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Adam Gilchrist is one of the most respected men of the last fifteen years of international cricket. He was a great batsman who could put any bowling attack to the sword, and he revolutionised the role of wicketkeeper-batsman in Test cricket. As much as anything else, he was and is an all-around good man admired as much for the quality of his character and sportsmanship as for his immense cricketing talent.
Now in his forties, Gilchrist came back for one last dig in this year's Indian Premier League (IPL). Kings XI Punjab (KXIP), the team he captains and now coaches, failed to reach the IPL 2013 semi-finals but managed to end the tournament with a win over the Mumbai Indians (MI). Gilchrist's final act in competitive cricket was to bowl a rare over.
I don't think anyone at the ground, let alone Gilchrist, expected what happened next. Gilchrist sent down a looping half-volley that most batsmen would have smashed out of the ground. Instead, MI's Harbhajan Singh -- a man who has dismissed Gilchrist a number of times over the years while playing for India against Australia -- mishit the ball straight to the long-on fielder, who duly caught the ball with ease.
Gilchrist was off and running with whirling arms and a Gangnam Style dance. He had taken a wicket with the only ball of his IPL career, and based on appearances, it may have brought him more pure, in-the-moment joy than any of his other IPL achievements.
The Indian Premier League (IPL) keeps offering examples of the more unusual -- and occasionally silly -- sides of cricket.
Last week, in the match between Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Pune Warriors India (PWI), KKR's Yusuf Pathan dug out a yorker from PWI fast bowler Wayne Parnell. With the ball rolling down the pitch in front of him, and quick runs needed to win the match, Yusuf set off for a sneaky run. Parnell, equal to the task, charged after the ball in an effort to run Yusuf out. They gently collided, and as Yusuf ran, he kicked the ball away from Parnell's grasp.
The third umpire deliberated over the TV footage for a few minutes and eventually advised the on-field umpire to give Yusuf out obstructing the field.
Obstructing the field is a mode of dismissal rarely seen at any level of cricket. It's very difficult for umpires to rule on because they have to judge the intentions of the batter. Did Yusuf intend to kick the ball, thus ensuring he would not be run out by Parnell? The way he rotates his foot to hit the ball with his instep suggests it was intentional, but at the point of contact his eyes are on the other end of the pitch.
Parnell, meanwhile, clearly makes contact with Yusuf as he hares after the ball, and it could be argued that he impeded the batter's attempt to take a run. But Parnell's eyes were on the ball, meaning he was a lot more interested in getting his hands on the small white sphere than on Yusuf.
Watch the video above and judge for yourself, and have a look at this Cricinfo article looking at the cases for and against. Meanwhile, learn more about the ten ways of getting out in cricket here.
The Cricket Couch podcast with Subash Jayaraman offers a consistently high standard of listening on all matters cricket, but perhaps the most fascinating edition I've yet heard was the interview with USA Under-15 cricketer Vivek Narayan.
In an interview that covers a lot of ground in only 20 minutes, Narayan displays a broad understanding of cricket both on and off the field. He talks about his own development as a legspinning all-rounder and his cricketing heroes, as well as touching on the well-reported problems at the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA).
With an ability to give informed opinions on several topics, and to speak clearly and at length without a script, it seems the teenage Narayan has a big future in whatever he pursues. You can read more about Narayan here.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has launched a fun new online cricket quiz game called WHATZAT!
At first, WHATZAT! seems to be little more than a zoomable image of a cricket ground. However, there are a lot of things on or near this cricket ground that you wouldn't see at Lord's: a dog, two ducks, a cow in a bowler hat, and more.
This isn't just a weird cricket menagerie, though. Each object represents a cricketing term (some of which you can find in the Cricket Glossary). The object of the game is to click on and identify as many of these objects as possible. It's a good test of how much you know about cricket and your ability to think outside the box -- some of the answers aren't obvious at a glance.
If you need a sweetener, though, you can go in the draw to win tickets to the final of the Friends Life Twenty20 (England and Wales' premier T20 competition) or a day of the second Test of the Ashes series between England and Australia.
We can't be sure that it was a record, given that dropped catches are not generally noted on cricket scorecards, but everybody who saw Kieron Pollard's three consecutive drops of Michael Hussey was sure they had never seen it before. Anywhere. Ever.
Pollard, a man-mountain who is widely regarded as one of the best fielders of the current age (see this stunning catch), was fielding at point. Mitchell Johnson, the Australian fast bowler, charged in and delivered three short-of-a-length balls that bounced up outside Hussey's off stump. Hussey hit the ball straight at Pollard three times, each chance easier than the last. And Pollard dropped him three times.
It's the sort of mistake that makes you want the ground to swallow you up, even at junior level. Pollard must have wanted to wish himself back to his home in Trinidad.
Ultimately, the drops did not cost Pollard and his Mumbai Indians teammates. They went on to inflict a surprisingly crushing defeat on Hussey and runaway Indian Premier League leaders Chennai Super Kings.
As for Pollard, he redeemed himself somewhat with this fine catch a couple of overs later.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni, captain of India and of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League, is well established as one of the greatest six-hitters of all time. In the current era, only Chris Gayle is more damaging. But I'd suggest that of the two, Dhoni's big hits are more memorable.
(If you need to brush up on sixes, here's the entry for 'Six' in the Cricket Glossary.)
Gayle sixes have become almost routine. He swings his bat and, without putting in too much effort, the ball sails over the boundary. They seem like the work of a superhuman -- and he is a very big man -- who has perfected the muscle mass and technique required to hit a leather-and-cork ball for a distance of 100 metres. With Gayle, you expect such hits even though you cannot see how you would perform them yourself.
Dhoni sixes, however, are a visceral, eye-popping sight. He isn't a behemoth like Gayle but he is very strong, and he hits sixes through brute force more than calculated timing. Dhoni generates astonishing bat speed through the ball, mostly powered by his bottom hand on the bat, to send the ball into the crowd. They look like wild, hopeful swings until you consider that it is Dhoni and that he has done this so many times before.
What's more, Dhoni has stepped up and delivered sixes under pressure again and again. Here are some of the classics:
- An enormous six down the ground at the end of a one-day international against Australia in Adelaide;
- Six off Saeed Ajmal, one of the best spin bowlers in the world, during an exceptional hundred under pressure against Pakistan;
- And, most famous of all, the six to win the 2011 Cricket World Cup for India.
Dhoni did it again overnight, smashing three sixes in a rapid 45 for CSK against the hapless Pune Warriors India. He is the highest-paid cricketer the world has seen, and it's because he keeps delivering raw thrills for everyone watching.
There are two great things about the Indian Premier League (IPL) for young Indian players.
First, it gives them a chance to rub shoulders with the best players in the world. They get to travel around the country with the international superstars in their team, as well as local Indian heroes, and pick up tips and techniques from cricketers at the top of their game.
Second, it provides young players with a platform on which the whole country -- and indeed, the whole world -- can see what they have to offer. The IPL is beamed into millions of homes every day, either on television or the Internet, and can be replayed countless times on YouTube. There is no more effective way for an unheralded player to get noticed in cricket nowadays than to give a good performance in the IPL.
Last night, it was Rajasthan Royals teenager Sanju Samson who stepped up to make a name for himself. Sanju, an 18-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, has been plying his trade with his native Kerala in the Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy. He's been impressive thus far in striking two first-class hundreds, including 122 in his last match.
None of that will have done as much for Sanju's profile as his superb 63 for RR in their win over Royal Challengers Bangalore. He was promoted ahead of the in-form Shane Watson (who is smiling again after a difficult period) and built an aggressive innings based on sound technique and youthful exuberance. In particular, his two driven sixes over cover off the bowling of spinner Murali Kartik were excellent examples of timing and technique.
Seizing his opportunity on such a big stage could see Sanju become a household name in Kerala. Just as important, however, is that in beginning his innings with Rahul Dravid at the other end and finishing it with Watson, he scored his runs with two very experienced and renowned players. As the adrenaline pumped, they will have kept him calm with sensible words between each over. For Sanju, reaching his first IPL 50 may have been trumped by the fact that he celebrated it by bumping gloves with Watson in the middle of the pitch.
Here's hoping we see a lot more of Sanju Samson in the coming years.
The latest addition to the Cricket Glossary is an entry on cricket's short, high-adrenaline format:
In it, you'll find a brief definition of Twenty20 cricket, as well as some notes on the beginnings of T20 and how it has influenced other forms of cricket.
While you're there, the Cricket Glossary also has a couple of other new entries:
Both of these are quite important to T20 cricket, though fours are a central element in any form of the game. Video examples are given of each.
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First things first. Here are the highlights of Chris Gayle's unbelievable hundred for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Pune Warriors India in the IPL.
After watching that video you will have seen it for yourself, and heard it in the breathless sighs and exclamations from the IPL commentators with every massive blow for six. There were 17 of them, several onto the roof of the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, in Gayle's 175 not out. Oh, and 13 fours, too. It was the highest score in the history of Twenty20 cricket and set ten records overall. Here's coach Ray Jennings explaining them to Gayle: "how many sixes I hit?".
After about the eighth over, the match was over as a contest. PWI didn't have the bowling firepower to challenge Gayle - a Dale Steyn or Ravichandran Ashwin, for example - and more importantly, Gayle was so dominant he was starting to treat his innings like a computer game. Later, after Virat Kohli hit an enormous six, he flashed the broad grin of a man enjoying a day out rather than the tense concentration of a world-class cricketer at work. Gayle had put the team in a position from which it was impossible to lose.
The RCB players and coaches in the dugout, as well as Tillakaratne Dilshan at the other end of the pitch, could only smile and shake their heads. And as Gayle walked off after RCB's 20 overs, PWI star Yuvraj Singh - himself no stranger to big hits - playfully tugged at Gayle's bat as if to say, "let me have a go with this".
RCB went on to win by 130 runs. Just to make sure everyone got the point, Gayle also took two wickets while bowling. Not a bad day.
Chris Gayle has given me some work to do. I now have to rewrite two lists: the Top 10 Most Unbeatable Cricket Records and 10 Great IPL Innings. Perhaps he deserves his own list: he's definitely one of the most extraordinary talents the game of cricket has ever seen.
Shane 'Watto' Watson has a very distinctive smile -- although 'smile' seems somewhat inadequate in describing it. It's more of a gleaming, shark-toothed grin, and it tends to spread across his face at any opportunity. When you see Watson's Grin, his team is probably on top -- as Australia frequently was during the 2012 ICC World Twenty20, where Watson was named player of the tournament.
However, one of the more mercurial talents in the game hasn't had a great time lately. There was the 'homework' scandal that saw Watson and three other Australian Test players suspended for a match. There was the thumping series loss to India, in which Watson personally struggled for form and ultimately captained the team to defeat inside three days in the final Test. Recently, he stepped down as vice-captain of Australia in an attempt to focus on his batting.
And now, playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) for Rajasthan Royals, Watson has got off to a few good starts but failed to push on and make a big innings -- until today.
Against Chennai Super Kings, Watson powered his way to the first century of IPL 2013. It was a spectacular exhibition of his abilities -- good footwork, an impeccable eye for length, excellent timing, and his ease of clearing the boundary -- but there was one thing that was mostly absent.
You guessed it: Watson's Grin.
Upon reaching his fifty, with a monstrous six over the leg side, Watson raised his bat to his teammates almost as an afterthought, then continued on his merry way to the 'ton'. Except it didn't seem that merry. He remained stoic throughout -- even when he removed his helmet and raised his arms aloft to acknowledge the crowd's applause upon reaching 100, Watto's Grin didn't appear.
A couple of hours later, Watson came on to bowl the final over as RR desperately tried to defend their score. He was dispatched for a six by Dwayne Bravo and CSK went on to win. Watson's former Australian teammate Michael Hussey was instrumental in CSK's win, even picking up the man of the match award despite scoring fewer runs than Watson had.
If Watson is not enjoying his cricket as much as usual, one can hardly blame him. His character has been called into question, and even when he plays as well as he did today, it ultimately seems futile. Hopefully, this remarkable talent will have reason to smile again soon.