“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”
― JM Barrie, Peter Pan
As we approach the business end of Indian Premier League, teams and players are quickly running out of time to make a mark. Early on they could talk about finding their feet and the resumption of cricket after a long break, but now the pressure is on to come up with sparkling performances that will win the day.
Some, like the Chennai Super Kings for instance, have thrown in the towel already… their spirit clearly broken. Others like the Kings XI Punjab are waging a desperate battle to make it to the playoffs.
Still, perhaps the one thing the matches on Saturday showed the most was the importance of keeping the faith; of trusting the process and of trusting yourself.
To begin with, take a look at Rishabh Pant. The Delhi Capitals keeper is a firebrand cricketer. He made his name during the 2018 season, when he scored 684 runs at a strike-rate of 173.60. He followed it up with 488 runs at a strike-rate of 162.66 in 2019. He was frankly like a whirlpool — sucking all viewers in with his big-hitting and fearless approach.
But in eight matches so far this season, the left-hander has scored 217 runs at a strike-rate of 117.29. He looks lost in the middle, unsure of his method and fearful of the consequences that a false shot might bring.
Now, this isn’t the Pant we know. This version is little more than a confused caricature of the batsman who terrorised bowlers all around the league. He seems to be trying to find a balance between doing the right things and his original ‘devil may care’ attitude and in the process, he has lost the fire that made him such a special cricketer.
It is a very difficult balancing act at the best of times but perhaps Pant needs to remember what got him here in the first place. And it certainly wasn’t these nervous prods.
On the other end of the spectrum is KKR’s mystery spinner Varun Chakravarthy, who ripped the heart out of the Delhi middle-order with bowling figures of 5/20 in his four overs at Abu Dhabi.
Two years after making headlines with his IPL auction price tag, Varun Chakravarthy showed the world why Kolkata Knight Riders fought so hard for him in the auction last year.
On a pitch where KKR had hammered 194/6 while batting first, DC just could not figure out Chakravarthy’s subtle variations of pace and spin.
“Varun is such a humble guy,” said KKR skipper Eoin Morgan. “He is someone who works really hard. Of course he has had limited opportunities for various reasons. Today he performed really and collectively in the tournament, he has been superb for us. You want everyone to be authentic and perform to the best of your capabilities.”
Chakravarthy, in his own words, talked about how important it was for others to trust him. Dinesh Karthik, who stepped down as KKR skipper midway through the season, has clearly liked what he has seen in the bowler.
“I pretty much started my spin bowling in 2018, that’s when I got my breakthrough in TNPL, it’s been high and lows — last year, I didn’t get many chances and I injured myself, I’m grateful for making a comeback this year. I have been working hard, but the motivation and faith has come from a lot of people around me. Around 2015, when I was not making a lot of money (the switch from being an architect to becoming a cricketer), was freelancing and wasn’t able to meet my needs, I thought I would do something different, that’s when I turned to cricket.”
Of pixie dust
For much of the game against Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab were on the backfoot. The team from Punjab tried everything — they bowled out Shami early, had the two leg-spinners (Ravi Bishnoi and Murugan Ashwin) operating in tandem but nothing seemed to be working.
Manish Pandey and Vijay Shankar, who had led their side to victory in the game against Rajasthan Royals, seemed to be doing the job again and Sunrisers Hyderabad were cruising at 100/3 in 16 overs, needing just 27 from 24 with seven wickets in hand.
Then, the wickets started falling. It all started with J Suchith taking a wonderful running catch right on the boundary line to send back Pandey off the first ball of the 17th over. Had it gone for six, it might as well have been game over for KXIP. But instead, the wicket spurred them on.
It was a difficult pitch to bat on and the new batsmen found scoring difficult against a determined attack. And when Shankar fell to Arshdeep, Punjab knew they had a chance.
Turns out they had more than that. KXIP ran out clear winners — winning by 12 runs.
Punjab have had so many close finishes this season that perhaps they can just hold their nerve a little better now or maybe it was just a case of them finding some magic when they needed it most.
KXIP showed that sometimes you just need to hang in there. Do that long enough and things will happen for you.