This year IPL has lingered from one match to another, from one venue to the other like an old bus on a bumpy road in the remote villages of India; carrying tiered passengers, evoking emotions on sparse occasions, and just about serving the purpose rather than being extraordinary or special.
Virat Kohli hasn’t stopped scoring runs, ABD hasn’t failed to sizzle, Mustafizur’s mystery has befooled many established theories of scoring runs, and McClenaghan’s sporadic burst of deliveries have unsettled many batsmen’s rhythm. Yet, the interest level this year has dwindled.
CSK and RR’s absence has definitely hit the IPL, and the overdose of T20 hasn’t helped either. MS Dhoni’s bat hasn’t swung like it did before, Chris Gayle’s stay at the crease until his last innings has been shorter than Dale Steyn’s presence this IPL, and Sunil Narine’s fingers haven’t imparted as much spin as it did when his arm was bent. Close finishes have been scarce and team’s chasing have hardly lost setting an alarming precedency.
If ever politicians could use the drought as an excuse for their in efficiency then this was the time; IPL turned out to be a soft punching bag. Teams had to shift their home venues to locations alien to their conditions and MI discovered it the hard way.
Even an ardent cricket fan has made some lame excuses to miss a couple of matches in between, and no wonder post-match discussions over a coffee table has taken a back seat. IPL has sparkled only in patches and not all matches could pull the crowd in big numbers.
But I, for one, have found solace in Quinton de Kock’s swing of blade this season.
I don’t remember when was the last time an in swinging ball was obliged the way it was at Delhi by Quinton De Kock. Tim Southee had found just enough swing with the first ball of the afternoon, which easily could have had any ordinary batsman trapped in front but for de Kock.
It tailed in but that extension of the forward defence to a straight drive was the most sumptuous thing I have witnessed this season. Southee quick to react followed it up with an out swinger, which de Kock drove to the ropes like a man destined to predict at will and play such strokes.
At Chinnaswamy, de Kock took a likening to the square boundary en route to his ton. On the night it didn’t matter which length the bowlers bowled for de Kock glided, swayed and cut them on the either side of point. It didn’t matter if he was on the front foot, rooted to the crease or on the back foot. It didn’t matter if it was an arm ball, top spinner or an off spinner. He just cut them with utmost liberty, reminding us of his genius. Parwez Rasool and co had no answers to South Africa’s little genius.
De Kock’s array of strokes through the off side is just one half of the story. He has innovated when required without disturbing his classy game. The new tricks that he has added to his repertoire haven’t effected his orthodox strokes, they have gone on to widen his scoring areas. As bowlers began to target his stumps, de Kock unleashed his on side game.
He half knelt and swept a cricket ball to the amazement of quiet a few fast bowlers. When they erred in line even slightly, de Kock picked them up over long leg. It’s an instinctive shot, yet he could repeat this outrageous shot time and again even to some of the quickest bowlers moving around.
When in form, his judgement of the length has been stupendous and he hasn’t waited for any second invitation to pull the shorter ones as McClenaghan found out at Vizag. When he was tiered of repeating his square drives he chose to hit them over mid-wicket. One such shot in particular off Vinay Kumar is worth watching again and again and again for it will never bore.
De Kock has produced lovely notes on sombre IPL evenings, his brush has moved in accordance with an opium desiring mind to produce sensuous paintings. His instinct has carved wonderful sculptors.
Quinton de Kock no doubt has lit up my IPL.