CSK v PBKS: Dhoni’s Midas lives on; Livingstone does a Kumble & Bravo’s ballerina foxtrot at boundary ropes

Every shot MS Dhoni plays, the stands brim with anticipation. He unfurls a fierce pull, the ball crackling from the sweetest spot of his bat, the ball fleecing the grass. But alas, a fielder would pounce from somewhere and nick the ball off the ropes. He pulls out another pull, the timing is sweeter, but is a stroll away for the fielder. He then rocks back and cuts a short ball, but yet again, the dewy outfield slows the ball from reaching the fence. Anything fuller, he would nudge, clip, squirt, bunt a single. The stands are impatient. Yet, they cheer, yet they leap out of the seats in fervent anticipation, like they see their first crush again after years, or drench in the first shower of the summer. But they wait. Finally, off the 23rd ball he faced, he managed to hit his first boundary, a six, off a slog sweep. Off the 25th ball, he registers his second boundary, but a thick outside edge. That was the last of his boundaries. Yet, they cheered as he walked back to the dugout. Not perhaps in the memory of the boundaries he struck on April 3, 2022, Brabourne, but those that hit on April 2, 2011, Wankhede.

Liam legbreak mirrors Anil


Liam Livingstone’s bowling motto is clear and simple. Leg-spin for right-handers and off-spin for left-handers. The leg-break devoured Shivam Dube, who for all his blustery batting was vulnerable to the away-going ball, a vulnerability accentuated by his static feet. So a bit of away turn was all it required to induce an edge of Dube. The ball was shortish, faster, but it bounced a fraction higher than the batter had expected and it turned away from him, taking a thick leading edge with it. The dismissal had Punjab coach Anil Kumble jumping about in the dug-out with joy, not only because he had evicted the most dangerous batsman, but also the identical way the master leg-spinner would dismiss batsmen in his prime. There for the pull, but not quite pull-able. The next ball, to the right-handed Dwayne Bravo, was fuller and floated into him. The ball seemed to pause an eternity after it bounced, but Bravo was presumptuously committed to a front-foot block. The ball hit the top-half of his bat and ballooned in the air, whereupon Livingstone flung to his left and swallowed the ball with his left-hand.

Silvery, but sizzling still


Silvery streaks might have crept into MS Dhoni’s stubble and those once long locks like Samson, but his athleticism and anticipation remains untouched by the vagaries of time and age. The moment Chris Jordan, the bowler, tees off to gather the ball, dribbled to the leg-side by Shikhar Dhawan for a quick single, Dhoni begins his stump-ward sprint, with short, quick strides, spurting like a thoroughbred in his captain Ravindra Jadeja’s stable. He snaffles the throw, an attempted direct hit, with both hands and realising that he was short of time to whip off the bails, he lunges forward, doesn’t throw at the stumps, because he did not have time to remove the gloves and hence the risk of an inaccurate throw, but drops the ball onto the stumps, like when some prostrate when they meet an elder person. And at the end, let out a satisfied smile. An ageless smile after an ageless burst of athleticism.

Dhawan destructs Carib-style


Unlike his trusted 50-over associate Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan is not six-savvy (332 to 889 in competitive cricket). Even when he plans to go over the ropes, he usually shimmies down the track to generate momentum and swings through the line, or sometimes makes room to hit over covers. There, mostly, is an amount of premeditation. But against Dwayne Bravo, he just stood in his crease, took a firm forward stride when he judged the ball was on the fuller side and just thumped him over long-on without any visible strain on his body or an exaggerated flourish, a six straight from the Caribbean manual of six-hitting.

Ballerina by the boundary ropes

?? ⛳

The momentum when he collected the ball seems to drag Dwayne Bravo towards the boundary ropes, careening the long-on-midwicket bend. But Bravo shifts his weight from the left-foot that was almost hugging the cushion to the right. He looks to tumble, but he does not. He then shuffles to his left-foot, then to his right. At one moment, he feels like he could stumble and is almost ready to fling the ball away, but with feline expertise, he keeps his body abreast the dreaded ropes, like running beside an abyss of dragons in Temple Run. Remarkably, it was all feet, no flapping or the arms or contorting the body for the elusive balance. Seems like he had put on his dancing shoes and spent hours choreographing for the ballerina by the boundary ropes.

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