No one reads wickets better than Sachin Tendulkar.
He’s shown that to bowlers, fieldsmen and devotees like you and me. While the talk had veered around the slowness of this track, Tendulkar had dismissed apprehensions about the track on Tuesday itself.
With the Ferozeshah Kotla theatre packed to the brim on Wednesday, the master decided for some reason, much to the Delhi Daredevils’ misery — that tonight would be the night. His mastery was evident as he played shots all around, cricketing mostly (even in this format!), and raced to his 50 off just 23 balls. It was delightful stuff, even if you were one of the Delhi faithful, grimly determined to support your own.
The only thing you could really do was sympathise with the poor Daredevils’ bowlers, who saw balls of every length fly away to the fence.
Call it the cruelty of this format or perhaps the man’s genius, good length balls were treated with the same disdain as those that fell short or were wide. His strike rate was about 200 for the day, but the good length stuff got him runs at about three times the balls he faced.
The Delhi bowlers tottered in aimlessly, fielders tottered around providing escort service to balls that raced past and the cheergirls gyrated while butter chicken-treated unsexy Delhi bellies followed them in whatever manner they could.
In the midst of it all, the Daredevils’ stand-in skipper, Dinesh Karthik, who had taken over from Gautam Gambhir in the second over itself after he had hobbled off the field with a hamstring pull, looked like the speaker of perhaps a state assembly, unable to control the pandemonium.
By the time Tendulkar was out, caught by Yogesh Nagar for 63 off 30-odd balls, the Mumbai Indians had galloped to 122 and it was just the 11th over.
The rest needed to just muster up the runs and dispatch the bad balls to the fence — which they did, though not at the pace that Tendulkar had promised.
Faced with a monumental task and sans their skipper, the Daredevils tried to make a match of it, briefly. Tillakaratne Dilshan, coming in with two successive ducks, got off to a flier. So did Sehwag. But Dilshan’s stay was short and after he went, the wickets kept tumbling. The stand-in skipper tried, but after a couple of flashy boundaries, he too went and the rest was purely a formality.
To make the Daredevils misery in their first home game complete, Gambhir might miss the next game. Given how they marshaled themselves in his absence, it’s a miss they cant afford.