IPL 2023, PBKS vs KKR emotional rollercoaster: Sam Curran justifies price tag, Punjab youngsters play like Kings, as lights go out on Kolkata

Curran makes the difference

Last year’s T20 World Cup has made a world of difference to Sam Curran’s standing (though he can’t be called tall, in a physical sense). He has been part of the IPL before, but wouldn’t have dreamt of being the most expensive buy, as he was in December’s auction. Punjab Kings broke the bank to acquire his services, and he repaid some of the faith in the first match itself.

An unbeaten 26 off 17 balls at the death, including two sixes, made up for a rather conservative start and took the home team to a sizeable total.

Curran then opened the bowling and though he went for 38 runs in his three overs, he made the potentially decisive impact getting Kolkata Knight Riders’ match winner Andre Russell caught in the deep, when the West Indian seemed to be taking off in pursuit of the tall target, just before rain intervened.

Curran was the go-to man for England when they became world champions last year, and is known to step up to the plate at the opportune moment. He did so after getting hit in his initial overs. His franchise wouldn’t mind such big-moment performances from the short-statured all-rounder in the games to come.

Youth takes on experience

IPL doesn’t respect reputations or experience. Youngsters are always keen to take down stalwarts to make a name for themselves. Prabhsimran Singh isn’t a household name in the game, Umesh Yadav and Tim Southee are, but it didn’t stop the 22-year-old from taking on the accomplished duo at the start of the game.

When Yadav strayed on the pads in the first over, Prabhsimran flicked it nonchalantly over deep square leg for a maximum.

When Southee, now the New Zealand Test skipper, came on to bowl the second over, he was greeted by a flicked four to fine leg when he strayed in line. The next ball, the right-hander advanced down the pitch to smash a perfectly decent one past mid-off. That’s not all, Prabhsimran was audacious enough to walk down the track again and this time hoick Southee way over cow corner for a six. The veteran would have rolled his eyes contemplating the impetuosity of youth.

The cameo didn’t last long as Prabhsimran was strangled down the leg side on the last ball of the second over. But his 23 off 12 balls had given the home side the early impetus, that forced new Kolkata Knight Riders captain Nitish Rana to bring on his bowling trump card, Sunil Narine, on as early as the fifth over, but it didn’t stop the carnage.

– Tushar Bhaduri

One for the islanders

The number of Sri Lankans in the IPL has plummeted in recent editions, which is a reflection of the dwindling fortunes of the national team. There are no Malingas, Sangakkaras, Jayasuriyas or Jayawardenes any more. The islanders now even have to go through qualifiers to make it to the 50-over World Cup in India later this year.

Bhanuka Rajapaksa is typical of many current Lankan players who, despite being full of talent, fail to make a sustained impact at the top level due to poor fitness or lack of proper application.

But the left-hander started his IPL with an intent to take no prisoners. Up against IPL legend Sunil Narine inside the Powerplay, Rajapaksa first advanced down the track to hit him over the offside, and then moved to the legside to carve a similar shot, for two fours. The Lankan then hit the West Indian straight back for a six. Shardul Thakur was thumped down the ground for a boundary, and then helped over the fine leg fence for a maximum.

To show that he was not only about power, Rajapaksa brought out the sweep shot as well as a deft glide to third man to baffle the bowlers and the rookie KKR captain.

– Tushar Bhaduri

Lights out

With all the administrative alacrity (one would hope) to speed up play and penalise teams for being tardy, sometimes it’s just inefficiency from organisers that brings the game a bad name. One would have thought that someone would have checked the floodlights as they would have been required in the second half of the game. No such luck.

The players had come onto the field and were ready for the restart, but were made to wait for the lights to come on. After waiting for almost 10 minutes, the umpires took the players off the field. It certainly isn’t a good look for the most high-profile and prestigious T20 league in the world, if such routine organisational requirements are not taken care of.

The ICC has, of late, seemed to have taken up the problem of slow play with some urgency. Fielding sides are penalised by having fewer fielders outside the circle if they don’t bowl their overs within the stipulated period. Wonder who will be punished, and how, in this instance. With another match due to start in less than two hours, it makes it tricky for broadcasters also. The rain that came with four overs left in the chase meant the unscheduled delay ended up preventing a full match and left a sour taste in the mouth. No doubt the BCCI, the host franchise and local state association have a case to answer.

– Tushar Bhaduri

All in a day’s work

Arshdeep Singh would think he had seen it all during his still-nascent career at the top level. Vilified for dropping a catch in a game against Pakistan, the left-armer has nevertheless done himself no harm when he has had the ball in hand for India, even in the rarified atmosphere of the T20 World Cup. No wonder he is known to express his feelings in poetic fashion on social media platforms.

Coming on to bowl the second over for Punjab Kings against Kolkata Knight Riders, Arshdeep had facing him someone he would have known very well – his state captain Mandeep Singh.

Arshdeep is quicker than one thinks and when he dug the first one in short, Mandeep didn’t quite control the pull shot and holed out in the deep, prompting a Shoaib Akhtar-like aeroplane celebration from the bowler, signifying that the bowler quite enjoyed this dismissal. Next batsman Anukul Roy thumped him over mid-on, just short of being a six, but Arshdeep had the last laugh – another short ball, which Roy was late in latching on to, resulting in a dolly catch at midwicket inside the circle. Only a stare at the departing batsman sufficed for Arshdeep this time.

He came on towards the end to get rid of the well-set Venkatesh Iyer to snuff out KKR’s hopes.

– Tushar Bhaduri

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