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Can Sohail Tanvir’s IPL record be broken?


Sohail_Tanvir_IPL_Cricket_PakistanIn the fast-moving universe of the Indian Premier League, records do not generally enjoy a long shelf life. Early on in IPL 2018, Lokesh Rahul of Kings XI Punjab set Mohali alight by plundering 51 from 14 balls against the Delhi Daredevils, a new record for the fastest fifty in the tournament. This is the fourth time that the record has changed hands since Yusuf Pathan’s 21-ball effort for the Rajasthan Royals against the Deccan Chargers in the first edition in 2008.

The IPL has completed a decade since its roaring arrival on April 18, 2008, and unsurprisingly, almost all of the records created in the inaugural season have been obliterated in the years gone by. Brendon McCullum’s famous 158* for the Kolkata Knight Riders against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the very first match looked good to stand the test of time, but five years later, Bangalore’s Chris Gayle razed it with a swashbuckling 175* against the hapless Pune Warriors.

But there is one significant record from the 2008 IPL that has remained untouched amid the onslaught. The Rajasthan Royals, who eventually won the title under the inspirational captaincy of Shane Warne, had set an example by opting for lesser-known T20 specialists instead of superstars at the auction. Among their acquisitions was Pakistan’s left-arm pacer Sohail Tanvir, who was picked up only in the secondary round and set the franchise back by just $100,000.

The 23-year-old Tanvir had made his debut for Pakistan at the 2007 World Twenty20 in South Africa, six months prior to being bought by the Royals. He was not part of the squad initially, and got a place only because the temperamental Shoaib Akhtar had to be sent home due to yet another breach of discipline. Tanvir returned with a creditable haul of six wickets from as many games, including a best of 3/31 in Pakistan’s six-wicket win against Australia.

Tanvir went wicketless from four overs on his IPL debut against the Royal Challengers, but as the tournament progressed, the Royals reaped the benefits of his awkward, wrong-footed action that confounded most batsmen. In a format where the dice is often heavily loaded in favour of the willow wielders, Tanvir’s unpredictability gave the Royals an added edge at the start of the innings. On May 4, 2008, the Chennai Super Kings bore his brunt in the cauldron of Jaipur.

In what was a battle to reach the top spot in the table, the MS Dhoni-led Super Kings elected to bat first and duly came a cropper in the face of Tanvir, who was playing in his third game. There was a good amount of swing and also a bit of moisture on offer, and Tanvir was not one to let the opportunity go a-begging. Off the very first ball, Parthiv Patel played across the line to one from Tanvir that came into him, and the umpire had no hesitation in giving the leg-before decision.

Patel’s fellow left-handed opener Stephen Fleming perished in a similar manner four balls later, much to the delight of the home crowd at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium. In his second over, Tanvir accounted for Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, another southpaw in the Chennai top order, by inducing a thick outside edge that landed into Warne’s safe hands at second slip. Three overs into the innings, the visitors were on the mat at 12/3, with Tanvir’s first spell reading 2-0-2-3.

The Super Kings further sank to 44/5 in the eighth over, before Suresh Raina and Albie Morkel doubled the total with a sixth-wicket partnership of 44. However, by the time Tanvir returned to bowl, the score had slid to 96/7 after 16 overs, and the innings was in danger of ending well before the 20th over. The first ball of Tanvir’s second spell was a swingy slower one that deceived Morkel (42), who heaved across the line only to see his woodwork disturbed.

Three balls later, new man Muttiah Muralitharan was castled as well, giving Tanvir the first five-wicket haul of the IPL. Tanvir’s figures after the end of his third over were a scarcely believable 5/3. A couple of fours from number eleven Makhaya Ntini normalized these figures a wee bit, and also pushed the total past the 100-run mark, but Tanvir bowled the South African speedster off his final delivery to condemn the Super Kings to a mediocre 109 with one over remaining.

Tanvir’s return of 4-0-14-6 created a new record for the best bowling figures in the shortest format of the game, improving upon left-arm spinner Sanjeeva Abeywardene’s 6/15 for Panadura against Sri Lanka Air Force at Colombo in 2005-06. The Royals achieved their target for the loss of only two wickets with 34 balls to spare. Tanvir finished the tourney as the highest wicket-taker, netting 22 victims at an average of 12.09 and a splendid economy rate of 6.46.

Since then, the T20 record has been broken by Somerset’s left-arm spinner Arul Suppiah, who captured an incredible 6/5 against Glamorgan at Cardiff in 2011. Tanvir’s figures were the best in T20s by a pacer until 2012-13, when Sri Lankan slinger Lasith Malinga took 6/7 for the Melbourne Stars against the Perth Scorchers at Perth. However, remarkably, even after ten years and a whopping 669 games (and counting), they remain as the best bowling figures in the IPL.

The only other bowler to take six wickets in an innings in the IPL is Australian leg-spinner Adam Zampa, who took 6/19 in a losing cause for the Rising Pune Supergiant against the SunRisers Hyderabad at Vizag in 2016. There have been 19 instances of a bowler taking at least five wickets in an IPL innings, with James Faulkner and Jaydev Unadkat the ones to do it twice. Despite these attempts, no bowler has been able to surpass Tanvir’s decade-old milestone yet.

There is no denying that taking six wickets in a four-over spell is an extremely difficult task - two instances in ten editions of the IPL attest to the fact. Even in T20 internationals, the feat has been achieved only thrice in 665 matches. This infrequency probably explains why the cliché, ‘records are meant to be broken’, has so far failed to be applicable to the best bowling figures in the world’s premier T20 league. It remains to be seen for how much longer can the record stand.


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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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