Inside the IPL with Eric Simons – 2nd May 2019

1st May –  Chennai Super Kings 179-4,
Delhi Capitals 99 all out
CSK won by 80 runs

So we managed to do it again. To win from a position where, watching from the dugout, you SHOULD be asking ‘how do we get out of this hole?’ We scored just three runs in first three overs then four in the fourth over, and lost a wicket. We were 7-1 after four overs. That just doesn’t happen in a modern T20 match. We thought 150 could be a defendable score, but that was going to take some doing in the remaining 14 overs.

In hindsight credit must go to Faf for reading the wicket and not panicking, and obviously huge credit to Raina (59 from 37 balls) who played so well for his 50 and for the acceleration he brought to the innings. But the master stroke came from a decision by Stephen Fleming to promote Ravindra Jadeja to keep the right hand/left hand combination  at the wicket. He had very definite instructions and his cameo, obviously along with the remarkable 44* from 22 balls by MS, gave us the momentum we needed to reach a formidable total as a crazy final six overs unfolded.

I tried to find out what prompted the decision by Delhi to bowl Chris Morris and Trent Boult for the last four overs rather that bowl out either of the spinners, Axar Patel or Amit Mishra,  but I wasn’t able to get an answer. We wondered if it had been the fact that Jaddu – an excellent player of spin – was at the crease, but whatever it was, it turned out to be a game changer. The score was 88-2 after 14 overs, so a bit of a recovery from 7-1 in four overs. If we could score at 10 an over from there, 150 was possible. Something to bowl at. To score 91 runs in the last six overs was incredible. Yes, the bowlers need to makes some mistakes but it takes some special hitting even if you do throw in the added intimidation factor presented by MSD being at the crease.

If you didn’t see the match, try and find the highlights because it contained two of the most unforgettable moments I have seen on a cricket field. I told MS after the match that I have seen him do some incredible things, but the two stumpings in the 12th over were beyond belief. “It’s a fluke,” he replied. That’s what he called them. Sorry, I have seen him do similar things too often for them to simply be flukes. Milliseconds. That’s all he had to get those bails off. A millisecond earlier, and it’s too early. A fraction of a second later, and it’s too late. They were incredible… but so was his reaction to it afterwards.

He has redefined ‘keeping because he didn’t bother to listen to conventional coaching when they told him to “ride the ball” as you catch it. Soften your hands and move them back as you catch. But that just wastes time. He catches with his hands coming forward into the ball which means it is difficult to know if the batsman is bowled or stumped when the bails clatter to the ground. There is simply no other ‘keeper in the world capable of doing what he did last night.

Any team would have a sense of relief if the opposition team is announced without Kagiso Rabada in their line up. We had heard rumours that he might not play but one never knows until the toss. They certainly missed him as much as we didn’t. He was surrounded by the Delhi powers-that-be and decision makers from the Franchise literally within minutes of the match ending. No doubt they were trying to persuade him to be available for the rest of the tournament, and understandably given what he has done for them up to this point. They have qualified for the knock outs and they need him to play.

I don’t know exactly what the problem is, but we heard he had a scan on his back for the pain he is feeling. I do not for one second fault the Delhi team trying everything they can to get him on the field but CSA cannot allow him to be pressured into playing if he is not 100% fine. He cannot be left to negotiate for himself in the caldron of an IPL franchise desperate for success in the qualifying matches with a World Cup just weeks away. It’s a big word but he is virtually irreplaceable in the Proteas line up and zero risks must be taken.

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