Learning experience for young captains
Game 11 of the IPL saw the league's youngest and second youngest captains walk out for the toss. Both Suresh Raina and Dinesh Karthik were elevated to the captaincy due to injuries to their respective teams' leaders, and after a high-scoring match that ebbed and flowed dramatically, the pair ended up on opposing ground. Some lovely striking from Raina was overshadowed by Matthew Hayden's extraordinary 93, but the captain's innings played a key role in Chennai winning by five wickets. Karthik didn't do much with the bat and had a shoddy bowling outfit to work with. Here's a look at a few contributions Raina and Karthik made as leaders.
Raina began by taking a leaf out of Dhoni's book of captaincy, but took it one step further. After Albie Morkel conceded nine runs off the first over, Raina brought on the offspinner R Ashwin. The idea was to cramp the left-hander David Warner, but the over cost ten runs. For the third over, Raina swapped Morkel for Joginder Sharma - the hero of the 2007 World Twenty20 final's last over - and those six balls cost nine runs. The shuffling continued, as L Balaji became the fourth bowler in as many overs. The result was a wicket, as Warner mistimed a pull shot to be gobbled up by Hayden at midwicket. Raina was aware of Warner's propensity for the pull shot, and put in a deep midwicket, regulation midwicket and square mid-on. The field placement worked a charm.
You've got to always be aware, skip
Not all off Raina's field placements were accurate. Off the sixth ball of the fifth over, Virender Sehwag banged a full ball down past mid-on for four. That should have been the end of the over, but the eagle-eyed umpire Billy Doctrove had spotted only three fielders in the ring instead of four, and duly signaled no-ball. Sehwag cashed in on the next ball, making room to carve Joginder past point and cover for four. Up came Delhi's fifty. It was a black mark for Raina, for it cost nine runs.
Catches win matches
He more than made up for his lack of tact with some sharp work in the field. Fielding at midwicket, Raina plucked two sharp chances in successive overs that ultimately made a big difference. The first catch Raina took was a sharp one to his left at midwicket, as Tillakaratne Dilshan skipped down and struck Muttiah Muralitharan very firmly. Five balls later, in Ashwin's third over, Raina led by example with a reflex catch. AB de Villiers pulled powerfully and Raina fell to his right and plucked another good catch. With those wickets, Chennai stormed back into the game.
Karthik looked in good nick, especially when using the dab and late cut to great effect with Raina not plugging third man, but he picked an ill-advised shot that led to his dismissal at a crucial period. Joginder pitched full and straight, Karthik bravely tried the paddle, missed, and was out lbw in the 17th over.
Dilshan taken to the cleaners
It's difficult to stop Hayden when he's in such belligerent form, but did Karthik err by preferring a part-timer to a specialist spinner? Hayden was looking ominous with that Mongoose bat in his hands, and instead of his specialist slow bowler Amit Mishra, Karthik called on Dilshan's part-time offspin for the eighth over. It was a bold move, but didn't work. Hayden, at this time on 41 from 21 balls, thumped three sixes in a 21-run over.
Karthik made a smart adjustment to the field for the final ball of the seventh over, bowled by the debutant Umesh Yadav. With S Badrinath to face, Karthik called the man at midwicket in closer. Yadav dragged back the length, Badrinath went for a pull, and Mishra held the catch at short midwicket.
Karthik to the rescue
This match was all about the bat - namely that Mongoose - hitting the ball and sending it over the boundary, but there was one other routine which stood out. Delhi's bowlers bowled a number of wides to assist Chennai in their chase, and Karthik found himself leaping about to gather most of them cleanly. In the 12th over, standing up to Mishra, Karthik had to move sharply to his left side to stop a horror wide delivery running away. A few moments later, when Dirk Nannes sprayed the ball down Hayden's pads, Karthik saved four byes by sidling down the leg side and then diving to gather the ball cleanly. He was at it again in the 15th over, making a clean take outside off when Yadav lost his radar. Shame for Delhi some of their fielders weren't as sharp as their stand-in captain.
Karthik gambled for the first ball of the penultimate over, with Chennai needing just 16 runs to win. He brought mid-off and mid-on up in the circle for Sangwan, and M Vijay got a boundary off the first ball of the over with a little chip over mid-on. That was a decisive shot for the visitors.
Raina the batsman trumped Raina the captain
Raina's first 20 overs as captain didn't exactly go too well, what with his side conceding 185, but he clearly took a deep breath during the brief innings change and came out to do what he does best. When Sangwan came back in the 11th over, Raina didn't allow him to settle, cleanly swinging him for six over deep midwicket. He initially appeared eager to hit out, but smartly stepped down a gear with Hayden in murderous mood. Happy to play second fiddle, Raina took over when wickets fell. First ball after the strategic time-out, with Chennai needing 30 to win from 24 balls, Raina jumped out and slogged Mishra for six over midwicket. That hit had narrowed the equation significantly, and so Raina went back to gathering singles for the rest of the over. He hit boundaries to ease the pressure, and finally sealed the match with a six, a lovely lofted inside-out shot over extra cover to finish on 49 from 34 balls. What was most important for Chennai was that Raina batted right till the end.
Jamie Alter is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo