Match#28- Rajasthan Royals v/s Kochi Tuskers Kerala
Sawai Mansingh stadium, Jaipur
Form Guide: RR- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Draw, Loss, KTK- Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win,
Two teams that are barely recognizable anymore, so much so that their vivid transformation overnight will have shocked even the toughest of plastic surgeons- will face off at a stadium that bears little resemblance to the fortress it once was for the home team. That the Royals must be in mild disbelief after a satisfactory first week of sorts- would be a bit of an understatement. The venue must be the least of their concerns now- considering most of them wake up from a time-warped sleep every morning unsure of the identity of their new opponents, or even the city they are in. Why- even Shane Warne seems to have mistaken some of their ‘outings’ for practice sessions- and constantly needs a new partner to remind him of the purpose of his existence. Winless in their last 4 matches, or more precisely since their ‘giant’ Shane Watson re-entered the team- the Royals will be wondering how the ‘problem of plenty’ situation seems to be working against them vehemently. That the exit of Johan Botha to give way to Watson seems to coincide with their Royally-cursed blip in form must not be a matter of much interest to Warne- simply because Botha continues to sit out and 4 batsmen have been used in the opening spot over the last 3 games.
Facing a Kochi outfit that is systematically making their dislike for the term ‘giant-killers’ quite clear, the Royals can maybe take solace in the fact that Mahela and his Orange-cap wearers might slip up against them simply because they are not being captained by an Indian (read a World Champion). Maybe Mahela’s vendetta seems to begin and end with the players who stole his thunder on April 2nd, and facing a bumbling Rajasthani outfit might just not motivate him enough. After scalping top teams like Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata, the Tuskers might lack the intensity needed to beat such strong teams- and promptly return back to being called ‘the second best debut team this year’ (which, in hindsight, might not be entirely correct after all) or ‘the surprise package of this year’ (patented by Ravi Shastri and Sunil Gavaskar).
Ah, maybe- just maybe Warne might recognize the value of promoting their biggest hitter Taylor up the order and save Menaria from being stereotyped as a batsman who plays well in a losing cause.
But then again, this is the IPL- and from one week to the second- even the owners cannot recognize their own teams. Ask Dr. Mallya- who seems to be convinced Daniel Vettori is the best captain in T20 cricket.
Rajasthan Royals: (Winners 2008)
The team that had reminded the world of the forgotten art of saving money in millions, picking an unknown team and scripting a fairytale run that duly helped a lot of Indian people to actually digest (read abandon cricket-watching altogether) a similarly-structured Pakistan win in the 2009 T20 World Cup- is now a shadow of the team it was even a week back. That this will be their seventh game in 13 days cannot be used as an excuse anymore- simply because they must learn to deal with the fact that one team every year is dealt an unfair hand- and this year is no different. That the previous three years had these ‘chosen ones’ finish bottom of the table without fail- is surely a mere coincidence that may have no logical argument to it. That the BCCI and the organizers have kept this piece of random trivia a secret from Shane Warne with utmost care- seems to prove otherwise though. Or maybe this is their way of displaying their genuine concern and care for the large-hearted Australian man who is the greatest role-model India has ever produced.
Whatever the reason, time is running out for this on-the-run team. If they do not get their act (and team balance) together soon, they might start to resemble a certain team in red (take your pick)- which is not a very pleasant thought after having won their first two games so convincingly. Watson surely has to open the batting if they are to stand any chance from now on, and sentimentality (read Dravid) must go out of the window. Shaun Tait looks like a genuine threat- and that maybe a bit of a problem (of plenty?) because he seems the only candidate who can make way for Botha. Maybe Warne should consider committing the ultimate act of selflessness himself- an experiment of sorts- just to pave the way for Bangalore and Delhi to do the same (to a better future).
Player to watch out for: Shane Watson
That he is the best bowler in the side right now is definitely a bonus- but his batting (that he seems to have left behind in Bangladesh) is the need of the hour. Destructive cameos are well and good if he was playing lower down the order, but the Blonde all-rounder must carry his bat through on more than one occasion- simultaneously making sure that the target of 300 (in all likelihood) will be well-defended by…Shane Watson and Co.
Of course, this is under the logical assumption that Taylor and Menaria follow him in the batting order- and that Trivedi agrees to therapy. And that they are not distracted by Sreesanth and the other cheerleaders.
Kochi Tuskers Kerala:
Mahela seems to have found a winning formula that was previously thought to be non-existent in this team (without having played a game, mind you). Watson seems to have found an unlikely ally in the calm presence of Sreesanth (also Sree’s only brush with real quality nowadays)- with their mere domineering presence in their respective teams constantly coinciding with an increase of exactly zero points in the last column every game.
‘We blinded them!’
Ravindra Jadeja continues to defy all logic- and in between ending careers of many a cricket expert and putting in world-class all-round efforts every game- the man is proving to the selectors that improvement was always an option. That he has learnt how to actually score runs and take a few wickets is always going to help his previously-lost cause.
In fact, he seems to have inspired plenty of other cricketers with very obvious limitations- Vinay Kumar and Rajesh Powar being a few. That Vinay Kumar seems to have excluded the faster ball (being a medium-fast) totally from his repertoire proves that he is indeed following in the footsteps of many a great Indian quick (who abruptly decide mid-way through their careers that line-and-length seems to be a better option).
RP Singh has returned to his purple-cap wearing form, making sure of the fact that selectors notice every year that his peak form almost always coincides with this little-known local tournament. He will take some solace from the knowledge that Deccan seem to be missing him more than the Indian national team.
With Brendom McCullum and Mahela Jayawardene in prime form, Kochi will look to nullify the threat of Shaun Tait and Shane Warne through sheer experience- and then further destroy the careers of Siddharth Trivedi and the other local bowlers with priceless gift of non-experience and complete mayhem.
Player to watch out for: M. Muralitharan
A showdown awaits- between the first and second best spinners of all time. (But of course…)
The wily old fox will derive immense pleasure out of the mauling his (forever) arch-enemy Shane Warne received at the hands of Punjab in the last game- and he will be looking to further drive home the power of sheer numbers and meaningless statistics with another measured performance against a considerably weaker team. Wait…
Of course, having the ever-dependable batting all-rounder *gulps pride* Ravindra Jadeja at the other end to check the scoring rate will be very useful.
Tough one, considering the way this tournament has gone so far. Just when one team seems to be pulling away from the rest (Delhi, Bangalore)- miraculous happenings occur (maybe not Delhi). On form, Kochi seems like the obvious favorite. Hence, keeping in mind the trend- A Rajasthan win is on the cards. An entire campaign is at stake- and we refuse to believe that any team (apart from Delhi) can be ruled out so early.
Another loss for the Royals may mean that the Daredevils will not be the team mentioned so often (and mercilessly picked on) in these previews.