Displays of genius, a comedy act and an anticlimax
The week of Sehwag
At the beginning of the week, Virender Sehwag stood at the non-striker's end on a Kochi pitch he had already expressed apprehensions about and watched two of his partners fall to deliveries that shot along the ground. He looked at the umpire and raised his arms in protest, but he may as well have been directing the gesture towards the universe; it seemed to have conspired against him, leaving him with his back to the wall, captain of a side that relied solely on him for inspiration, playing on pitches he didn't think offered batsmen a fair chance. Sehwag's reaction was to unleash heroics that were based on something far more calculated than his legendary "see ball, hit ball" approach.
In Kochi, he set about rebuilding his side's innings before going berserk; when he was dismissed for 80, his strike-rate was 170.21, while the rest of the batsmen had struck at an average of 66.67 to that point. His effort in Hyderabad on Thursday was founded on a deliberate ploy to attack the weak links in Deccan Chargers' attack. With Delhi chasing 176, on a day when he had seen one of his spinners take two wickets off no-balls, Sehwag scored 119 on his own - the next-highest score for Delhi was 17 - and when he was done, even his eventual vanquisher Dale Steyn patted him on the back.
The fourth stooge
If Sehwag was like one of Homer's heroes, Sunny Sohal was like the protagonist of a Benny Hill sketch. His 56 off 30 balls for Deccan Chargers against Chennai Super Kings was a masterpiece of slapstick comedy. Sohal backed away, the bowler followed him, he shut his eyes, poked at the ball, and saw it run off the edge for four, even as he fell backwards onto his behind. He backed away some more, swung and missed, landed the ball between three converging fielders, and hit more runs towards third man.
Chennai's players were part of the act too. They had a choice of whether to run out Sohal or his partner Shikhar Dhawan after a horrendous mix-up between the two batsmen, but chose neither. A comedy of errors ended with Doug Bollinger missing the stumps from a foot away. As his innings progressed, Sohal started to actually middle a few. As if scared that he would lose his maverick image, he started attempting the reverse-sweep. On the third try, he missed, watched the ball go through his legs and hit the stumps. It's a surprise they didn't play a Loony Tunes melody as he walked off.
Roads to minefields
Pitches in India just can't seem to avoid controversy. Six months ago they were being accused of being flat as highways; now apparently they're not flat enough. Sehwag's tirade against the Kochi track went uncontested, but Sachin Tendulkar's comment that the Jaipur pitch on which Mumbai Indians were beaten by Rajasthan Royals was two-paced sparked a war of words that saw Shane Warne chastise Mumbai for making excuses and the Rajasthan Cricket Association secretary Sanjay Dixit tweet, during another IPL game, "Sachin gets out off a full toss. Can't blame the pitch this time."
Rajasthan were upset because they believed an official complaint by Mumbai had led to the IPL's pitch inspector attending their next home game. Mumbai, however, denied that there had ever been any complaint. After all the fuss, Warne announced his retirement from the IPL at the end of the tournament. Before he goes, though, he will face Tendulkar one more time, on May 20 in Mumbai. Hopefully, on that date, the battle will occur on the pitch.
The three sixes
Albie Morkel has faced just 35 balls in this IPL, but it took just three for him to provide one of the most explosive passages of play of the tournament. Tired pitches have meant this edition has seen less power-hitting, and while the more even battle between bat and ball has been enjoyable, the inner child in all of us was crying out for someone to come in and just thwack it. Morkel appeased the longing with three hits over long-on, one bigger than the other. The first went into the crowd, the next almost made it to the roof, and the third did. At 114 metres, it was the biggest hit of the tournament.
John Doe finds his identity
If you asked the question "Who is Rahul Sharma?" of an Indian a week ago, the answer would most likely be: "my next-door neighbour". Special credit must go then to the tall Pune Warriors bowler for creating an association between the art of legspin and a highly common name. His figures of 4-0-7-2 against Mumbai Indians were the most economical of the tournament and the performance created enough of a buzz to see his name trend on twitter in India. His ability to get extra bounce and the topspin he imparts on the ball reminds one just about enough of Anil Kumble to help his popularity, particularly at a time when India's great legspinning hope Piyush Chawla is being tonked for nearly nine an over in the IPL. Unfortunately though, despite his ESPNcricinfo profile getting 185,342 hits in the last month, it still appears somewhere at the bottom of the first page when you search for Rahul Sharma on Google. How he must wish he had a name that could be pronounced with a dramatic emphasis at the end like Paul Valthaty.
Dada's anticlimactic return
Never has the news of injuries been greeted with as much enthusiasm as during this IPL. Every time a player dropped out, the first question was whether he was bought for more than Sourav Ganguly's $400,000 base price, and could therefore be replaced by Ganguly. Finally, Ashish Nehra obliged, and Ganguly joined Pune Warriors. He had not been at the franchise two days, though, when Pune effectively ruled themselves out of contention with a seventh-straight loss.
Will someone check the rule book please
Much as the IPL may seem like a free-for-all, the matches do in fact abide by the laws of cricket, but there were two occasions in the week when the ambiguity of some of those laws was exposed. Vinay Kumar had a delivery seemingly slip out of his hand and bounce halfway down the wicket. The batsman, Delhi's Yogesh Nagar, came down the track, waited for it to bounce again and hit it for four. Mahela Jayawardene protested, and if the umpire thought the ball had slipped he could have agreed with Jayawardene and declared it a dead ball. If, on the other hand, he thought it was a deliberate act by the bowler, and if the ball had bounced a third time, he could even have given a no-ball.
In Kings XI Punjab's match against Mumbai Indians, Ambati Rayudu chose to cool his heels a while after making 51 in Mumbai's innings. As soon as wicketkeeper Davy Jacobs got injured though, Rayudu was suddenly fit enough to come on and keep, and Punjab skipper Adam Gilchrist was visibly miffed. The rulebook says players who have been off the pitch for more than eight minutes must wait as much time before bowling, but it doesn't say anything about keeping.