Now Brett Lee and the Rest of the World know what IPL stands for, the paceman having bowled probably the worst over of his cricketing life in the Punjab Stadium, yesterday.
The King’s XI Punjab had scored 181 in their twenty overs to set the Royal Challengers Bangalore a demanding target of 1.5 runs per ball.
The Challenger’s hundred came up in 76 balls, the King’s accomplished spin bowlers increasing the pressure on the batsmen ball by frugal ball. Yuvraj was unlucky not to have Pietersen lbw with a full toss that would have struck the bottom of leg stump.
It was at around this point that Dominic Cork in the commentary box suggested that Sangakkara was ‘setting this match up beautifully for his fast bowlers.’
Did Third Man hear that right? The spinners were chocking the life out of Pietersen and the very fine Kohli. Pietersen’s record against left arm finger spinners is the talk of every cricket club bar. The King’s spinners had overs to spare, including two from Yuvraj, Pietersen’s personal bugbear.
Cork commentates like he plays cricket, always searching for the extravagant pronouncement; the bouncer, the dashing offensive, the bold assertion; delivered, struck or uttered with consummate conviction but with fatally flawed performance. Self belief is not his problem. Execution is.
But it was as if Sangakkara had heard the siren Cork, because Yuvraj was immediately taken off and pace called up. Pace to Pietersen is like an aqualung to a drowning man and yesterday it allowed him to splash in doggy paddle fashion to the relief of calmer waters.
The Challengers had reached 134 for 3 at the end of the 16th over, with the belligerent Uthappa coming in at the fall of Kohli, when Sangakkara called up the willing horse that is Brett Lee.
What followed was the sad destruction of a famous fast bowler in front of the many millions who watch the IPL.
Rather than use his considerable cricketing experience to surprise and disconcert with varying pace, the slow bouncer, the back of the hand ball, the knuckle delivery and then, only then, his trade mark yorker, Lee opted for familiarity (the long hop of Twenty20) and delivered the good length ball at pace which Uthappa lifted with ease for six over long off.
Like a disturbed wasp Lee then unleashed another fast full length ball and was this time slapped one bounce into the sight screen. Ball three was the yorker which Uthappa squeezed to Third Man.
With Pietersen on strike, another yorker was deflected to TM. Control seemed to be being restored but Lee proved an unreformed character. Uthappa hoisted another quick delivery way back over midwicket as if he was flicking that wasp from his presence.
Surely nothing could be worse that these five balls? Ball six was again delivered with pace this time on the full down the leg side for five wides. The extra ball, again over pitched, was hit powerfully straight down the ground for two.
The 25 runs from the over took the Challengers to 159 for 3 and into a comfortable endgame. It looks over for the Kings and surely it is over for the King of Pace who has yet to take a wicket in IPL3. The film ‘They shoot horses don’t they?’ comes to mind.
Jeremy Snape, who advises the South African Test Squad, suggests that players now see themselves not as persons, but as economic concerns, small firms that they should grow into big businesses.
With this characterisation, however, needs to come the familiar financial warnings that stock values can go down as well as up and that the higher the rewards, the greater the risks.
At whatever level in cricket, from the park to the Punjab Stadium, every player knows that what is truly at stake is their personality, that most fragile human construction.
For the player-as-plc, liquidation is one bad personal decision, one humiliating shot, one injudicious comment, one atrocious over away.
IPL – the tournament and the cash – is intoxicating. But players beware. IPL stands for Impending Personal Liquidation.
Last night, Brett Lee PLC cratered.