The tenth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) kicked off by hitting fans with nostalgia right from the very first moment. It was one of the rare occasions when Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium was jam-packed. Thousands of fans stormed the venue as their heroes, Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), began their title defence against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) on Wednesday.
The evening commenced by felicitating the legends of Indian cricket— Virender Sehwag, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar, for their contribution to the game, as the cash-rich tournament entered its tenth successful year.
When Tendulkar made an entry into the field, the crowd erupted with chants of “Sachin...Sachin...Sachin.” However, the loudest cheer was for an Indian warrior who played a major role in fulfilling India’s dream of winning the cricket World Cup in 2011 – Yuvraj Singh.
The Sunrisers had a poor start in the opening fixture when they lost their captain and best batsman, David Warner early in the innings. An uncapped RCB bowler, Aniket Choudhary, dismissed Warner in the second over of the day when the hosts had only 19 runs on the board. Every run was cheered. Every misfield by the opposition was booed. However, there came an instance when the SRH fans rejoiced a fall of their wicket.
Stuart Binny bowled the 11th over to SRH’s opener, Shikhar Dhawan, who gave a good account of himself. The first delivery was lapped off for a four over square leg. Just when he tried to clear the ropes over long-on in the second ball, he mistimed it and was caught by Sachin Baby.
Instead of disappointed faces, the spectators in the stadium jumped in joy as Yuvraj Singh walked in to bat next. Without wasting a ball, the left-hander immediately went off the mark by flicking the ball to backward point for a couple.
He needed just five balls to open his boundary account and eventually finished with seven fours and three sixes in his magnificent knock of 62 off just 27 deliveries. This was a vintage Yuvraj Singh performance with several flicks, lofty blows that went to the stands and rotating the strike constantly. Although the 27-year-old Choudhary became an instant hero by removing Warner early in the game, he was punished brutally by the Indian hitter.
It was the 13th over and SRH were recovering from Dhawan’s dismissal. Choudhary was brought back into the attack with an aim to make another breakthrough. He almost got one when Yuvraj, who tried to play a pull shot, managed to get an inside edge. Fortunately for SRH, there was no fielder there and it rolled on the leg side for a four. Choudhary then tried a full toss before being punished by Yuvraj, who lofted it over extra cover for an elegant six. The big screen showed – Vintage Yuvraj!
That was followed by another boundary. Yuvraj was batting in full flow and when tried to pull the final ball of the over, he failed to connect it well and S Aravind ran to complete a high chest catch but ended up making a mess out of it. Yuvraj survived.
The Indian cricketer right away made Aravind feel guilty when he smashed the next ball he faced for a boundary. The Karnataka bowler might have cursed himself when Yuvraj hit him for a six. The latter was on 26 runs when Aravind dropped his catch. RCB’s captain for the day, Shane Watson, surely would not have been happy with the sloppy fielding but he didn’t lead from the front in the fielding front as he himself was guilty of dropping a few catches.
When Yuvraj was nearing a half-century, RCB received another opportunity to bring an end to his innings. This time, it was Watson himself who failed to pouch the ball. The spinner, Chahal, bowled an excellent googly that forced the in-form Yuvraj to play a pull shot. Once again, it took a leading edge which flew straight to the covers and Watson missed it by a minute distance, again!
When Yuvraj was granted a second life, he was on 40. He added another 22 runs in the next nine balls he faced before finally being dismissed by Tymal Mills. The visitors lost the match by 35 runs and the two moments of poor fielding by the visitors surely cost them the match.
Had RCB dismissed eventual Player of the Match, Yuvraj, at the very first attempt, they could have saved the crucial 36 runs and the result might have gone the other way.