|Ricky Ponting (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
|Sachin Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
One of the many reasons I love cricket beyond all other games is, to use a cliché, its glorious uncertainty.
Let me explain what I mean. This morning I was settling down to watch the latest match of the Indian league 20/20 --- of 20 overs a side, that is, 120 balls ---- with the keenest sense of anticipation I can remember having for a long time. The reason was that two of the greatest batsmen in the history of the game were opening the innings for the Mumbai Warriors, as the side is called. The two involved were Ricky Ponting, who has been captain of the all-conquering Australian sides during the last decade or so, a man who has clocked up huge scores repeatedly but is now retired from the Test match arena --- and Sachin Tendulkar, the wunderkind of Indian cricket. Both are veteran players, Ponting 38, Tendulkar 39. Tendulkar has been recognized as the greatest batsman of his era. Ponting in his long career scored more than 13000 runs in Test matches, and the same number in One Day Internationals. Tendulkar’s achievements have been even more startling --- more than 18,000 in Test matches, 15,000 in ODIs, and 100 Test centuries, more even than the great Bradman.
So imagine my sense of anticipation, with the prospect of seeing the punishing, efficient run-making machine Ponting, and the graceful stylist Tendulkar together to open the innings! No one could wish for more.
Of course the 20/20 form of the game is different from the more classical forms, requiring that the batsmen force the pace, try to score off every possible ball, which means taking risks that they would never take in the five-day version of the game.
Ponting opened the batting, and played a couple of rather diffident forcing shots, unsuccessfully, before, again forcing himself, spooning up a simple catch to the fieldsman at mid-off. Out for a duck! Wow, what a disappointment.
Tendulkar would make up for it. In came the batsman at the other end, who quickly played a ball into the field and began to run. The opposing team captain, Jayawardena, a wonderful cricketer from Sri Lanka, scooped the ball up, causing the batsman to change his mind about taking the run. At the other end Tendulkar was already on his way, and Jayawardena flung the ball at the bowler’s end stumps, hit them, and caught Tendulkar a yard out of his crease as he scrambled to get back. Out for one run!
I could not believe my eyes any more than the Delhi Daredevils players could believe their luck in having dismissed two of the towering figures of modern cricket for a total of one run. I began to chuckle at the downright glory of the game that could deal us such a shock.
I went out to do some shopping, and on my return turned on the game just as the Mumbai batsmen were laying about them, hitting sixes and fours in the last two overs of the innings, giving them a formidable total of 209 for six wickets, offsetting by superb hitting the shock of the failure of their two great leaders to score earlier in the innings.
I settled to watch the rest of the match as the Delhi batsmen struggled to get going quickly, which they would have to do if they wanted to have any chance of winning.
Within a few minutes of the beginning of the innings, Ponting again featured in a sensational play, this time taking an absolutely amazing catch in the field as he dived to his right, projecting himself through the air and diving body-length to get his bare hand on to the rock-hard ball, and hang on to it, to dismss one of the Delhi openers. So, make no mistake, there’s a bit of life left in the old man yet!
I have settled down to watch what happens next. Delhi already has two wickets down for 17 runs in the first three overs. That is fewer than six runs to the over, far short of the 11 runs an over they will need if they are to win the game. Oh, yes, this should be good….!