Boom Boom and Dravid's vroom vroom
The IPL juggernaut barges through all before it these days, but there's still some people trying to put the brakes on its influence over the global game. Chief among them this week was that noted conservative, Shahid Afridi, who heralded Pakistan's ODI victory in South Africa whilst complaining half the home side had left for India and their IPL franchises before the series decider.
Afridi has played in a few T20 tournaments, so there was surely no need for this sort of curmudgeonly grumpiness. Yet luckily an antidote was on hand for Boom Boom and anyone else suffering similar displeasure - a Sharda Ugra article entitled "Rahul Dravid's guide for haters to enjoy the IPL", where the esteemed journalist got The Wall's tips for embracing the beauty of the tournament.
Undermining Dravid's call for chill a little was that on the day the IPL started, the ex-Rajasthan Royals captain turned up in an advert where he suffers road rage, screaming at fellow drivers with the sort of pent up frustration those who bowled at him felt.
The nub of the commercial was that the product had so much quality it was almost as unbelievable as the notoriously calm Dravid losing his rag.
As ever, though, Dravid put in an exceptional performance. So much so it caused people to recall his genuine apoplexy back in 2014, when he threw his cap to the ground as the Royals crashed out in meltdown fashion against Mumbai. Further research in the IPL archives shows Dravid pointing feistily at the team dugout in IPL 2 when playing for RCB, a dig at team owner Vijay Mallya, who had criticised his selections at auction.
Then there was his spat with Mitchell Johnson in 2013, flicking him for four then asking, "You want to say something?". This zen image Dravid's been cultivating over many years is clearly all a facade. He should email his regular correspondent Kevin Pietersen, or perhaps even Afridi himself, to ask them for tips on how to be more level-headed.
"The IPL is the best opportunity to shine. It has been a huge factor. Everyone is motivated because they know they can make it to international cricket if they perform well in the IPL." These words were spoken not by a player, but by umpire Nitin Menon last year, who has now indeed gone on to grace the global stage with great aplomb.
For all the murky DRS controversies during England's recent tour of India, one thing was crystal clear: Menon is a superb umpire. Calm and undemonstrative, his decisions were overturned so rarely it was as if his retinas were connected to Hawkeye via Bluetooth. In the end, players on both sides basically stopped bothering to go upstairs.
So it was with great surprise that Menon actually got a decision wrong in Friday's opener, mistakenly not giving Mumbai's Ishan Kishan out when he was trapped in front by RCB's laudable new death specialist Harshal Patel. It came amid a period of dropped catches and generally shoddy fielding from Kohli's team so it's possible the incompetence was infectious, even for a near android-like Menon. The surprised reaction online was testament to the official's dedication to his craft. There is a feeling umpiring standards in the IPL have taken a dip in recent years. Menon is single-handedly doing his best to overturn that perception.
Glenn Maxwell made an impressive debut for RCB on Friday, hitting two maximums after none at all in the IPL last year. Back in the Emirates, his and Kings XI's commendable but futile efforts were encapsulated against KKR when, needing a six to tie off the last ball, the Big Show's lofted drive landed agonisingly short of the rope.
Equally borderline were his attempts this week at dancing alongside Kohli and AB de Villiers in a promotional video presumably made to celebrate RCB actually making a decent purchase.
There is actually a proud history of Australian fancy footwork in the competition. In the days when the IPL had opening ceremonies - such ostentatiousness is all behind it now - Doug Bollinger cuddled up behind Katy Perry to allow her to incorporate a tentative on drive into her choreography. Adam Gilchrist, admittedly alongside every other professional cricketer, once went Gangnam Style to celebrate a wicket. In 2019, Shane Watson was roped in by Dwayne Bravo to learn the moves to whatever dubious song the West Indian was releasing that year. Maxwell's efforts won't give Hrithik Roshan too many sleepless nights but, with TikTok still banned in India, someone has to fill the void left by the absence of David Warner and family's Bollywood interpretations.
The bad news for batsmen already wary of Mumbai's Marco Jansen is that the young South African has a twin of similar beanpole stature and skills. For now, however, the only overseas brothers in the IPL are the Currans, although when CSK took on Delhi it was more fraternicide than fraternal. Baby-faced, but now sensibly hair cutted, Chennai's Sam took 22 off the 7 balls delivered by his elder sibling Tom, who was sporting a headband that unfortunately summoned the spirit of Ashok Dinda rather than Dennis Lillee.
So, aside from Curran Jr's blistering current form and family bragging rights, what inspired such a brutal assault on his own flesh and blood? The answer may lie in an interview the pair gave last year.
Even more shocking than the news they enjoy playing FIFA together was the revelation that the brothers, like some cricketing Krays, had been involved in a brazen criminal endeavour. The two admitted they had once been caught throwing water bombs off a hotel roof by the irate manager and that Sam, on the basis that his cherubic looks might elicit sympathy, had been left to take the blame. Not very noble from his brother, but being expected to solve a tricky situation caused by his elders' irresponsible actions will at least have prepared Sam for his career at CSK.
Bhogle still box office
There's been a noticeable sense of camaraderie among participants this IPL. Lingering, smiling conversations with team mates and opposition players post-match seem to be the norm, with Shikhar Dhawan and Imran Tahir in particular larking about like a pair of frolicking teenagers. There's also been huge grins from captains at tosses, though in Virat's case that might have simply been because he'd actually won one.
This general bonhomie is exemplified by the presence of Harsha Bhogle, who seems to have returned to his merry self after a slightly strange IPL last year. Although his tweets are normally less controversial than biscuits, Bhogle behind the mic - during and after matches - remains a beaming font of knowledge and, well, pure cricketing joy. In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone in human history in any situation ever being happier than Harsha is when he's conducting an IPL presentation ceremony. With Covid still keeping so many of us locked up at home, it's rather nice to see someone taking such pleasure in being back in the office.
Mesmeric tweeting fingers
Sunday morning saw the release of a brilliant video on Twitter demystifying Rashid Khan's googly. Or, more precisely, it explained why even when a batsman thinks they have picked it by observing the Sunrisers superstar's grip, they might still be being duped because the last second before releasing the ball, he, well, changes his grip.
Shubman Gill and Andre Russell perhaps didn't see it as they were both dismissed by the Afghani's wiles later in the day, but the video went viral. This was in part due to ex-England skipper, Nasser Hussain, tweeting it out, showing how even the most vaunted of pundits are open to being educated whatever the source.
Its appearance might have come too late for KKR's batsmen, but it is inevitable the handiwork of 'flighted_leggie' will now be poured over by every one of Khan's opponents.
Social media isn't just for sharing Glenn Maxwell boogies and Dravid tantrums. These days it is also a genuine means for anyone with enough knowledge and insight to have a tangible influence on the professional game.