“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will have truly defeated age.”
The above quote was written by famous Italian actress Sophia Loren, in the context of growing old. You are only as old as you allow your mind to feel. But when this logic is applied to the game of cricket, fans like to believe that younger cricketers can perform better than the veteran ones who are not very fresh and fit. But historically, several cricketers have defied this belief because their mental game has been stronger than anything else.
The Indian Premier League is a great platform where lots of young talent is recruited every season. But the cash-rich tournament also has several veteran players in its ranks, who have defied age season after season to deliver good performances. As we now progress into the second half of IPL 12, here is looking at all the ‘senior citizens’ who still have a lot of fuel left in their tanks.
Imran Tahir — Chennai Super Kings
At 40 years, who would have thought that the South African spinner would be Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s trump card this season? His celebration after taking a wicket, which is usually longer than the run-ups of most pacers, has become a common sight at the Chepauk, because every time he comes to bowl, a dismissal awaits. The legbreak bowler has 16 wickets in 11 matches and not just that, he is also Chennai’s most economical bowler this season.
His performance against the Kolkata Knight Riders — 4 for 27 — is his personal best IPL performance. He picked up two wickets in the same over, dismissing opener Chris Lynn and the KKR’s biggest asset, Andre Russell.
Tahir will be playing his last ODI World Cup for South Africa this year, and will be hoping to make a memorable contribution which the Proteas can remember for a long time.
Harbhajan Singh — Chennai Super Kings
One of Indian cricket’s all-time best off-spin bowlers, Harbhajan Singh, even at 38 years of age, is making batsmen dance to his tunes. In CSK’s opening match of the season against the Royal Challengers Bangalore, ‘Bhajji’ took three for 20, sending the top order of RCB, including Virat Kohli, Moeen Ali and Ab de Villiers back to the dugout. His figures from the last three games — 2/39, 2/15 and 2/17 — prove that passion and hard work will always eclipse age.
Chris Gayle — Kings XI Punjab
Just when the world thought that Chris Gayle’s destructiveness with the bat had reached its twilight, the swashbuckling T20 player answered his critics and how. From nine matches this season, Gayle has 375 runs which include 28 sixes! He and KL Rahul form the best opening partnership of this season, scoring runs in plenty at the top every game.
The veteran takes his time to settle down in the game and adapt to the pitch condition, but once he connects the bat to the ball, there is no stopping the monster!
Here is a small stat to explain how monstrous this batsman is. Gayle has a total of six centuries in the IPL — the ‘slowest’ of which is an unbeaten 104 off 63 balls last year against Sunrisers Hyderabad! No batsman has thrived in the T20 format as much as Gayle has. Following a brilliant campaign in in the IPL, Gayle has been picked in West Indies’ ICC World Cup squad too.
MS Dhoni — Chennai Super Kings
Former India captain MS Dhoni’s performances were under severe criticism for close to three years until 2019, when he scored 327 runs in nine ODIs at an average of 81, including two consecutive half-centuries in Australia. This form was a huge hint of how crucial Dhoni would be to CSK’s batting this year. And as many had guessed, Dhoni is roaring like a lion this IPL, with 314 runs in 10 games. The unbeaten 84 off 48 balls against RCB is his highest score in T20 cricket. A batting powerhouse, MS Dhoni, even at the age of 37, can destroy several bowling variations.
On the list of most runs scored by a middle-order batsman in this IPL, Dhoni is placed third after Andre Russell and Rishabh Pant. “No one knows how long he wants to play and how long his body can continue to take the workload. But there is no other cricketer who has served the country so well as Dhoni,” Kapil Dev said after Dhoni’s extraordinary knock against RCB.
With the kind of form the three-time ICC trophy winning captain is, India stand a good chance at the mega quadrennial event in England and Wales next month.
Shane Watson — Chennai Super Kings
The 37-year-old Australian batsman was at the peak of his form in the Big Bash League and Pakistan Super League earlier this year, but struggled to get going in the IPL. 147 runs in ten innings for CSK as an opener meant Watson was under severe criticism, but captain Dhoni knew what the veteran brings to the table, and kept giving him a longer rope till he finally delivered.
His 96 off 53 balls against the Sunrisers Hyderabad was a sweet recap of how dangerous Watson can be, and a reminder that not all is over for the veteran. He scored most of those 96 runs against World No. 1 T20 bowler Rashid Khan, and did not spare death bowling wonder Bhuvneshwar Kumar either.
“Just about every other team I’ve been in – for me to miss out on not scoring runs for long as I had throughout the tournament if I had been in a previous team I would have been dropped a long time ago,” Watson said after that knock, thanking MS Dhoni for showing faith in him.