Before the forty-fourth over of the night, KXIP captain KL Rahul, sodden and squirming under the culpabilities of captaincy, had choices to make.
KXIP do not prepare for super-overs. In Rahul's sagacious ken, no team does. Naturally, they do not have the wisest mathematician in world cricket whipping up statistics by the turn of the second and communicating the whos-who of match-ups and soft spots through a pair of walkie-talkies. Modernism is adjourned in this team; maximalism denounced. If Chris Gayle's selection for the second super-over was easy, it was a route paved by fascination.
Why would it be so? Why would the 'Universe Boss', a wholesome entertainer, a plunderer of hole-spawning sixes, a man who so piercingly advocates his own case for being the owner of the universe, a perpetual merry-maker concealing bulks of experience under his saggy T-shirt, not be an automatic choice? For a Super Over? Wouldn't experience trump pressure? Wouldn't personality establish fear?
Earlier in the day, faced with a similar situation, KKR decided to overlook their fallen warrior. It was obvious that the opposition would use its strike bowler Rashid to force victory out of seemingly pre-decided grief, and Russell, T20's most valuable player, had taken a ragbag of blows from Khan.
He struggled to read the ball off the hand, resorting to cockeyed slogging, ignoring the ball's repeated warnings about liking his bat's edge. That was despite his striking at 186 against the bowler in all forms of T20 cricket.
Yet, no matter the iterations about having a 'flexible' middle-order, the leadership group had set their priorities straight. Come the Super Over, Shubman Gill was the designated number three; Russell had faded from the picture.
KXIP's supposed conundrum was similar, too. Of the 47 batsmen to have played at least one innings of 25 balls or more this IPL, only four have batted with a strike-rate lower than Gayle. Of the 61 to have played an aggregate of at least 30 balls, only 14 have batted slower. CricViz records his innings of 53 from 45 in a chase of 172 against RCB as having a negative impact of -19.
Gayle's beard is greying; his locks are a sable silver. He is 41 years of age. He is no more the mafia king or drug baron he once smacked of; he is an ageing countenance more in sorrow than anger.
Did KXIP care? Did KXIP bother?
It was not as if they did not have options. If there is any purpose Glenn Maxwell unequivocally serves, it is a 3-ball cameo that wins you 10. Besides, notwithstanding the result of this game, KXIP's chances of making the play-offs were a meagre 16%. And they know it too, as Agarwal narrated in the post-match conference the importance of 'not thinking about the points table'.
With a long-term perspective in mind, this was the ideal foil to affirm to a bleating Maxwell that he was still worth his place, to have offered a vote of confidence to a confessedly confused batsman. Because no matter what he does, the last thing Maxwell offers (and this version of Gayle does) is an abominable string of dirty dot balls.
What did KXIP do instead? They embraced their individuality, opting for experience against pressure, even if that would be read as artlessness under the possibility of defeat. You could almost hear them hum: If individuality meant weirdness, chain not it. If individuality meant anachronism, shackle not it. Do a KXIP, and run away with the game, because that's how they like it.
Not a numbers game: KXIP work on whims and fancies, not data and statistics
Teams, like people, can have their own opinions, but not their own facts. Numbers in today's world have the ability to factualise any story; predict the outcome of a serendipitous event in a way words or rhetoric can't. But KXIP knew nothing of that sort. Neither preparation nor clarity was there.
Imagine yourself in that voiceless KXIP dugout. Would you, as captain, flapping the wings of responsibility, shouldering every weight upon his own body, dare to dabble in a nescience as glorious as that? Would you, a coach of a failing team, back your instinct to play the game as if trapped in a time-machine, when rivalled by a vanguard of forward-thinking philistines, conservatism-scoffing stat-guys and seething neophiles that transgress to the ways of playful overuse?
Stay put for a second, drown yourself in the moment, and ask: would Mumbai have done the same?
Under the hodgepodge of insanities that resulted in KXIP's eventual Double Super Over win, age triumphed thought, exposure triumphed numbers, instinct triumphed probes, knowledge triumphed knowledge. Perhaps, in the ignorance of the foolish complications that make our world lies the joy of living.
Also see :- IPL points tablePublished 20 Oct 2020, 23:09 IST