If you, like many others, have been wondering what use a term like Supergiant has in cricket, Ben Stokes might just have offered a clue over the past week. After a middling start to the season, Stokes has turned out three Man-of-the-Match performances in the space of four games. While his wickets sealed his side's victories against Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore, he played one of the best counterattacking knocks in IPL history, an unbeaten 103, to single-handedly take his side home against Gujarat Lions. If Stokes the bowler doesn't get you, Stokes the batsman will.
RCB and the apocollapse
The similarity between RCB's 2016 and 2017 seasons is that their batsmen have shattered records game after game. After getting rolled over for 49 against Kolkata Knight Riders, they limped to 96 for 9 against Rising Pune Supergiant. Last year, AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli went to town on one bowling attack after another, with the latter nearly becoming the first man to finish with 1000 runs in a single season. This time around, though, the entire side has managed 1407 runs from 11 games, and a playoff berth is already impossible.
The stars align at midnight
James Faulkner celebrated his 27th birthday with a bowling spell that brought Gujarat Lions back into their game against Mumbai Indians. It was followed by spectacular fielding efforts from Irfan Pathan and Ravindra Jadeja, taking a game into a Super Over for the first time this season. At the stroke of midnight, just as his birthday was coming to an end, Faulkner got rid of Kieron Pollard in the Super Over. Rohit Sharma, whose 30th birthday was just beginning, walked in to bat and did not face a single ball. But he got an early birthday gift from Jasprit Bumrah, whose yorkers and slower balls sealed the match for Mumbai.
The time-out after the time-out
Rain arrived after seven overs of the second innings in the clash between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kolkata Knight Riders in Hyderabad, causing a delay of nearly one hour. As if the players had not had enough time to discuss tactics and arrive at a robust game plan for the remaining 13 overs, a "strategic" time-out was signalled just two overs after the resumption. The crowd, who had patiently waited for the rain to stop, had to wait again while television viewers were treated to more advertisements. The rain, thankfully, stayed away for the rest of the game, and Knight Riders crashed to a rare defeat.
Two Malingas are better than one
Curly, bouncy hair with trademark yellow streaks? Check. Dark coloured, fluorescent rimmed sunglasses? Check. Mumbai Indians jersey? Check. As the Sri Lankan paceman ran in to bowl at Rajkot, a doppelgänger was seen in the stands, with a banner that read, "Malinga Best Friend". The original, out on the park, saw him on the big screen, grinned at the striking similarity and got on with his over. At the end of the game, the two met outside the stadium, looking truly like "long lost brothers", as Mahela Jayawardene put it.
Knocking 'em over
While IPL 2017 has been blighted by poor fielding, Ravindra Jadeja took it upon himself to correct that this week. In the last over of a tense chase, as Mumbai Indians were all set to scrape through to a win, Jadeja's twin direct hits from point forced a Super Over. The first time, he aimed at the non-striker's end to dismiss Jasprit Bumrah; the second time he flattened the stumps at the striker's end to get rid of Krunal Pandya off the final ball of the game. They were audacious, breathtaking efforts that would have made Lions' fielding coach, Mohammad Kaif, proud.
The Kaul shoulder
For a while during the game between Kolkata Knight Riders and Sunrisers Hyderabad, there was simmering tension on the field, after Robin Uthappa rammed himself into Siddarth Kaul's shoulder, while completing a run. He then directed a few choice words at the bowler, who stood there, visibly bemused. It took a few calming words from umpire S Ravi and an arm around the shoulder from Yuvraj Singh, to diffuse the tension and elicit an apology from Uthappa.
Whose catch is it anyway?
Early on during his match-winning 59 against Delhi Daredevils, Uthappa skied one straight up into the Kolkata night sky. As the ball began it long descent, two men converged on it - Sanju Samson from midwicket, and Amit Mishra from backward-square leg. The trouble is, converge is about all they did. They were about six feet apart when Samson pulled out and Mishra followed suit, leaving the ball to bisect the gap between them. Samson suppressed a sheepish smile and turned around quickly to return to his position. Mishra, at least as culpable in the goof-up, directed a long, withering stare at his junior team-mate, seemingly oblivious to the fact that said team-mate was studiously ignoring him.
Calm Kane loses his cool
Kane Williamson is not a man whose on-field sangfroid is easily disrupted. It happened in Hyderabad, though. After David Warner had smashed a rip-roaring hundred, Williamson had provided the perfect late-innings surge for his side. Then, when Yuvraj Singh flicked the last ball of the innings to deep midwicket, Williamson hared down the pitch, touched down, and began sprinting back for a very gettable second run. Yuvraj, meanwhile, seemed content with the single and raised his hand to refuse the second, making a mockery of Williamson's exertion. Was Yuvraj not focused enough to realise it was the last ball, or was he concerned about protecting his average? Whatever the reason, it certainly left the New Zealand captain seething.
Quote of the week
After Royal Challengers' defeat to Mumbai Indians, Aniket Choudhary represented his side at the post-match press conference, where he was asked what he had gained from the IPL. "Gain? That I got two crores. No, just kidding", he said, before going on to explain how bowling to Kohli and other illustrious team-mates was instilling confidence in him and standing him in good stead for the domestic season ahead.
Gayle fails off the field too
Chris Gayle has been in poor form this season, with a single half-century in six games. But what will perhaps draw more ire from cricket fans is an advertisement in which he appears to justify his inappropriate behaviour with female reporters. Last year, Gayle was fined by his Big Bash League team, Melbourne Renegades, and rebuked by the tournament organisers for comments he had made to reporter Mel McLaughlin during a BBL game. Following the incident, other female journalists spoke out on how Gayle had crossed the line with them too. But Gayle has never been apologetic and is now making light of his behaviour in an advertisement for a condom brand. He says, in the ad, that he is a "bad boy to girls because they want me that way", before looking at a female model and saying, "Don't blush baby", the words that had made McLaughlin visibly uncomfortable during his notorious BBL interview.