Let’s address the elephant in the room, ‘Best vs Best’ is not the greatest slogan to have appeared in the IPL. It is horribly cliched and gives ‘Ek hai India, Happywala’ tough competition for being cringeworthy. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t factual – especially on the opening night of IPL 2018.
Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings (despite the two year absence) are the best franchises in the tournament’s history. They boast of the best, nurture youngsters into world-beaters and polarise opinions like no other. It was fitting that ‘Whistlepodu’ met with their arch rivals on their return. And one could not have scripted it better!
DJ spoils the party
MI were front-runners with three overs left, 47 runs still needed and two wickets (or 1.5) in hand. But DJ Bravo ensured Mumbai kept their champagne on ice.
With a trademark dominant back-leg stance, the all-rounder struck five sixes and a boundary – 38 runs off 11 balls in the final two overs. Mitchel McCleanaghan and Jasprit Bumrah missed their lengths by small margins and Bravo capitalized on them. However, it was not all about the flourish. Bravo’s build-up to the grand finish played a massive part.
When Bravo arrived, CSK needed over 11 runs per over with eight overs to go. Losing Kedar Jadhav to injury forced him to farm the strike. Bravo faced 30 out of a possible 42 balls during his innings. The rest were played by Deepak Chahar, Harbhajan Singh, Mark Wood – including their dismissals and an unbeaten Imran Tahir played two. The strategy worked as per planned until the final ball of 19th over. By then, Bravo’s rescue act had dragged CSK out of a hole and within a shot of MI’s score.
It’s worth mentioning that luck was on his side. On another day, the bails would not have stayed in the groove!
Jadhav, Hardik power through injuries
Bravo had dragged CSK out of the storm and all-rounder Kedar Jhadav, on one leg, stayed composed to bring the game home.
Prior to the final over, Kedar conveyed to Tahir that he was going to play all the deliveries. His only scoring shots were boundaries. After playing out the first three balls, Kedar shuffled across, got down on his knee, and lapped the length ball over fine-leg for a maximum. CSK fans went into hysterics, Tahir ran down from the other end to give him a hug, and Kedar’s tears were visible.
With only one needed, he greeted the following ball with a cover drive to seal the win. CSK players ran towards the pitch, the fans danced on their seats and the ‘CSK! CSK!’ chants echoed across the ground. While Kedar might deem it a bitter-sweet moment for now, his gutsy finish will be talked about for a long time by CSK fans. But his injury is likely to keep him out for a few weeks.
Hardik Pandya deserves a mention. He powered through his spell with an ankle injury he sustained in the final delivery of Mumbai’s innings. Despite the pain, the 23-year-old constantly hit his regular speeds, troubled batsmen with his accuracy, picked up the massive wickets of Shane Watson and Suresh Raina at the top, returned to complete his quota and dismissed Mark Wood. He walked off the field after completing his quota and looked in pain.
Mumbai will be hoping that the injury is not serious, given his importance in maintaining the side’s balance.
Markande’s night at Wankhede
On another night, it would have been a Bathinda youngster that would grabbed the headlines. Bravo’s heroics denied Mayank Markande but that shouldn’t distract us from the 20-year-old’s impressive showing. It took three balls for people to closely look at his name. By his ninth delivery, the spotlight was firmly focused on him after he bamboozled MS Dhoni.
He made people google his name; go through his stats, his domestic side, his form – anything and everything that was available. MI fans wanted to know more about this new prospect, Chennai Super Kings wanted to know who had just stunned their batting line-up and more importantly, ruined MS Dhoni’s ‘Yellow’ return. While he ended up on the losing side, Markande is assured of a spot in the XI for the next few games and has answered Mumbai’s call for a spinner.
With that thrilling encounter on Saturday night, Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians have set the bar high for the tournament, like they have done previously. The onus now falls on the other teams to follow up. Welcome to IPL 2018!