Karthik’s nine lives; Akash Deep’s galloping celebration; Kohli’s lonely catching in the deep; Wanindu’s agony & ecstacy

With 16 runs needed from 11 balls, Dinesh Karthik squeezed a Venkatesh Iyer delivery to backward point where Umesh Yadav dived forward but couldn’t reach the catch. By the time, he was relieved with his survival, another danger awaited Karthik. For, his partner Harshal Patel was beside him, at the same striker’s end as he had run for the single. Yadav threw it at the striker’s end in reflex and missed. Only then Karthik ran across to the other end, reached, turned to put up his hand in apology at Patel. Good that Patel didn’t run himself out as he then smacked Venkatesh for two game-turning boundaries in that over to reduce the equation to 7 from the final over. Karthik smashed a six and a four off the first two balls to seal the deal. That near run out and the subsequent revival had mirrored the RCB’s chase: unnecessary self-induced trouble and the escape that took the game that should have been finished with overs to spare right down to the last over.

Catch & Catch me in you can

Akash Deep just teed off, arms spread and joy plastered on his face. After grabbing the skier off Venkatesh Iyer, who he deceived with extra bounce, he just kept sprinting, evading his teammates rushing to embrace him for their first breakthrough of the night. Finally, it was the supersonic Virat Kohli who managed to bolt the galloping fast bowler. It’s how he celebrates his wickets—reminiscent of South Africa leg-spinner Imran Tahir. Apparently, his running-the-lap celebration used to be so frantic that coaches advised him to girdle his fervour, lest he ends up burning all his energy in just celebrating. He had, in fact, taken out the celebration, but he could not resist this time. Iyer was just his second wicket in the Indian Premier League. And he did not move a single yard when he nabbed his second wicket.

Lonely under the sky-dropper arclights

Even after 14 years of international cricket and a total of 458 international matches, Virat Kohli gets a few butterflies in his stomach while settling himself underneath a skier. Harshal Patel bowled a slower bouncer to Sam Billings, forcing the batsman to mistime his flat-batted pull. Kohli positioned himself at long-on, his eyes wide open and waiting for the ball to come down. Once the catch was completed, he let out an expulsion of relief, as Billings’s contrite face captured frustration.

It was a relatively simple catch to start with. So why did Kohli still look a bit nervous? It happens to everyone actually, even the most experienced ones and the very best. The late ML Jaisimha, the former India opener who was considered a safe catcher in the deep, had a theory – “loneliness”. “The ball does all sorts of things in the air. But when you position yourself underneath a skier, you are the loneliest man on the field, with thousands of people watching. It’s not easy,” he used to say.

Cricket, played with 11 players per side, can be a lonely game.

Virat Kohli of Royal Challengers Bangalore reacts during the match between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders held at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai on the 30th March 2022. (Photo by Deepak Malik / Sportzpics for IPL)

First there was Khaleel Ahmed breaking into the Cristiano Ronaldo pose after picking up a wicket. Now, Sri Lanka leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga channeled his inner Neymar. After winkling out Shreyas Iyer, he stood statue-like in his pose, his fists by the side of the face, like a boxer taking a guard, his middle and index fingers curled in like a rap artiste. It’s one from Neymar’s wide repertoire of post-goal celebrations. This one goes by the name Hang Loose celebration, a dance move from Brazilian song Tá Tranquilo, Tá Favorável”. The Brazilian forward first unfurled during the Barcelona days and it later went on to become his most iconic style of celebration. Like Neymar, Hasaranga has many ways to celebrate wickets—the fist pump, the fist punch, both accompanied by a roar of joy. He is no football fan, but sometime last year, he stumbled on Neymar’s Hang Loose and decided to give it a spin of his own. An ersatz version perhaps, but so full of joy and fervour. The big question now: Who is gonna do a Messi to complete the loop?

Gone with the Wanindu

“What do you like? Batting or Bowling?” ‘I like both but fielding is my favourite”. That was Wanindu Hasaranga in an interview with Living cricket, a magazine in Sri Lanka. The cricketing gods served him irony. He bowled superbly to take four wickets to turn the knife into KKR but near the end of the innings, he had two mishaps. First, he was at short third man when the ball was slashed towards him. He got a bit of bad bounce and turn and the ball shot right through him and the bowler Harshal Patel gave him an anguished look. An over later, he was at deep backward point when Umesh Yadav sliced a square drive towards him. He should have expected the ball to turn from that slice but he didn’t and over ran the ball which turned and plummeted to his left to the boundary.

Butter, Cream, then the knife

Umesh Yadav had just taken out an opener with a cracker of a delivery that burst up from back of a length to take the edge when Virat Kohli got ready to face him. It was almost a reprise of the wicket-taking delivery, kicking up outside off stump but Kohli pressed across to punch it so sweetly through covers. On air, in the Kannada commentary, former India player Vijay Bharadwaj oozed “Bennay! Bennay!” (Butter!), perfectly summing up the timing on that shot as the ball slipped away ever so smoothly. Next ball was fuller and straighter, hoping for an lbw, but Kohli wristed it through midwicket for another four. Two balls later, in the first ball of his next over, Yadav went for a screamer from hard length and got to kick it up again outside off stump. This time around though, Kohli seemed more tentative and had a poke at it. Edge and gone. A cracker of a delivery to terminate his former captain’s promising start.

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