IPL 2019 Weekly Wrap: Overlooked and overheard

After a blistering start to his IPL campaign while batting at No.5, Pant went up the order, but didn't have as much success. (BCCI)

Chennai Super Kings' ingenuity with wet ball, Ajinkya Rahane’s reading list, and insightful and funny commentary in Tamil from Kris Srikkanth & Co., The Indian Express brings to you nuggets from the week that was in the IPL.

How CSK beat the dew

At the start of the 19th over, with Rajasthan Royals looting 19 runs in the previous Dwayne Bravo over and now needing 25 from last two, the ball was changed. The new one was dry and that ended up playing a vital role as first Shardul Thakur and then Bravo came up with splendid overs to take Chennai Super Kings home.

Some of the IPL games have produced such soggy conditions by the end that it has been really difficult for the bowlers to squeeze out the wet ball with any sort of control. The teams are adapting with tactical decisions.

Careful selection of bowlers in the end overs has been a key factor. Chennai have gone with a wrist spinner in Imran Tahir and Bravo, who relies more on cutters than regular seam-up stuff. They tend to bowl out Deepak Chahar with the new ball.

L Balaji, CSK's bowling coach, explains the strategy to this newspaper. In his telling, Tahir is used because as a wrist spinner, he has more fingers on the ball and gains better control as opposed to a finger spinner.

Bravo has adapted well to the Chepauk dew. (BCCI)

"You have to be very smart with it. Of course, dew plays a role as we aren't normally used to playing after 11 pm and we do occasional practice with wet balls (balls dipped in bucket of water), but more importantly it come down to the smartness of the bowlers and the type of bowlers used. We use Imran Tahir more at the death as he is a wrist spinner and we believe he has slight advantage over finger spinners as he would have more fingers on the ball. Likewise, Dwayne Bravo uses a lot of cutters and such and doesn't grip like regular seamers do on seam, especially when he is bowling in the end overs. Little things like this; basically smartness and mental preparation. You don't want to be worried about the grip and stuff and focus on what you want to do out there - else all that worry can get you down mentally as a bowler," Balaji told The Indian Express.

A timely ball change also of course helps.

Singh in Chennai

Harbhajan Singh, a Punjabi, is having a ball with the Chennai Super Kings while the Chennai boy, Ravichandran Ashwin, is having quite a controversial time at Kings XI Punjab. In fact, Harbhajan isn't holding anything back-be it Tamil tweets, that range from the great philosopher Thiruvalluvar to movie dialogues of Rajinikanth. Or even creating a Tamil rap. A trailer is out there that has created much amusement on Tamil twitter, the reactions have ranged from bewildering bemusement to praise.

On the other hand, up north, Ashwin has been hopping through controversies - the mankading, the chat with the fourth umpire during the overthrows episode against the Kolkata Knight Riders. It's not clear what Ashwin told the umpire, but the on-field umpires stuck to their ruling of four extra runs after Robin Uthappa flicked a throw to Andre Russell in belief that the ball was dead but the umpires didn't agree. But it was Ashwin who felt the heat as the likes of Graeme Smith, former South African captain who was on commentary then, questioned his motives behind the chat with the umpire.

Harbhajan, meanwhile, is at home in Chennai. (BCCI)

Another four

After his match-defining 78 (off 27 balls) against Mumbai Indians, a cheerful Rishabh Pant was reliving his knock in a chat with commentator Sanjay Manjrekar before one of the latter’s question stumped him. Manjrekar asked the Delhi Capitals batsman whether he is fine batting at No 5, where he had batted in that match. Pant gave a long pause, had a puzzled look on his face, and finally said, "I’m glad to bat anywhere the team wants me to". It wasn’t a convincing reply.

In the next couple of games, though, he came out to bat where he wanted to. At No 4, arguably the lone vacant spot in India’s World Cup squad. He made only 25 and 11.

These are times the entire nation is obsessed with the number 4 position. There has been no shortage of opinions, suggestions and speculations. Pant definitely is trying to take that spot so are Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav. KL Rahul, Ambati Rayudu and Ajinkya Rahane too are in the face. The list doesn’t end there. Sourav Ganguly wants Cheteshwar Pujara in the mix. Gautam Gambhir has picked Sanju Samson over the rest. Some reckon Mayank Agarwal and Hanuma Vihari are worthy trying, while some believe there’s still gas left in Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina.

Seen in that context, Pant’s pause spoke louder than his words.

What’s Rahane reading …

These are tough days for Ajinkya Rahane. He hasn’t made a Test hundred in nearly two years, is practically out of the limited-over scheme and heck, is labouring for runs in the IPL, unable to arrest Rajasthan Royals rot. The ripe time for a bit of motivation, outside the field, he reckons. But it’s not the usual staple of Anthony Robbins or Napoleon or Spencer Johnson he has resorted to, but the biography of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji titled Challenging Destiny, authored by historian Medha Deshmukh Bhaskaran.

He can relate to the description of the book in Amazon. Like "destiny stood between him and his destination (read his omission from the World Cup plans, and his grouse that he didn’t adequate opportunities)". Or like "destiny does not favour him; he faces terrible odds (read his inability to rack up mind-boggling numbers to force a recall). More often than not, Shivaji found a way out of adversities. Rahane would hope for a similar jailbreak season sooner than later.

Fetch a pail of water ….

When Dustin Hoffman was once tearing himself apart through method acting for a role, Laurence Olivier, the thespian, told him in jest, "My dear boy, why don't you try acting?!"

Something similar came from Irfan Pathan on the dew ball issue. With fellow commentators talking about need to practice at midnight and such, Irfan said calmly, "Why don't they just practice with wet balls instead of bowling at midnight?"

Run that Share Auto, Imran!

One of the more fun experiences this IPL has been the Tamil commentary. Irreverential, funny, insightful too, the Tamil commentators, ranging from the witty RJ Balaji (the radio jockey turned film hero), Kris Srikkanth, VB Chandrasekar, S Badrinath, Hemang Badani, Radhakrishnan, and newly joined Russell Arnold (whose Sri Lankan accent gets a bit getting used to but whose twitter Tamil humour has no doubt pushed his case here), have been a riot to listen. Sample this bit from RJ after Imran Tahir went on one of his celebratory runs. RJ rapidly listed out all the city regions near Chepauk that Tahir could have traversed - and ended with "Tahir kanna! I will get you a Share Auto to run!"

Srikkanth has been frank in his assessments, from lightly dissing Parthiv Patel "fumbles as usual", and how Patel has smartly survived despite just having two shots - the square and cover drives, to Suresh Raina's problems when the ball climbs over his hip. With the light-hearted manner of his delivery, even the players would find it hard to take offense. The funny bits are best understood by Tamilians. Hemang Badani says: "Gayleku width kudutha, vittha kaatiduvaaru!" It's lost in translation, but the Tamilians would be cracking up this IPL summer.

They also provide us with the PJ of the week. After a commentator said the meaning of Virat is majestic in Hindi, his partner went, "Then Kohli means Cantontment? (The reference to two famous train stations in Bangalore giving us the PJ of the week).