: 


1. Ishant Sharma – 5 for 12 vs Kochi Tuskers Kerala


Perth 2008 was relieved again in God’s Own Country, Kerala, when Ishant Sharma tore apart the Kochi batting line-up. Deccan Chargers were defending a small total of 129 and when Ishant, opening the bowling, created mayhem by capturing five wickets in under four overs to leave Kochi reeling at 11 for six. Deccan’ score of 129 now seemed like 200 plus! Kochi never recovered and were routed for 74.


Ishant moved the ball into the right handed batsmen at such pace that it was through by the time their bats came down. He then went on to show that he could move the ball the other way as well. The ball that he bowled to get rid of Mahela Jayawardene must rank among the best in IPL4. The batsman was expecting the ball to come in walked down the track, but the ball left him, climbed and took the outside edge of his bat. To make a batsman of the caliber of Jayawardene look completely helpless was a tribute to the ball he bowled.


2. Rahul Sharma – 2 for 7 vs Mumbai Indians


It seems in the realms of fantasy that a bowler could records such parsimonious figures in T20 cricket as Rahul Sharma did. That it came against a batting line-up that had some of the most destructive names in international cricket like Sachin Tendulkar, Rohit Sharma, Andrew Symonds and Kieron Pollard makes his effort all the more remarkable.


Sharma, not a big turner of the ball, varied his length and bounce to make life difficult for the Mumbai batsmen. His victims – Rohit Sharma and Tirumalasetti Suman – tried to clear the ground but only ended up top edging it to the deep. Mumbai scored 160 in their 20 overs, and if you do not count Sharma’s spell, they scored 153 in 16 overs (over nine runs an over) which just highlights Rahul Sharma’s brilliance on that day.  


3.  Piyush Chawla – 3 for 16 vs Delhi Daredevils


Chasing 171, Delhi looked very much in the game at the halfway stage of their innings, but all that changed once Piyush Chawla was introduced into the attack. The leggie was unafraid to flight the ball on a relatively small ground (Dharamshala) and it got him the wickets of Venugopal Rao, Sreedharan Sriram and James Hopes. Hopes and Sriram were tempted to sweep, but only managed to top edge the ball. This just showed that Chawla was able to extract the extra bounce from the Dharamshala wicket. Punjab’s hopes of making the knock-outs were kept alive as this spell ensured a comfortable win.


4. Johan Botha – 3 for 6 vs Mumbai Indians


Johan Botha used the slow surface at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium to strangle a strong Mumbai Indians batting line-up, which ended up making just 94 in their complete quota of 20 overs. As the other Rajasthan bowlers kept a tight hold over Mumbai’s scoring, Botha came in to break their back. In the space of two overs he dismissed Pollard, Symonds and Rajagopal Sathish to end Mumbai’s endeavor of putting up a decent total. The wicket of Pollard is one Botha will cherish as it was a classical off-spinner that had the batsman trapped in front of the stumps. The Botha show did not end there as he anchored Rajasthan’s chase by scoring 45. 


5. Harbhajan Singh – 5 for 18 vs Chennai Super Kings


Chennai were going great guns chasing 161 but a commanding performance from Harbhajan sealed a win for Mumbai. Many critics say that Harbhajan is no more a wicket-taker, but on this occasion he was all over the Chennai batsmen. Three of his five wickets were off flighted deliveries that teased the batsmen to go after the ball. The wicket of Albie Morkel was the biggest blow to Chennai as he was bowled attempting to sweep a ball that Harbhajan had fired into the stumps. The highlight of this spell was the way he mixed up the faster ones and the flighted deliveries. It was this very tactic that helped Mumbai beat Chennai by just eight runs and kept the critics quiet for the time being.


6. Amit Mishra – 4 for 9 vs Kings XI Punjab


Dharamshala became the showcase of Amit Mishra’s variations as he castled his way past the Punjab batsmen to pick up his second hat-trick in the IPL. The googly was his biggest weapon as three of his four victims fell to it. Ryan McClaren ended up slog-sweeping to deep square leg. Praveen Kumar and Ryan Harris paid the price for not picking it. However, the wicket of Mandeep Singh is one which every young leg-spinner should watch. Mishra tossed the ball up, inviting Mandeep to play the big shot. The ball went past his bat and the wicket-keeper did the rest. 


7. Lasith Malinga – 5 for 13 vs Delhi Daredevils


Yorker’s galore at the Feroz Shah Kotla as Malinga looked intent on crashing the ball into the stumps or send the Delhi batsmen to the hospital with broken toes. In his first over he castled David Warner with his trademark weapon and then sent back the debutant Unmukt Chand with an in-swinging length delivery. Four of his five wickets were bowled, two of which were off yorkers. He sealed the Delhi innings for 95 by picking up the wicket of Ashok Dinda off a slower ball. Idiosyncratic bowling one would say. 


8. Shane Warne – 3 for 16 vs Kochi Tuskers Kerala


I agree with Shane Watson when he says that Shane Warne can still dominate batsmen at the highest level. The bowling spell against Kochi was proof of that as one could see the batsmen dance to Warne’s tunes. He spun the ball like he has done all his life and induced the batsmen to play unnecessary strokes. Brad Hodge inside edged the ball on to his stumps as he tried to thump a ball turning away from him through cover. Ravindra Jadeja tried to sweep but hit it straight up in the air only to be caught by Warne. The wicket of Parthiv Patel would have given him immense satisfaction as he had the batsman stumped while essaying the reverse sweep. Parthiv misjudged the turn and missed the ball completely. Kochi were bundled out for 109, a score overcome by Rajasthan very easily. 


9. Munaf Patel – 3 for 8 vs Pune Warriors India


Pune Warriors were the victims of a fiery spell by Munaf Patel in the first-ever all Maharashtra Derby. Munaf bowled his trademark line of middle and off-stump and got the ball to move slightly. In his very first over he sent back Tim Paine by hitting the top of the middle stump. He then had Yuvraj Singh feeling for the nagging line outside off. Till this game, the Pune batting looked in very good touch and it required a tight spell by Munaf to restrict them to 118. People who said Mumbai did not have a support fast bowler for Lasith Malinga were left eat their words as it was Munaf’s spell that did not let Pune put up a good total. 


10. Rahul Sharma – 3 for 13 vs Rajasthan Royals


Rahul Sharma is the only bowler in this list whose spells have come in losing causes. He made a chase of 144 a little more difficult than it should have been for the Rajasthan Royals as he picked up three of the four wickets that fell and also restricted the scoring. This stretched Rajasthan’s chase to the final over. Like his spell against Mumbai, this outing was also full of the tossed up deliveries, the variations in pace, length and bounce. Rahul Dravid was one of his victims as he misjudged a short delivery and gave a simple return catch. Once again Sharma was the only shining star in a Pune defeat.


(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 20-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.”)