Formula 1 has its final few laps, football has the golden goal. Cricket on the other hand, whose gentlemanly games don’t really have a similar relationship with adrenaline, only occasionally feature half this excitement. That said, the gentleman’s younger, glitzier cousin, Twenty20, has been giving a dose of the above to millions of excitement-starved fans ever since the famous final of its first World Cup in 2007. Half a decade later, cut to the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), and their appetite for chewed nails is perhaps at an all-time high. There have been 18 games that have gone to the last over, highest in the tournament’s history.
Sport has the ability to bring out extraordinary, unique behaviour in men, and the last over of a tight Twenty20 match is a phenomenon that’s been doing this with intriguing regularity. While the players themselves are swimming in stress and sweat, their captains are trying their best to appear calm and camoflauge their panic inside. Fans are shown praying through compelling visual narratives created by smart broadcasters, commentators add to the brouhaha by excitedly telling us what we already know.
It is a treat to witness MS Dhoni in such a situation, the man whose captaincy has been fed on a diet of tight encounters. His roving eyes and zen expression bear no clues on whom he’ll throw the ball to when 14 runs are needed off the last over. Many results justify his means, some culminate in disasters, such as Hilfenhaus giving away 14 runs (and effectively the match) in his last three balls. It is also amusing to watch Sourav Ganguly, with his ever-blinking eyes and dishevelled hair giving away much about his involvement in the game. Talking of captains, Delhi’s Gautam Gambhir hasn’t been an exemplar of great behaviour, but has managed to win the most of his tight matches; while Harbhajan Singh, the unfitting leader of Mumbai, hasn’t looked in-charge.
The team owners are perhaps the most expressive during these final over deciders. While Punjab’s Priety Zinta’s jumpy outbursts make for superb TV material, Nita Ambani of Mumbai too lets the composure behind her glasses take a hike as things go to the wire. Shah Rukh Khan plays the superstar even in the balcony and the industrialists and their friends get into school boy mode within their crisp blazers.
Lastly, spare a thought about the players themselves, that bowler whose brief is ‘nothing but a yorker’ and the helmet-clad bundle of nerves the batsman, whose brief is ‘nothing but a boundary’. If you emphatically hit a six when three are required off the last ball (a la Rohit Sharma), you’re a hero for the night... but if you give away 20-plus in an over (a la Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra), you’re the villian. In Twenty20 cricket, the distance between the sweet spot of the bat and the block-hole is the sole decider of destinies!
Photo Credits: http://www.espncricinfo.com/