IPL week 1 wrap: MS Dhoni gets another chance to captain a team in Pune; Virat Kohli continues to 'torture' Anil Kumble
Home fleetingly sweet home
After the unsavoury business of the Australian ball-tampering saga, it was good for cricket's moral fibre to welcome Chennai Super Kings back to the IPL fold. It has been just like old times. The Chinnaswamy stands a sea of yellow for their homecoming against Kolkata Knight Riders; CSK fans as enthusiastic as a cement mogul's son-in-law during the tight chases they so often witness; MS Dhoni, in their opening match against Mumbai at the Wankhede, given not out to a plumb LBW appeal by a sheepish looking umpire; MS Dhoni confounding his chuntering critics. Yet the Super Kings are now being forced to leave the home to which they've only just returned because of fiery protests in Chennai concerning a interstate water sharing dispute.
Pune has been named as the new venue for the Men in Yellow's remaining home games where, in honour of fallen warriors past, Faf du Plessis can at least ceremonially sandpaper his famous lollipops before licking them.
Dhoni, sacked as captain by Pune last year, will again get the chance to lead a team at the MCA international stadium, and perhaps with a wry smile on his face. Back then he was fired because team owner Sanjiv Goenka felt Steve Smith had a strategically sharper mind. Recent events have perhaps suggested otherwise.
Kohli still torturing Kumble
Virat allegedly played a key role in ousting Anil Kumble as India coach, and nearly a year on it seems he's still determined to show that the judgement of the man replaced by Ravi Shastri is fatally flawed.
With RCB sailing along at 127/2 off 14 overs against KKR, the off-spin of Nitish Rana was brought into the attack by skipper Dinesh Karthik. It was a decision questioned by Kumble in the commentary box, but the all-rounder quickly nabbed the wicket of AB de Villiers.
Kohli then took the small bit of egg on Jumbo's face and turned it into a fulsome omelette by missing a straight one the very next ball. India's talisman had lost his wicket but inadvertently, without even knowing, managed to compound his former coach's embarrassment. It's this dogged and near psychic refusal to leave his vanquished victims in peace that makes Virat such a feared leader.
Cuts to the core
There has been a dull simplicity to the way the umpires escort the match ball to the centre in this year's tournament. Either they just carry them out or pick up the ball from on top of a set of stumps set up near the boundary. This isn't the gaudy, tasteless fare we have come to expect from the IPL, which last year in Kolkata featured umpires being teased by an exotic female greengrocer, who offered them a series of red apples before giving them the white match ball. The stunt may have worked better in Test cricket, to be honest, but if you're going to tantalise someone with apples, you may as well do it in the gardens of Eden.
But back to this year's disappointing display of non-razzamatazz, the BCCI clearly need to act. Perhaps the new nut could be carried to the middle by a fleet of trained doves? Or, instead of prison, maybe Salman Khan could be made to run around the outfield carrying the match ball whilst team captains attempt to disable him with paintball guns loaded with pellets of their team colours, the one who hits him first automatically winning the toss? Just an idea.
Cricket fans have long jokily labelled a particularly huge six an "eight/ten/twelve" or whatever, but could we be on the cusp of the IPL actually implementing such a plan? Well, probably not, but no less than Dhoni mooted the idea last week, suggesting that maximums which sail out of the stadium be worth an extra two runs. Admittedly Dhoni is a man who likes to toy with the media more than the average Kardashian, but the idea was backed up by Dean Jones and Natalie 'Natmeg' Sciver, who actually suggested twelves be awarded for sixes landing more than five metres over the boundary. This is all very well, but for a competition as innovative - despite this year's lack of apples " as the IPL, surely it can strive for an even more exciting scoring system? A few suggestions:
" One handed-sixes (as displayed by Kohli on Sunday against Kolkata): Count as 10
" One-legged sixes (as displayed by Kedar Jadhav against Mumbai Indians): Count as 20
" Getting through an awkward touchline interview with Danny Morrison without walking off: Team immediately awarded the match
" Not dismissing Aaron Finch for a golden duck: Bowler withdrawn from the attack immediately
In actual fact, in this age of viewer interaction, surely the best way to decide how many runs each six is worth is to ask the public. If there's one thing we've all learned from the IPL over the years, it's that if you want a rational and unbiased opinion on an important issue, use a viewer poll.
Leg flicks and chill
Cricketers provide a lot of oddball content on Twitter. This week came something truly extraordinary, however, with one of them not doing the usual of offering a grovelling apology to the fans for a bad display or getting into a spat with a journalist. No, this week there was the bizarre sight of a player simply sensibly telling the fans that sometimes sportsmen do falter.
After CSK needed 17 off the last over against KKR and managed to notch 19, the man who bowled it, Vinay Kumar, came in for as much stick online as he had on the field. He responded, perfectly reasonably, by tweeting the following: "Hey guys take it easy, it's just a game. Where were you all when I defended 9 runs against RCB and 10 runs against Mumbai Indians!! Sometimes things do go wrong so CHILL..."
Kumar, who takes a slightly different approach to social media diplomacy to his ex-captain at Knight Riders, Gautam Gambhir, later unnecessarily deleted the tweet, with the reason unclear. It seems a bit of a shame if media officers think there is no place for players to robustly but politely defend themselves online.
The English are coming... Could Virat be staying?
Many years after Kevin Pietersen called for an IPL window for England players, the IPL is now awash with the Three Lions. After the ECB's stubbornness it seems a bit unbalanced and ironic that the only Indians currently playing in England are Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma.
The pacer, at least, has certainly fitted in nicely by not only bowling tidily for Sussex but also by getting a uncharacteristically spick and span haircut that has seen him compared to Steve Finn. If the likes of Jason Roy, Tom Curran and Ben Stokes all have the decency to turn up to the IPL looking as tattooed and bling as Hardik Pandya, it's nice Ishant has tried to similarly fit in with the rather more sedate ethos of the County Championship.
After the IPL, Kohli is also due to play first class cricket for Surrey. If Virat " or 'Kohls' as he may become known under English cricket's complex nickname system - takes to county cricket, it might be interesting to see what happens when the T20 Blast starts in early July. There are three weeks of T20 action in England before India's opening first class warm up match against Essex at Chelmsford ahead of their Test series against the hosts.
Up till now the BCCI have been steadfast in not allowing their players to participate in overseas T20 tournaments to protect the sanctity of the IPL, or at least the sanctity of the IPL's commercial value. If Virat is in form, or perhaps even out of it and wanting a confidence boost ahead of facing up to James Anderson and Co again, this firmness might be tested.