Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 July 2019

Virat Kohli ‘bows down’ to AB de Villiers; Yuvraj Singh in the Eliminator: IPL talking points

Manoj Narayan, a writer for Wisden India, provides a review from the last few days of the Indian Premier League.

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Smells like team spirit

Something AB de Villiers said after Royal Challengers Bangalore’s win over Gujarat Lions in Qualifier 1 stood out. “It’s something special here that Virat (Kohli) and (Daniel) Vettori have built,” he said after his unbeaten 47-ball 79 took Bangalore into the IPL 2016 final. You could see why. Dhawal Kulkarni had reduced Bangalore to 29 for 5, but de Villiers proved Bangalore are like the hydra – you dismiss one batting stalwart, another takes its place. Meanwhile, Kohli led the cheerleading from the dugout – so much that the camera rarely panned to the real cheerleaders. The Chinnaswamy crowd even chanted the name of Iqbal Abdulla, whose 25-ball unbeaten 33 was invaluable in the circumstances. Once the winning runs were scored, both de Villiers and Abdulla were buried under a pile of excited teammates and Kohli later said he would “bow down” to de Villiers and believed the ‘who’s better’ question was answered once and for all. The team celebration pictures posted on social media the next day suggested real, tangible unity in the whole side. This really does smell like team spirit.

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Yuvi comes good

Yuvraj Singh has a rather curious history with the IPL. He usually claims the biggest figure at the auctions – like in both 2014 and 2015. He has a big reputation, and his arrival in the middle sends crowds into a tizzy. But he hasn’t always delivered – this is his first experience of the IPL playoffs in seven years. He made it count. In the Eliminator against Kolkata Knight Riders, he brought his experience to the fore, scoring 30-ball 44 at a crucial time to boost Sunrisers Hyderabad to 162 for 8. His return, having missed the beginning of the tournament with injury, lends invaluable steel to the middle order, which has often looked undercooked this season. Kolkata attacked him with a barrage of spin, and his battle with Kuldeep Yadav, who got the ball to turn square, was a treat to watch. Eventually, experience triumphed that particular battle, and Hyderabad prevailed by 22 runs.

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Gayle at it again

Chris Gayle was in the middle of a storm once again, but unfortunately, it had little to do with cricket. In an article in The Times magazine, he was quoted as boasting to their journalist Charlotte Edwardes that he had a “very, very big bat”, and asked her if she ever “had” a black man and been in a ‘t’eesome’. This followed on from his infamous comments to Mel McLaughlin during a live interview during the BBL, and on Tuesday, Melbourne Renegades confirmed they wouldn’t renew his contract for next season. It prompts the question. How does the IPL handle Gayle and the larger issue of sexism? Encouragingly enough, Rajiv Shukla, the IPL chairman, wasn’t impressed by the antics, and was quoted as saying by theTimes of India that “players should maintain the sanctity of the league.” Shukla went on to say he would take up the matter with the BCCI and Royal Challengers Bangalore. That would be a start.

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Star performance

Gayle, Kohli, Shane Watson and KL Rahul all fell for single-digit scores, but Gujarat still hadn’t done enough as AB de Villiers displayed yogic calmness under pressure. From 29 for 5, the maverick took charge and impressively guided the young Abdulla, seeing off the dangerous Dwayne Bravo and targeting both Dwayne Smith and Shadab Jakati to score a calculated 47-ball 79 that took Bangalore into their third IPL final. It was a master class.

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Worst display

Faced with a tricky but doable target of 163, the Kolkata batsmen struggled against an admittedly excellent Hyderabad attack. That said, Gautam Gambhir and Robin Uthappa decided to attack in the Power Play, and that gave them a solid foundation – they were 41 for 1 after six overs. They should have capitalised but apart from Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav resisting briefly, they crumbled, and the loss ensured their elimination.

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Best shot

Even as de Villiers stole the show, it was this shot from Abdulla that stood out. Having cracked two miscued fours to release pressure in the 17th over, Abdulla flicked one deftly off his pads to the square leg fence for a third consecutive four that made the result a formality. It was tickle, not a shot.

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Best quote

“I don’t think too much. He’s a thinker, I’m not a big thinker. I try and assess what’s going on but don’t think too much.” – AB de Villiers on how he’s different from Virat Kohli.

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Key game

Of course, this would have to be final. Bangalore will have their home finale and with their bowlers coming good recently to aid a massive batting line-up, they could be marginal favourites. That said, both Hyderabad and Gujarat – the opponent will be decided in Qualifier 2 on Friday – are both capable enough to beat Bangalore at the Chinnaswamy on their day. This promises a fitting finish to a cracking tournament.

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Key statistic

Virat Kohli was dismissed for a duck in the first Qualifier. Remarkably, it was his first duck in 51 T20 innings, going back two years.

Updated: May 26, 2016 04:00 AM

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