Dhoni’s buddy cum cupid Uthappa delivers, CSK in final

MS Dhoni and Robin Uthappa go back a long way. They made their India debuts around the same, mid 2000, and Robin, along with Suresh Raina, was part of the original Dhoni gang. Back then, they famously got along while in India blues and were also spotted during their buddy vacations to Coorg during off-season. Uthappa wasn’t just Robin to the Batman Dhoni, as we now know he also played the cupid. Years later, Dhoni’s wife Sakshi in an Insta revelation would post her 30th birthday picture with a caption: “Thanks to this man here, Mahi and I are together!!! It was great meeting you Robbie and Sheethal.” The notoriously discreet Dhoni too would be seen on the twitter timeline of Uthappas – flashing a broad smile in family pictures with their respective tiny tots hovering around. How time flies. At the start of this season when the Royals let go Robin go, CSK would scoop him. Anticipating snide remarks, Robin would give out disclaimer: “Dhoni told me, ‘I want you to know that I didn’t make the decision about you coming in here.” It was his way of saying, he was wearing CSK yellow because of his skills. Dhoni for one knew that Robin can be trusted in crunch situations. During the 2007 World Cup in that tied India-Pakistan league game, Robin had a half-century and more importantly hit the stumps in the ‘bowl out’. And on the Dubai evening, when Dhoni, not among runs in this IPL leg, wanted someone to push CSK in the final and take the critical eye away from his personal form, it was his trusted friend who delivered. With Robin and Gaikwad doing the hard yards, Dhoni gave his usual finishing touch. This time he hit a four, he might have saved the six for the final.

HRHairness left clutching at air

It was a leap into a forgotten past. MS Dhoni flinging to his right, full-stretch, defying gravity and age, in pursuit of an edge off Prithvi Shaw’s bat. Like it was the retro-aughts again. Like he was that hipster again, an imaginary halo of flowing hair suddenly building around his yellow cap, the face turning fresh-faced and un-crumpled, his eyes glowing with enthusiasm. For a long time, even during the backend of his international career, Dhoni has restrained from diving full-pelt, with one hand, especially towards the slip cordon. But this time, the old instincts seemed to kick in, fleetingly, before the reality nudged in. But how the illusion crashed down, as the ball just whooshed past his outstretched glove, with a mischievous wink, like an errand vehicle giving the trailing police car a naughty slip. Dhoni plunged onto the grassy baize of the Dubai Stadium, his weary eyes agonisingly watching the ball slip away from his grasp. By then, the hairy halo had long vanished.

SmoulderMan, not spidey

Rishabh ‘Spidey’ Pant gritted his teeth and flared his nostrils when collecting a wild wandering throw that allowed Robin Uthappa to saunter in for a third. The chirpy keeper, now and then pulling on the visage of a stern captain, was unhappy with the lounging-pace throw from third man that let Ruturaj Gaikwad add three after dissecting deep point and third man. Saving the boundary was hardly any solace, even as DC were cantering to their second-wicket partnership with both headed to half centuries. Pant backing up on the throw, would frown his irritation and use his keeper gloves to mock-slap at the stumps – the ever-grinning goof giving a rare grim grump. Three wickets quickly thereafter would bring a hint of a smile back to Rishabh, but Gaikwad and Uthappa seemed to have inflicted enough damage to paste a start of a frown on Pant’s face as the spidey’s web was used more like a mosquito swatter.

Iyer on fire

Shreyas Iyer hadn’t gotten going when Delhi Capitals batted, getting a sub-terrestrial T20 strike rate of 12.50. When DC defended, he made up for missing out with the bat. He tried, at least. His resolve to contribute was firm like the black headband tautly holding his vertical outcrop of golden streaked hair. First was a clever catch at long-on to send back Uthappa who was looking to finish this off by himself. But setting a kitten amongst pigeons, Iyer would keep his head in a cha-cha-cha catch at the boundary. The ball had sailed in between mid wicket and long on, and Iyer while holding onto the running catch, had failed to brake his run inside the ropes. He’d toss the ball back, watch Axar Patel hover uncertainly around him, but pop it slightly to step in and complete the catch. Later he would finish a pick-and-throw in quick step, sending back Ambati Rayudu with a rocket throw to Rabada inches away from the stumps, to lend some late drama to CSK’s chase. Then Dhoni rained down on his redemption.

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