• The darker side of IPL

    The IPL is nothing if not a wild roller-coaster ride of hope, glory … and despair for some of the Saffas.

    As we head for the final run-in to the glamorous title, it’s my guess that for more than a few, it can’t end soon enough. They have had a gruelling 40 days of non-stop action so far, and for the ‘lucky’ ones, there is another 10 to go to the final on 29 May. Most of our Saffas will be out of there by then, and surely thankful for it.

    While the likes of AB de Villiers can look back at the rightful glory which his flamboyant ability has earned him, we must pause for thought and pay homage to the forlorn and forgotten few.

    What must it be like for such as Marchant de Lange, who throughout this campaign has played …. nil.

    It’s not much better for Dale Steyn, who in 12 matches turned out just once, bowling two overs for the Gujarat Lions; David Wiese, who spends his days watching AB in full flow for the Royal Challengers, played on 17 April, being smashed for 49 off his four overs by, among others, his mate Quinton de Kock. He hasn’t played since. Farhaan Behardien, who out of 13 opportunities has taken the field twice for the Kings XI.

    But just to return to Steyn. How distant and painful must be the memory of his glorious summit years of 2012, when he snapped up 18 wickets in 12 matches, or 2013, when 19 victims fell to his pace in 17 matches, when he was giving away just 5.6 runs apiece. It all turned a bit sour last year when he was placed a rung below Trent Boult. This year, the more restrained pace of Dwayne Bravo and Dhalwal Kulkani have been preferred.

    In fact, it is medium-pace which has dominated; eight of the top 10 are of that ilk; the other two are leg-spinners (Amit Mishra 13 wickets and Yuzvendra Chahal 12 wickets). That rather leaves Imran Tahir out in the cold. He has played four matches out of 12, taking just five wickets for the Delhi Daredevils.

    Admittedly, they are compensated by hundreds of thousands of rands, but for elite sportsmen, there must be a great sense of frustration and futility. It’s the ultimate catch 22. There are no easy days in the IPL. On a continent that big, it is a never-ending routine of play (or not), up and out to the airport, wait, travel, hotel, nets, functions, handshakes with the sponsors, another day on the bench, nets, airport, wait, travel, hotel, function, handshakes, nets, another day on the bench … I mean, how utterly soul destroying is that?

    Well, at least our boys stayed. Not that I am suggesting for a moment that any of  Steven Smith, Mitchell Marsh, Shaun Marsh, John Hastings and Glenn Maxwell were not injured when they returned home early. The Australian captain, Smith, particularly, was a worry. He left the Supergiants after a period of ‘managing’  an ongoing wrist injury; which he did extremely effectively, scoring 46 not out, 101 and 45 in his last three innings …

    Perhaps our biltong-boosted boeties are just tougher than the rest. At least Faf du Plessis has an X-ray showing a broken finger sustained in his sixth match.

    By the way, the really good news for the Aussies is that those guys are likely to be fit for the triangular one-day tournament against SA and West Indies next month. Phew. Aah, the marvels of modern medicine.

    But the likes of Steyn, Behardien, Wiese and De Lange don’t even get the chance to develop a side strain or a sore ankle. Unless they trip over the boundary ropes when carrying the drinks.

    Here’s the question: Next year, when some guy says, ‘I’ll pay you loads and loads of crispy notes, but I will ignore you and your talent and plonk you on the bench for day after day after day. Be grateful, I’m paying for it.’ C,mon, what would you do?

    That is the excitement of IPL …

    For the record, on the morning of 20 May, the Saffas’ contributions were:

    AB de Villiers (RCB) 13 matches, 597 runs
    David Miller (KXIP) 13 matches, 154 runs
    Chris Morris (DD) 11 matches, 168 runs, 12 wkts
    Quinton de Kock (DD) 11 matches, 383 runs
    JP Duminy (DD) 9 matches, 174 runs, 1 wkt
    Morne Morkel (KKR) 9 matches, 1 run, 8 wkts
    Faf du Plessis (RPS)  6 matches, 206 runs (returned home injured)
    Imran Tahir (DD) 4 matches, 5 runs, 5 wkts
    Hashim Amla (KXIP, late-call-up)  5 matches out of possible 5, 127 runs
    Tabraiz Shamsi (RCB, late call-up) 4 matches out of possible 9, 0 runs, 3 wkts
    Kyle Abbott (KXIP) 4 matches, 12 runs, 2 wkts
    Albie Morkel (RPS) 2 matches, 16 runs, 2 wkts
    Farhaan Behardien (KXIP) 2 matches, 9 runs
    David Wiese (RCB): 1 match, 5 runs, 0 wkts
    Dale Steyn (GL) 1 match, 1 run, 0 wkts
    Marchant de Lange (MI) 0 matches

    Photo: BCCI