Match#22: Kolkata Knight Riders v/s Kochi Tuskers Kerala
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Form Guide: KKR- Loss, Win, Win, Win, KTK- Loss, Loss, Win, Win,
With breaking news (TV equivalent) coming in that SRK has decided to take two whole months off to support his ‘young team’ (with Kallis, Lee the youngest of them) and simultaneously refusing to intervene in cricketing matters while demonstrating his PR, er, fun side by facing Sunil Gavaskar (with Rohan commentating in the studio) and a tired Shane Warne after his team demolished Rajasthan at Eden Gardens- phew, one would imagine he is a very busy man. And a very happy owner, at that.
But this is not about SRK, is it? KKR are the in-form team in the league right now- and I admit that I have waited ages just to type this line. Teams have fallen and teams have risen, but KKR was always firmly at the bottom of each table- waiting to pounce onto the unsuspecting public and opposition teams in IPL 2011. Yes, it was probably all part of a Grand Plan.
After all, Sachin Tendulkar and Mukesh Ambani successfully managed to convince patient Mumbaikars for two years that their time would come. IPL 2010 was their time- never mind that they did not win it. They were the best team throughout, and failed only when it mattered the most. Three South Africans (the survivors of the 1999 massacre) form their coaching staff. Just saying. No relation. Whatsoever.
After pulling a massive double over the Royals in 3 utterly dominant days of flawless cricket, KKR now face the daunting prospect of playing an opposition that is supposedly weaker than them on paper. And considering the results so far in this tournament, we all know how that turns out…*facepalm*
The Tuskers, fresh from their second successive win over yet another favourite, are keen to play in a stadium twice the size of Sreesanth’s home town. With RP Singh looking to be exactly 43 percent of the man with the highest IPL wickets (read himself), things look good for Kochi- and there seemed to be an extra spring in their step on the field against Chennai- though one is not entirely sure if that could be attributed to the fact that they were already aware of the high probability of rain that entire day. And half the night.
One could be forgiven for having spotted a smug-looking Mahela Jayawardena walking around in the hotel lobby with a piece of paper in his pocket while humming a famous rendition of ‘Lewis ain’t not worth the duck’. In the morning. BEFORE the game.
Oh, and a small rumour is said to have been floating around too. Nothing major really- something on the lines of Dada returning to the IPL, as a player, in a franchise which coincidentally happens to be…the Tuskers. Hmmm.
Whatever the situation, one thing is for sure- The Kolkata crowd will discover that S. Sreesanth’s hair is now back to its original colour (no, not blonde- Come on)- and this might make them infinitely happier than the prospect of having to face a team that their beloved Son of the Soil might soon captain. Or even play in. Or even sit out while, er, playing in.
Having said that, speculation is the downfall of a soul restless (read blogger). News channels seem to get away with such things more often. So, lips sealed.
Kolkata Knight Riders: (6th place 2008)
How often has an entire bowling attack fired together, making the sight of an utter demolition of the opposition batting line-up as pleasurable as, say, watching Roger Federer serenely destroy Rafael Nadal on clay. Yes, it is THAT rare.
‘Front foot defence…front foot defence…’
Hence, when L. Balaji dismantled Shane Watson and Rahane, and when Shakib Al Hasan destroyed the tail at a velocity faster than that of Shane Warne’s texting finger- things started to look very ominous for the rest of the teams in the league.
THREE wins on the bounce. Brett Lee is back in the team. Iqbal Abdullah, the young zippy little left-arm spinner consistently provides breakthroughs. Kallis looks lethal when it matters. Eoin Morgan is busy contemplating the Freudian take on ‘Interpretation of dreams’- in the outfield. We are told he is then planning to move on to Christopher Nolan’s take on the same. And most of all, Yusuf Pathan is yet to fire.
Life is good, especially when the youngest player in your side manages to run-out the non-striker by using the old pivot-and-aim fake play. It looks far better than it sounds. For sure.
With a strong start and this sort of balance, if the team STILL does not reach the semi-finals, then the KKR curse will officially be incorporated into the repertoire of every black-magic-inducing-head-shrinking-doll-destroying tribal in the backwaters of the South-Western-Northern Amazonian Brahmaputra.
Player to watch out for: Manoj Tiwary
The lesser known but infinitely more stylish Tiwary looks to have found his true calling with sparkling little cameos that are sure to spark up the worried eyes of selectors fretting the inevitable retirement of the big 3 from test cricket. He may have to work on his temperament a bit, but so did Virat Kohli. One way or the other, he can surely do no worse than Rohit Sharma or Ravindra Jadeja (in the national scheme of matters)
Gauti, the leader of the fallen, seems to have brought his dog-fighting scrappy attitude with him from Delhi (quite evidently), and is building up his already-considerable reputation of being a stellar calculating T20 batsman and captain.
Kochi Tuskers Kerala:
Considering how matters have unfolded over the IPL fortnight, one would have to be no less than this world’s Commander-in-chief (in politically correct terms) to forecast the right result of the Kochi-Chennai game if the rain hadn’t come down and reduced the game to a 17-over-a-side match-up that, one cannot help but feel, was a bit unfair to the team batting first.
Nevertheless, the Tuskers performed admirably well to chase down the par score without hiccups. To their credit, they look an unrecognizably attractive shadow of the side that crumbled under pressure and lost the first two games so convincingly.
With the well-built Parthiv Patel and the equally well-built Mahela Jayawardene playing delightful cameos, the tiny figure of Brendon McCullum led a professional-looking chase that would have made VVS himself proud (as he smiled with assurance from the dugout). Of course, the previous chase against Mumbai would have made that man Pragyan Ojha proud. Ah, great memories.
With Ravindra Jadeja and Brad Hodge making a habit out of finishing innings with a risk-free flourish, this team is no more the basement dweller it was initially made out to be. Both the debutants look well and truly competitive- much to the displeasure and utter disgust of Delhi and Bangalore fans.
Surprise, Surprise- Kolkata, Pune and Kochi occupy 3 of the top 4 positions in the table right now- which duly explains the unpredictability of T20 cricket (and my complete inability to get a prediction right at that)
Player to watch out for: Mahela Jayawardene
This man seems to have a hitlist of sorts: first Tendulkar in Mumbai (at ‘that’ stadium) and then Dhoni back home in Kochi. Having delightfully caressed both the teams aside with utmost grace, Mahela will now move onto his next few Indian targets to avenge a world cup loss so heartbreaking that it will be etched forever in his memory. Being known as the man who played the greatest World Cup final innings in a losing cause is not exactly consolation for the highly competitive stylist and the lone upholder of ‘complete cricket’
With Eden Gardens as the noisy 12th man, KKR will have an edge. But Kochi thrives on such pressure and specializes in heartbreaks.
Ask the enlightened thousands at Wankhede on Friday who went from milestone-watchers to mere miracle-watchers in a matter of two hours of self-assured non-violent batting.
After all, how long can one use the term ‘giant-killer’ for a team who look more like the real deal (read Giant) with every passing game?
Well, only time (and the continued elimination of Sreesanth) will tell.