In the fourth match of the tournament, R Ashwin of Kings XI Punjab ‘Mankaded’ Jos Buttler of the Rajasthan Royals. This triggered a huge uproar among experts and cricketers, both old and new. There were outpourings of ‘Ashwin had played against the spirit of the game’ from former cricketers Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen and current England captain Eoin Morgan, while the likes of Rahul Dravid and Michael Vaughan opined that Buttler should have been warned first. And then those like Harsha Bhogle, Sanjay Manjrekar, Murali Kartik and Ian Chappell said Ashwin had been well within his rights to effect that dismissal. A reference was also made to the great Sir Donald Bradman, who in his autobiography, ‘Farewell to Cricket’, defended Vinoo Mankad, after whom the mode of dismissal has come to be named. He was the first bowler to have thus run out Austrailian player Bill Brown in 1947.
The practice of doggedly being at the crease, until the bowler completes his action is engendered in us from childhood. And these days, run outs are a matter of millimetres. So why should a batsman get that extra millimetre? Ian Chappell and Sunil Gavaskar too have said it is unfair to have this method of dismissal named after Mankad. There was also the issue of whether the ball should have been declared a dead ball as Ashwin had virtually stopped, looked and then run out Buttler. But then the rules of cricket clearly state that umpire shall call and signal dead ball when the ball does not leave the bowler’s hand for any reason other than an attempt to run out the non-striker. The ‘Mankading’ dismissal helped KXIP win when it seemed that Buttler and RR were running away with the game. RR never seemed to regain traction after that match and slid down the points table.
The tournament has also been marred by some substandard umpiring. In the seventh match between the Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians, RCB needed seven runs off the last ball to win and six runs to tie the match and take it to a super over. Umpire Ravi failed to call a no-ball when TV replays clearly showed Lasith Malinga overstepping the bowling crease. Had the no-ball been called and had the batsmen run a single, it would have brought AB de Villiers, the 360-degree batsman to the crease, with five to win on a free hit off the last ball. In a later match between RCB and KXIP in the last over, umpire Nigel Llong signalled a no-ball against Umesh Yadav when there was none and that gave an extra run, a free hit and an extra ball to the batting team. In T20 cricket, where so many games are decided by a few runs and deliveries, such lapses in umpiring could be the difference between winning and losing, a difference in making the playoffs or not and a difference in winning the trophy or not.
It also brings to the fore the point that shouldn’t no-ball determination in cricket be automatic and possibly, done by the third umpire? Especially since we now have technology at our disposal. Then, in the 33rd match of the tournament between CSK and RR, with CSK needing eight runs from three balls, the fourth ball of the last over was given a waist-high no-ball by the umpire at the bowler’s end but the call was revoked by the square-leg umpire. Although the square-leg umpire does have the final say, the ball did look high on replays, which brings us to another issue. Shouldn’t waist-high no-balls also be automatically checked by the third umpire?
The tournament this year saw the the re-emergence of Kagiso Rabada, who remains the highest wicket-taker and Mohammed Shami and Ishant Sharma, who got picked on the basis of their fine performance for India in overseas tests. Also, brothers Deepak and Rahul Chahar are doing a great job for their respective teams, CSK and MI. The young pacers, Navdeep Saini and Prasidh Krishna from RCB and KKR respectively, have impressed and are good prospects for the Indian team, going forward. The brutal and charismatic hitting of Andre Russell, Hardik Pandya and Chris Gayle was fun to watch and provided lot of excitement and entertainment. And although he has retired from all forms of international cricket, AB de Villiers is always a treat to watch.
The most striking aspect of this year’s tournament has been the explosive opening pairs of various teams. When you have ‘firecracker’ batsmen opening, it sets the tone beautifully for the rest of the match. We had Prithvi Shaw and Shikhar Dhawan for DC, KL Rahul and Chris Gayle for KXIP, Jonny Bairstow and David Warner for SRH and Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock for MI. DC, CSK, MI and SRH made the play-offs, DC being the surprise addition this year. Coach Ricky Ponting, assistant coach Mohammad Kaif and adviser Saurav Ganguly seem to have done wonders with the team. Just as the duo of Tom Moody and VVS Laxman have done for SRH over the years. One wonders why there couldn’t be similar coaching and mentoring for the Indian team.
The professional KKR got left behind this year. KXIP had the customary burst of energy at the beginning but failed to maintain the momentum. It’s a CSK Vs MI final today, deservedly. Both teams have, by far, been the best teams in the tournament. CSK is ably led by ‘Captain Cool’ MS Dhoni, a great limited overs captain. They are a very clinical team, with the seasoned Stephen Fleming as coach. The beauty of CSK this year lies in the fact that they have made it to the final playing three spinners — Imran Tahir, Harbhajan Singh and Ravindra Jadeja — and bowling them even in the powerplay. A brave move. Their success has vindicated the faith the management has reposed in them. They are a good fielding side and Dhoni has set high standards. The opening pair of Shane Watson and Faf du Plessis is solid and the wily Dwayne Bravo is one of the best all-rounders in the game. CSK is no stranger to the IPL finals. This is their eighth trip, having won the title thrice before.
MI too, has won the title three times. However, their road to previous IPL play-offs has been tempestuous, with a string of victories being pulled off at the last minute. This year, their journey has not been as dramatic. They have the world’s best bowler and the best death bowler in Jasprit Bumrah. Lasith Malinga, the Pandya brothers and R Chahar provide admirable support. The batting line-up is spruced by Quinton de Kock, Rohit Sharma, Suryakumar Yadav and Kieron Pollard. CSK appear to be the favourites but in a T20 game, you can never tell. It promises to be a fascinating contest.