Match#9 – Kings XI Punjab v/s Chennai Super Kings
Form Guide– KXIP- Loss, CSK- Win,
Two contrasting starts to a campaign at the end of a draining ICC tournament (World Cup? What’s that?) would render this match as an inconsequential league game of the importance of, say, an India v/s Australia final.
But tell that to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The man can do no wrong, and he with the most-insured grey matter, has reached the peak of a very peaked career already. Riding the wave that started during the world cup final, he has now begun to drag his World Champion club side to further glory.
Apart from being the most consistent side during the previous 3 editions of the IPL, the Super Kings now have an equally unpredictable (Pakistan, anyone?) opposition side to contend with. The Kings XI, to their credit, have been consistent in their own unique way- consistently managing to plunge to newer depths of ignominy after a very strong start to the debut edition. Gone are the days of Yuvraj Singh (as was apparent during the World Cup), and enter an ageing champion wicketkeeper who is remnant of the famous Rocky Balbao. His reflexes are equally slow too.
Kings XI Punjab: (Semi finalists 2008)
Nevertheless, the Kings XI have a lot riding on this game. First, to arrest the slide that had begun with their first game of last year’s tournament- which consequentially resulted in them being known as the ultimate whipping boys (‘party crashers’ for the optimistically-inclined North Indians who beg to differ). Secondly- with a team that is inexplicably weaker (yes, it’s possible) than last year’s team, they must do some sort of a Rajasthan Royals to avoid further embarrassment. Of course, the inauspicious start against Debutants Pune has not helped matters, and India’s most famous dimpled smile is inconspicuous by its absence.
When 4 wickets fell for the first 9 runs on Sunday, one could not be forgiven for mistaking Punjab as the debutant- to cricket in general. Shaun Marsh, the man behind their now-surprising positive performance in 2008, played a ludicrous shot (Gilchrist cannot be blamed for ageing) to start the team’s inevitable slide towards batting mediocrity.
Hence, the Indian brigade of Praveen Kumar (Bangalore import) and homeboy Piyush Chawla will try their very best to not repeat their non-existence during the World cup. (Can’t blame PK though)
Often, newly-formed teams declare that they need a bit of time to gel together at the start of each tournament- but more often than not, the tournament is over before they fully ‘gel’. Hopefully, for their passionate fans, Punjab will not do an encore of 2010.
Player to watch out for: Abhishek Nayar. The headstrong left hander whose open-legged stance puts the combined stances of Sanath Jayasuriya and Kevin Peiterson to shame- is the fulcrum in an otherwise-brittle middle order. The youngster, much encouraged by none other than SRT in the first few editions, is out to prove himself as an international contender- hopefully by learning wisely from the never-ending limitations of his once-famous colleague Ravindra Jadeja.
Shaun Marsh is the only stability-inducing factor in a haphazardly picked batting line up- and he is yet to come into his own after a string of injuries that has put him out of International cricket in favour of an enigma called Cameron White (who has been dropped as we speak)
Chennai Super Kings: (Finalists 2008, Semi finalists 2009, Winners 2010)
After a performance against the Knight Riders that can be best described as ‘rusty’, Chennai look to reassert their credentials as perennial favourites under a newly-christened World Champion captain.
Of course, the match was described as nail-biting, down to the wire, a cracker, a humdinger and various other phrases from the ‘Ravi Shastri book of commentary’, but there was no denying the fact that the Super Kings came perilously close to losing the ‘cracker’ of game that kickstarted IPL-4.
If not for Dhoni’s lucky (actually, no, that word cannot be attributed to him anymore) blind-sighted quick-swivel-and-turn direct hit to run out a charging Kallis, things would have been quite different.
His midas touch then proceeded to perch itself firmly on the shoulders of the skilled Tim Southee, who bowled a peach of a last over to help Chennai continue a dream run that had begun late into last year’s edition.
Player to watch out for: R Ashwin. Dhoni’s bright-eyed dark boy is beginning to come into his own, not only in the IPL, but on the International stage too. He was solely responsible for the single-largest debate in Indian cricketing history- which involved characters like Ashish Nehra and Sreesanth’s extended family. After a slow start, this, we feel, is the time for India’s most attacking spinner to step up a notch.
The young Srikanth Anirudha is high on confidence after an impressive (and lucky) innings- and this son of their chief selector looks determined to prove that he is no Zayed Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Fardeen Khan or Tusshar Kapoor. (get the drift? Okay)
This is also a team that consists of a mind-bending plethora of middle-order riches like Suresh Raina, Faf Du Plessis, Albie Morkel, Scott Styris and that man MSD.
Prediction: No-brainer. Chennai win. Hard to think otherwise- unless luck decides to complete desert a formidable Chennai side and proceed to have Sarson ka Saag and Makai di roti with Yash Chopra’s young bunch in Switzerland.