By: Chinmay Vaidya
With Sunrisers Hyderabad clinching a victory over the Rajasthan Royals Friday, the first week of the 2019 IPL is in the books. The Sunrisers have looked sharp in both games while the Royals drop to 0-2 to begin the season. Here are five observations from the first week of the tournament.
1. The reputation of one Ravichandran Ashwin took a major hit
By now, I'm sure everyone has seen Aswhin's "Mankading" of Jos Buttler in the match between Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals. The Royals should've still won the game at the end, but Buttler was in fine touch and probably would've carried his side home if not for some questionable tactics from Aswhin. Here's video of the incident.
The rules are pretty straightforward in this situation. The non-striker is not supposed to be outside his crease when the bowler is coming up to deliver the ball. The bowler has every right to get the non-striker out if he wanders outside the crease. Ashwin has done this before, in an international match against Sri Lanka.
The question is whether this is in "the spirit of the game". In this particular instance, Buttler is clearly not trying to gain any advantage by leaving the crease early. In fact, you can make a reasonable argument that Buttler would've been inside his crease had Ashwin not stopped his windup and bowled the ball. The question is whether Ashwin deliberately stopped in the middle of his action and waited for Buttler to leave the crease to knock the bails off. I think Ashwin intentionally stopped because it was the only way Kings XI could get Buttler out at that point.
Ashwin, as expected, doubled down on his actions and skewed some details in an effort to make himself look better. Rajasthan coach Paddy Upton had some words about Ashwin's behavior and let me tell you, it doesn't take a genius to figure out how upset Upton was. Take a look.
The two teams meet again April 16. Expect some fireworks in Mohali.
2. The kids are alright
Through the first week, the trio of Rishabh Pant, Nitish Rana and Sanju Samson are in the top 5 for runs scored. Pant and Samson have long been viewed as the future of Indian cricket, but the latter has yet to receive the call up to the international stage. Pant has picked up where he left off last season in an effort to get the rebranded Delhi Capitals to the playoffs. Samson scored a brilliant century in Friday's losing effort, but appears to have finally realized his potential. Rana is forgotten among India's young players, but he's been downright destructive in the last three IPL campaigns. This might be the season he breaks out and gets that international call.
3. Chennai Super Kings refuse to go away
The bane of every other IPL franchise, the Super Kings just refuse to leave. Chennai is 2-0 and looking like the dominant unit that went on to win the title last season. Super Kings are on the older side of the average age line, but the talent is still there. We'll see if the team can stay fit as the season goes along, but the veterans have stepped up. Shane Watson, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni continue to anchor the batting and Dwayne Bravo has been brilliant with the ball. Oh, and they have a new celebrity child in the house to cheer them on.
I expect a camera on Ziva Dhoni for the rest of the tournament. And I have no doubt she will keep entertaining everyone.
4. Rashid Khan is a cheat code in the making
It's already not fair when Khan gets 24 balls to do serious damage every match. The Afghanistan spinner has taken a wicket in each of his matches so far and has an economy rate of 6.25. He's Hyderabad's best bowler and always has a breakthrough for the side. Now take his developing batting skills into account and you have a cheat code in the making.
Khan had 15 not out to seal a win over the Royals Friday, which might not seem that special. However, he hit a four and six to close out the game off Jofra Archer, one of the top bowlers in the tournament. His scoring run against Ireland over the ODI series in March reads 11, 8 not out, 52 and 35 not out. If Khan develops into a competent batsman, he's basically unstoppable. Did I mention he's only 20 years old?
5. There have already been some questionable decisions from teams and players
The IPL allows each team to field up to four international (non-Indian) players in the starting XI. Conventionally, every team plays four international players because all these guys are world class talents. All the top international players come to IPL, so it makes sense to field them. The Capitals, for some reason, decided to field only 3 players in their second game of the campaign against Chennai. One of the 3 players was Keemo Paul, who had struggled mightily in the first match. As expected, Paul had another bad outing and might not get another chance with players like Colin Munro and Sandeep Lamichhane waiting.
In Mumbai's win over Royal Challengers Bangalore, captain Rohit Sharma decided to give the 18th over to Hardik Pandya with Bangalore needing 40 runs off 18 balls. Pandya gave up 18 runs himself, leaving Jasprit Bumrah and Lasith Malinga to bail out the team in the final two overs. Sharma had a tough choice to make between Pandya and Mitchell McClenaghan (who was going at 12.0 runs per over in two overs), but one has been more proven in the IPL. And it's not Pandya.
Wickets, Average and Economy Rate in IPL:
Mitchell McClenaghan: 68 wickets, 32.57, 8.55
Hardik Pandya: 28 wickets, 18.46, 9.03
To be fair, McClenaghan has bowled 92 more overs in the same amount of playing time. But he's also taken more wickets and given up less runs over that span. Sharma got bailed out, but he should've gone with the experienced international bowler over the star Indian all-rounder.