The hitherto impregnable IPL bio-bubble has been breached. The virus has managed to sneak into its secured environment. The week has begun with Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier testing positive for COVID-19 and while the others in the KKR squad have returned negative tests, the IPL bubble is definitely panicky right now. With the new week beginning on a scary note, let us hope for the best and look back at the week that was.

The hitherto impregnable IPL bio-bubble has been breached. The virus has managed to sneak into its secured environment. The week has begun with Varun Chakravarthy and Sandeep Warrier testing positive…

We have come to the end of a very significant week in the IPL. This was the week when we reached the halfway mark of the league stages, the caravan shifted to Ahmedabad and Delhi and the most significant thing that happened in the week was the ouster of two captains – one was medical, the other tactical. Let us talk about all that and more in this week’s hits and misses.

HITS OF THE WEEK:

1. Hetmyer comes along:

Chasing 172, Delhi were looking down the barrel after 16 overs with the asking rate touching 14, Pant struggling to get going and Hetmyer, who had hardly had a hit in the tournament, alongside him. Patel’s 10-run over shot the required rate up to 15.33 and when Jamieson came on to bowl the 18 th his figures read 1/11 in 3 overs. Hetmyer took him apart with 3 sixes and brought down the equation to 25 off 12. He brought up his fifty off 23 balls in the next over and with 14 needed off 6, Siraj just about managed to defend as DC fell short of 1 run. That was largely because Pant had the bulk of the strike in the last over and he had just not been able to connect. However, Hetmyer had shown that if given the proper opportunity, he can be a game changer for DC.

2. 4 4 4 4 4 4:

One thing we have seen last week is that the Delhi wicket has produced runs and batsmen have struggled to get the big totals in Ahmedabad. So when birthday boy Russell powered KKR to 154 against DC, we were in for an interesting chase. KKR fans were feeling that a couple of early wickets and the defense would be on. The balloon burst in the first over itself. Shivam Mavi, who had bowled an extraordinary spell in the previous game, was hit for 6 boundaries by Shaw and he single-handedly not only deflated Mavi but all chances of KKR’s defense.

3. Replicating Sir’s talismanic performance:

In the news for a banter and some trolling on social media, a relatively unknown entity, Harpreet Brar came in to replace Arshdeep Singh, who had done pretty well thus far for Punjab. Slotted as a bowler, he had to come out to bat as early as in the 15 th over with his team in a position from where one mistake could have made them end with a way below par total. He stitched an unbeaten 61-run stand with his captain contributing 25 off 17 and helped Punjab post 179. Cut to the defense. Kohli greets the young Brar with a six off his first ball and a four off the first ball of his next over. Despite that, Punjab were strongly placed after 10 overs with the required rate almost touching 12 but with a line up which has Kohli, Maxwell and de Villiers, you are always on the edge. Having given away 17 runs in his first 2 overs, he gets another opportunity to bowl. Kohli steps out and misses a shortish ball to lose his leg stump. First IPL wicket for Brar but the story didn’t end there. A Maxwell in red hot form lost his off pole to a delivery that turned off the very next ball. De Villiers averted the hat-trick but couldn’t stop Brar from bowling a double wicket maiden. The fairy tale did not end there either. First ball off his final over, AB hit him straight to extra cover and from 0/17 in 2, Brar finished with 3/19 in 4. He further took a good outfield catch to round off a brilliant all round and Man of the Match performance.

4. El Classico lives up to the hype again:

Some things never change. An MI-CSK classic in the IPL is one such thing. They just keep churning out cliffhangers all the time. After being put into bat, CSK lost Gaikwad early but Moeen Ali and du Plessis put on a brilliant century stand to lay the platform for a good total. However, they lost Ali, Faf and Raina in quick time, the last two in a single over from Pollard. Just when it seemed that CSK will have to settle for a score of 180, Rayudu decided to come to the party. He smashed 4 fours and 7 sixes to get to 72 off just 27 balls and took CSK to 218. MI started the run chase well but they lost 3 wickets in 3 overs and by the 12 th over, the required rate had shot up to 15.63. Pollard, batting on 3 off 5 had had enough of a sighter.

He smacked 3 sixes off Jadeja in the 13 th over, 2 off Ngidi in the 14 th and one six and 3 fours off Thakur in the 15 th over, the last of which brought up a 17 ball fifty. With 48 needed off 18, it was still a tall ask. Thakur went for 17 and MI needed 31 off 12 which changed to 16 off 6 after Curran gave 15 in the penultimate over. However, he had picked up two wickets to expose the tail. But the good thing for MI was that Pollard had the strike for the last over to be bowled by Ngidi. He denied a single off the first ball, smacked two fours, denied a single again and hit the penultimate ball for a six to leave 2 off the last ball. Bizarre field setting off the final ball allowed the batsmen to come back for two and clinch a last ball thriller to record MI’s first successful 200+ run chase.

5. How will you keep him out?

If last week was about du Plessis and Gaikwad, this week has to be about Shaw and Dhawan. They have consistently put up breezy partnerships at the top and given DC rollicking starts. Dhawan has brilliantly switched from being the aggressor to the accumulator as per need. When Shaw was striking at 200 against KKR, Dhawan was happy to nudge around at a run-a-ball. When Shaw departed after a cameo against Punjab, he was happy to be the aggressor to allow Smith to settle in. His maturity has made run chases easy for Delhi and has ensured that he has the Orange cap back with him. If Dhawan continues with his form, how can he be kept out of the T20 side?

MISSES OF THE WEEK: 

1. Warner’s agony:

When you think of Sunrisers Hyderabad, you think of how Warner created a champion team of the limited resources he had and how he led from the front in the team’s journey to IPL glory. However, this season he has not looked the part. He has somehow failed to fire as a batsman and there have been indications that he has not had the liberty as a leader either. After his agonizing half century against CSK where he failed to kick on, he was not only stripped of the captaincy but also left out of the eleven for the game against RR. How often do you see Warner fit and available for selection but still not playing?

2. KKR fail to kick on:

While KKR started the week with a win, they have lacked the bite as a team. There are far too many concerns with respect to team composition and strategies. They have just not been able to kick on as a unit. The middle order is circumspect, the top order is under scrutiny after a good start to the tournament and the finishers are yet to show consistency. They would have wanted to start the next week afresh but the COVID scare might just make matters worse for the team.

3. Nicholas Pooran’s ducked up:

Pooran is known for his ability to come up with knocks that blow people’s minds. His week started with a sedate run-a-ball 19 and in the next game he got a duck. The most dreaded thing for a batsman is to be dismissed for a duck. For Pooran, ducks have come in all varieties. So far in this edition, he has got a diamond duck – 0(0) against SRH, a golden duck – 0(1) against RR, a silver duck – 0(2) against CSK and if we can call it so, a bronze duck – 0(3) against RCB recently. With so many ducks to his name, he was subsequently dropped in favour of Dawid Malan.

4. Harshal’s streak ends:

Harshal Patel has had a dream run in this edition of the IPL. Starting with 5/27 against Mumbai in his first game, he got a streak of picking up at least 2 wickets in every game thereafter. However, the streak ended after 6 games when he went wicketless for the first time against while going for 53 runs in his four overs. When RCB bowl first, he usually bowls the last over. However, the last two 20 th overs bowled by him have yielded 59 runs. The move for RCB from Chennai to Ahmedabad seems to have not gone well for him.

5. Captaincy shuffle:

Change of personnel halfway through a tournament as huge as the IPL is something that doesn’t work more often than not. However, sometimes teams are forced to take tough calls because of situations. When these situations are enforced because of medical conditions, it is still okay but how good is it to make these changes at a tactical level in the middle of the tournament? We saw a couple of instances in the same week, one of each. KL Rahul had to be hospitalized after pain in the abdomen and with him set to be undergoing an appendicitis surgery, we might see Mayank Agarwal leading Punjab for quite some time now. On the other hand, just before this happened, SRH released a statement saying that Williamson will be leading the side for the remainder of the tournament with immediate effect. To add to it, Warner was dropped in the subsequent game. For somebody who has done so much for the franchise, I am pretty sure the management could have found a better way of dealing with him.

Right, tonight would have been exactly half the tournament but with the match between KKR and RCB postponed, several grounds men in Delhi and CSK support staff reportedly testing positive, and the virus entering the bubble, the future of IPL 2021 is treading on thin ice. While I hope that the infection doesn’t spread anymore and the tournament goes to the finish line, I can’t help but prepare myself mentally for things going South from here on. Let us wait and watch.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)

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