IPL 11

How Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s ‘Chaos Theory’ derailed KXIP’s playoff charge

CSK’s tactics ensured a top-two finish and allowed Royals a chance to celebrate an unlikely place in the playoffs.

Before the last set of fixtures in the league stage of the Indian Premier League began on Saturday, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab had the most daunting tasks ahead of them to make the top four. By the time, MS Dhoni flipped the coin in Pune in match No 56 (well, actually a few minutes later), it came down to those teams for the fourth spot.

As Royal Challengers Bangalore and Mumbai Indians failed to make their net-run-rate advantage count, R Ashwin’s men had a chance turn their season around and they needed to defeat Chennai Super Kings by 53 runs to sneak through.

But what transpired in Pune was a combination of the bizarre and, ultimately, the expected as CSK ensured a top-two finish and allowed Royals a chance to celebrate an unlikely place in the playoffs.

Not your usual T20 game

Right from the word go, it became evident Punjab’s task was not going to be an easy one. The pitch in Pune had a tinge of green to it and was reminiscent of the track that saw Sri Lanka stun India in a T20I at this very venue in February, 2016. There was plenty of assistance for the seam bowlers that night, as Sri Lanka bundled India out for 105, and it seemed the story was going to be similar for the Punjab batting lineup as Deepak Chahar and Lungi Ngidi provided sights that wouldn’t have been out of place in a first session of a Test match at Lord’s.

There was a swing, there was deviation off the pitch, there was bounce and good carry on offer. And it made for fascinating viewing. KXIP’s best chance of a 53-run win was to put significant runs on the board and they needed their two best batsmen, Chris Gayle and KL Rahul to score the bulk of those. As it turned out, Gayle went for a duck in the second over, gloving one to Dhoni down the leg side and walking, as the umpire didn’t seem like he was going to give that out.

And a couple of overs later, Ngidi bowled perhaps the ball of the tournament so far to arguably the best batsman of this year’s IPL, as Rahul shouldered arms to a good length delivery that nipped back in sharply and knocked back his off stump. In between these two dismissals, Aaron Finch got one that seamed away from length and took his outside edge, only for Suresh Raina to take a sharp catch, head-high at wide first slip.

Just like that, Punjab were down to 16/3 in the powerplay. And their three best batsmen succumbed to the liveliest pitch that we have seen in IPL this year.

To add to the bizarre happenings, later in the innings, Ngidi even made Dhoni go for DRS when the skipper didn’t even appeal for a caught behind off Ashwin. How many times have we seen that happen? Ask Kuldeep Yadav, who was once not even met with eye contact when he thought an LBW decision was worth a review as Dhoni was already ready for the next ball. On Sunday though, Dhoni went ahead and reviewed with a cheeky smile on his face, and lo and behold, Ngidi was right. He had heard a knick that everyone seemed to have missed.

This was not a night that was going according to anyone’s script.

Dhoni goes for ‘chaos’

Thanks to a fighting Karun Nair half century (again, unexpected) that came about six matches late for KXIP, they managed to cross 150 on the night. (Imagine Nair finding form in the middle phase of the season when Ashwin’s men were woefully over-dependent of Rahul and Gayle. Oh, well.) The equation was now clear. Dismiss the best batting lineup of this IPL for less than 100.

And for a while there, the KXIP bowlers made that seem a possibility.

Just like Chahar and Ngidi earlier, Punjab’s seamers got the new white ball to talk. If Ngidi bowled the perfect inswinger to the prolific Rahul, the equally prolific Ambati Rayudu got the perfect away-swinger which he could only edge behind. To get that big breakthrough early in the run-chase would have been a shot in the arm for Punjab, and they had the bowlers in their rank to cause more trouble. Wickets of Faf du Plessis and Sam Billings soon followed – both Test match dismissals. It even prompted Harsha Bhogle to comment excitedly, “what a session of cricket this has been,” and whether intentionally or otherwise, he captured the essence of what was happening. Billings dismissal, especially – where Ankit Rajpoot got the ball to straighten from a good length and hit the top of off stump – would have made Dale Steyn, the red-ball bowler, proud.

That’s when Dhoni decided it was time to add some ‘chaos’ to the mix.

Harbhajan Singh came out to bat at No 5. He was dropped off his second ball, he then hogged the strike, he kept Raina away from Punjab’s seamers, he kept swinging at every ball that came his way, he managed to even connect with a few, and he confused everyone who was watching. More importantly, he seemed to have confused the Punjab bowlers. Who were suddenly trying to bounce him out and not bowl the ‘Test match length’ that worked so well till then.

And when Harbhajan’s breezy cameo came to an end, Deepak Chahar walked out. More confusion, more chaos. But once he got his eye in, Chahar, an all-rounder of good reputation in the domestic circuit, showed what he is capable of. Within the space of two overs, where Chahar hit three sixes, Chennai ensured themselves a top-two finish and eliminated Punjab from the playoffs race.

“If you see their bowlers, they were getting it to swing quite a bit,” Dhoni explained after the match. “In a game like this you want to take a lot of wickets while it is swinging. So with Bhajji and Chahar going in - it creates a bit of chaos. With proper batsmen the bowlers are consistent, somehow to lower order players they try the bouncers, offcutters, etc.”

Mission, for the night, accomplished.

An expected end

But there was still a game to be won or lost. Imagine, then, being in the Punjab camp, with the wind knocked out of your sails, and to see MS Dhoni walk out to bat during a run-chase. The equation was 40 from 23 balls, thanks to Chahar’s cameo. And Dhoni, along with Raina, did what he does best. Take the team deep and finish it off in style.

Raina, who played sheet anchor when Harbhajan and Chahar were doing their thing, got to express himself in the end, taking the attack to AJ Tye. In an over he hit two sixes and two overs, Raina played a text-book forward defence off the last ball, with CSK needing 1 run to win from 7 balls. Understandably, he wanted the captain to have the final say on the night.

And what did Dhoni do? Finish the match off in style, of course. A six over fine leg, and CSK eventually romped to a five-wicket win. A finish to the league stage that we have seen many a time before, but what preceded was anything but expected.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.