cricket

How to Impress Your Future Pa-in-law

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Just hold forth on Powerplay

The term ‘Powerplay’ may sound like the name of a spurious aphrodisiac. But it gives one-day cricket layers. Using the expression also makes you feel like a cricket expert. Throw in some lines on ‘PPs’ and everyone, including your Amrish Puri-like potential father-in-law, might be fooled into thinking that you understand this complicated game. Just don’t mention the aphrodisiac.

Here’s some PP gyaan, fresh from the World Cup, that could help you get ahead in the marriage game.  

First, some basics for your beloved. Introduced in 2005, PP is the passage of play in which field restrictions are enforced. Currently, there are three such periods in an innings. The first PP is the first 10 overs of an innings. A maximum of two fielders are permitted to stand outside the 30 yard circle, which is marked by a pearl necklace of nearly 50 dots on the field. The second PP has five overs and can be taken any time by the bowling side. The third PP also has five overs and is taken by the batting team. Not more than three fielders can stand outside the 30 yard circle in the second and third PP.

The interesting thing about PPs is that it impacts everything—batting, bowling and fielding. Going by the way matches turn during the batting PP, it might impact the Sensex too. The best cricketing skills are on display during PPs. In an ideal situation, the batting team will field its best batsmen, the fielding side its best bowlers and fielders. It is an important period of play involving a lot of strategising. For students of the game, the tactical manoeuvres during PPs are excellent study material.

This is what one has made of the Powerplay from the World Cup so far. The two fielders outside the circle in the first PP have a gala time. They could carry hammocks to their fielding positions. Generally, these are players who have to be conserved for other duties, though they do need to be able to run and throw hard. India often have Munaf Patel or Zaheer Khan in the company of Sachin Tendulkar outside the circle in the first Powerplay. Usually, they are at fine leg and thirdman or variants thereof. If a spinner comes on during a Powerplay, fine leg may move to backward square leg and thirdman to backward point. One man could be on the fence. West Indies had a long-off when left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn was bowling to Virat Kohli. See, this is the other advantage of Powerplay. It gives journalists a chance to flaunt their knowledge of field positions.

A stray ball may go the way of these positions in the first PP, but by and large not. Most of the fours and sixes are hit to other parts of the ground. So they do warm-up exercises, crack knuckles or acknowledge the cheers of the crowd. When a player fields near the boundary, it is like a tiger veering close to the tourist jeep in a wildlife park. People crane their necks and press their faces against the fence.

But they do something they won’t with a tiger. They call out to the player. The player responds. At various stages against the West Indies, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh waved back to the crowd. You might even catch the player doing something unusual. Against Ireland in Bangalore, Tendulkar at fine leg sucked on what was presumably an energy gel.

{By now, would-be father-in-law has lowered his gun

Inside the circle, things are more intense. Hammocks are prohibited. There is a slip or two, mid-on, mid-wicket, mid-off, cover, point. There is the wicketkeeper, of course, and behind him a helmet that looks like the head of a man buried neck-deep. Fielders do things to keep up the energy and morale. Against Ireland, Kohli fielded in the covers, threw the ball to MS Dhoni, who lobbed it to Yuvraj at point, who flung it back to Virat. Just when it seemed that the three were contemplating a switch to American football, Virat threw the ball back to the bowler.

Misfields are not easily tolerated. When Munaf Patel failed to stop a cover drive by Kirk Edwards of the West Indies, resulting in a four, Dhoni immediately replaced him with Gautam Gambhir. When beckoning a fielder to move closer and asking him to stop, Dhoni’s gestures are the same as a parking attendant. This is apt, considering he often refers to players as cars.

The PP is supposed to be a scoring opportunity for batsmen. And it is true that if the ball is placed well, it will zip to the boundary on the fast outfields seemingly prevalent in all the venues. The speed of the outfield and resultant futility of chasing some balls was apparent when Gambhir cut Benn for a four. Ravi Rampaul at backward point began his sprint but abandoned it just as he hit his stride. By then, the ball had already run into the hoardings.

Finding the gaps, however, is easier said than done. At times the batsman resembles a cornered animal. He is one man against the bowler and fielders, who are all the time trying to hustle him. But smart batsmen do not let the lack of big shots get to them. They keep the scoreboard chugging with singles and twos, which should make Kapil Dev happy. Speaking on television about the challenge of the batting PP, Kapil said, “Out of ten times, only twice or thrice you can go bam-bam. Other times you must take singles and twos. Even if you get 30 runs from 30 balls, it is good enough.”

Dhoni, when asked if batsmen came under pressure to manufacture shots during batting PPs, said, “I do not think you need to manufacture shots. It is about the thinking. At times, if you have too many wickets in hand, you look to score as many runs as possible. What it means is that if you lose two or three wickets in a couple of overs, more often than not you waste the last three overs of that Powerplay. So, you need to have a correct balance. If the ball is in your area, you should play a big shot.”

Bowlers have to be accurate during PPs. The wrong line can render field placing useless. Wrong length, likewise, will be punished. South Africa’s vaunted strike combo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel erred on both counts and suffered against India in Nagpur. The ground fielders, like Johan Botha, put in extra effort and compensated for the failures of the strike bowlers. On the other hand, one probing over by Zaheer Khan in the batting PP helped India salvage a tie against England.

{You’re nearly there. Would-be father-in-law is duly impressed. Now, go for the kill with some PP stats related to India. Never mind what happens in the knockout stage

India’s best PP1 in terms of batting was against South Africa. India hammered 87 runs without losing a wicket. Their least productive PP1 was against Ireland, when they got 43 and lost two wickets. India’s best PP2 was against Bangladesh, fetching 44 from five overs for the loss of a wicket. Their worst PP2 was against the Netherlands. On a slow and low Kotla track, they got 17 from five overs and lost a wicket. Their best PP3 was against Bangladesh, when they scored 48 from five and did not lose a wicket. Their worst PP3 was not against South Africa, as might be expected; it was against the West Indies. Against South Africa, India lost four wickets and scored 30 runs. Against the West Indies, they lost four and added 28.

From the bowling point of view, India’s best PP1 was against Ireland. In ten overs, India gave away just 27 runs and took two wickets. India’s worst was against England: it cost them 77 runs and they got just one wicket. The best PP2 was against Holland. The five overs cost only 18 runs, though India couldn’t take a wicket. Their most expensive PP2 was against West Indies. It cost 38 runs and did not produce a wicket. India’s best PP3 was against England. They took four wickets and gave away just 25 runs. Their worst PP3 was against South Africa, when they gave away 52 runs and took just one wicket.

{The battle is won. Father-in-law loves you. His daughter is all but yours. Don’t forget to invite us to the wedding