18 years ago, on the March 24 2005, airing of SmackDown, The Undertaker interrupted a match between Booker T and a (then) young mid-card wrestler named René Duprée. Neither superstar had anything to do with The Undertaker’s feud with Randy Orton — Undertaker was scheduled to face Orton a week later at Wrestlemania 21 — but the Deadman interrupted the contest and ‘sacrificed’ poor Duprée.
The ‘sacrifice’ (the official label given to the infamous incident by the announcers) was brutal to watch on television: The Undertaker first chokeslammed Duprée and then finished him off by delivering a Tombstone Piledriver on the steel steps.
Brutalizing Duprée was The Undertaker’s way of sending a message to his opponent, Orton. He didn’t have to do it, but he did it anyway. It was a ‘don’t mess with me’ statement.
Unlike the WWE, the IPL is not scripted. But 18 years on, the clash between Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals at the Eden Gardens on Thursday brought back memories of the ‘sacrifice’.
Yashasvi Jaiswal (The Undertaker) did not need to annihilate KKR (Duprée) the way he did. But the Tombstone Piledriver on the steel steps, i.e. a 47-ball 98*, felt like a statement he wanted to make to the rest of the pack. ‘Go on. Write my team off now.’
That’s it, as far as the WWE parallel is concerned. We can now officially move on to the actual cricket.
The question now is where to begin. Or, rather, whom do we focus on?
We can’t NOT talk about Chahal. He’s just shattered an all-time record and has scripted history by becoming the highest wicket-taker in the IPL. He looks certain to hold the record for the next four-five years. Or maybe even longer. He is, in no uncertain terms, a bonafide IPL legend.
But then what about Jaiswal?
Stealing the thunder of an individual who’s broken an all-time record is no joke. But look at Jaiswal. He’s gone and broken an all-time record by himself, in the same game, and has ensured pretty much nobody is talking about Chahal.
In a way, that is so rude of Jaiswal (come on young man, Yuzi deserved his moment).
But that is also so impressive and stupendous. Really, it is nuts that Chahal has become the all-time wicket-taker of a competition that’s 15 years old, yet his achievement has been completely overshadowed.
That, in itself, speaks volumes of the marvelousness of Jaiswal’s knock so it is probably only fair that we revel in the greatness of the 21-year-old’s accomplishment.
Prior to Jaiswal facing the first ball bowled by Nitish Rana in the chase, a total of 694 players had cumulatively batted 15,430 times in the IPL. Not one of those 15,430 knocks had yielded a 50 in fewer than 14 balls.
Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Andre Russell, Rishabh Pant, Suryakumar Yadav, David Warner, Shane Watson — all had years, if not an entire decade, to breach that barrier. They all tried, but none of them succeeded.
On Thursday, Jaiswal got there in just his 35th attempt.
If this doesn’t scream special to you, nothing ever will.
Usually in knocks like these, you’ll marvel at the stroke making but on this occasion, it was the sheer clarity, bravado and game awareness of Jaiswal that made you go WOW.
In the first innings, KKR had fallen short of the par score but such was the grippy nature of the track that, during the innings break, 150 felt like a moderately challenging target.
This was by no means the usual true Eden wicket and the spinners especially proved really hard to be put away. Run-scoring wasn’t easy at all against the tweakers, particularly against the old ball.
KKR had four spinners in their ranks, so the powerplay was going to be vital for RR. They didn’t simply need a ‘good’ powerplay; they needed a great one to give themselves a cushion and stay ahead in the game.
Some things, though, are easier said than done. Ask SRH. Twice in their last four games, they failed to chase sub-175 targets, and on both instances, they were unable to maximize the powerplay despite knowing they had to.
RR, themselves, in fact, were guilty of the same against LSG, albeit on a slower wicket than Thursday. There, 155 was the target but Rajasthan only accumulated 47 in the powerplay despite losing no wickets.
At the end of the powerplay, it looked like they were in a ‘comfortable’ position but they were not: run-scoring became exponentially difficult in a wink and they eventually ended up falling short by 10 runs.
Great players and great teams, however, learn from their mistakes. And do so very quickly.
Rajasthan and Jaiswal were not going to repeat the same mistake twice.
6 6 4 4 2 4 1 4 6 4 4 4 read Jaiswal’s first 12 balls and it was game, set and match inside three overs.
It is one thing ‘hoping’ to execute a tactic. Of course, every opener walks out eyeing to kill a small/moderate chase inside the powerplay.
Planning is the easy part. The tough part is the execution. Do you, as a batter, have the courage, conviction, clarity and skill to actually execute the plan?
Batters seldom (if ever) have all the aforementioned four.
Jaiswal always had the skill. On Thursday, it was all about if he could actually commit to doing the unthinkable, forgetting about the potential consequences should he fail.
Jaiswal successfully tamed his mind. And the rest is history.
The very first ball of the innings exemplified the youngster’s commitment to the cause. KKR captain Nitish Rana threw an interesting curveball at Jaiswal and RR, opening the bowling by himself. If nothing, it was an ‘out of the syllabus’ challenge for the 21-year-old, who certainly would not have prepared to face part-time off-spin up front.
Jaiswal could easily have been put off by the curveball. Or he could have opted to have a couple of sighters, at the very least, before teeing off.
Nope. He knew what was the need of the hour, stayed true to his plans and thumped Rana down the ground after dancing down the track.
The first ball and that six set the tone for the chase and well, neither Jaiswal nor RR looked back from there.
18 years ago, in the aftermath of the ‘sacrifice’, Duprée was written off the television for a significant time — it wasn’t until a month later that he appeared on TV again. KKR will appear again on our television sets two days later, but it’s fair to say Jaiswal and RR have ended Rana’s side’s qualification chances for good.
The ‘sacrifice’ worked for The Undertaker, who went on to beat Orton at Wrestlemania 21. RR would now be hoping to go on an Undertaker’esque streak and lift the IPL for the first time since 2008.