Match#23: Kings XI Punjab v/s Rajasthan Royals
Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, Mohali
Form Guide: KXIP- Loss, Win, Win, RR- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss,
Before sharing our humble thoughts on the form and quality of both teams, what stands out about this game is that the Kings XI is playing their 4th round game here. Nothing shocking about that, except that the Rajasthan Royals are playing their 6th game- in the last 9 days!
‘Dimples don’t work in the IPL. He knows that too.’
So while Punjab feel a lot like most World Cup 2011 teams (read undercooked) during their group stages, The Royals are being paraded around at different parts of the country mercilessly without giving too much thought to the current season in this country (clue: it is definitely not snowing) It is, of course, mere cruel coincidence that the Royals have the oldest player in the IPL as their captain (and a lot of other roles). Shane Warne, as much as he has worked on his fitness and skin-moisturizing in the off-season, will not be particularly impressed with this enigmatic schedule.
The Valthaty XI, fresh from a group hug with their owners, are now playing the kind of cricket that they displayed in exactly a grand total of two games last year. Considering the standards they had set last year (promptly being called the consolatory ‘giant-killers’), having already won half of their total wins last year- is quite a turnaround for a team that looked (on paper) to carry forward the wooden-spoon tradition once again. But with their neighbours duly taking over the coveted mantle as a brotherly favour, the Kings XI seemed to have stepped up four gears and are making up for lost time, money and love. The little-known Paul Valthaty, when he is not batting, bowling, fielding, keeping or flying, has become a household name overnight and should brace himself for a sensational backlash as soon as he fails (read Punjab loses).
The V-for-Vendetta strategy has flummoxed most teams, and the V-man himself was flummoxed at his considerable previously-non-existent ability to roll his arm over and get a wicket or FOUR against the Chargers (who duly charged back to the bottom half of the table after a brief blip of success)
The world must indeed seem like a beautiful, dreamy and flower-textured garden of multi-coloured balls and chocolate bats to Paul Valthaty right now- purple patch be damned!
Next on the Kings menu is another fast-dwindling Kingdom-themed side (very original, considering atleast 4 other team managements have generically named their teams with a creative variation of Kings, Royals and, er, Warriors) The Royals are on a roll that only the other royally-runsacked (pun intended) team seems to be matching- no win in their last 3 games- two of them being fascinatingly one-sided. Of course, the Double Ds (from the Danny Morrison school of commentary) are pacing their losses a little more respectively.
Hence, with highly contrasting starts to their campaigns, both these new-look armies with equally attractive star-actresses as co-owners (ironically, both of them have been on an extended ‘break’ from filmdom) will look to get a move-on in order to make the semi-final look-up look more like a Bollywood premiere party (with a corporate house or two roped in).
Kings XI Punjab: (Semi finals 2008)
The in-hindsight-genius-Australian-mind of Adam Gilchrist has introduced to World (Indian) Cricket a new superstar- and has promptly announced to his detractors the danger of writing off an old warhorse like him. The way he went after the Deccan bowlers in the previous match has only confirmed his status as a twilight player (defined by a player who destroys opposition once in a blue/full moon). His captaincy has been the turning point- so much so that he uses 7 bowlers a game, just to catch the opposition unaware. It is another matter that his ‘premier’ spinner Piyush Chawla is refusing to get over his World Cup sacking and is sulking at the rate of atleast 8 an over every game. The only reason he is still playing is because of the double-blow pullout of Dmitri Mascarenhus and Stuart Broad pre-IPL, promptly causing the early write-off of this team that is desperately lacking one more wicket-taking bowler.
‘Even my colours match their logo!’
With Gilly displaying a maturity far beyond his age (in the range of Virat Kohli) in dealing with certain unpleasant vibes (and comments) from his ex-team, Punjab will look to feed off his Aussie temper and maybe spread some rumours of their own about how even superheroes turn old. How else do you explain the dwindling popularity of the Terminator and Superman series of films?
With Marsh and Mclaren yet to come to the party (and David Hussey swinging on the bench), things look promising for this new-look outfit that might just learn to shed the distinctive honour of being called a ‘one-man team’ and maybe emulate the efforts of their current opposition- the Royals, strictly when it comes to team-play.
Or maybe not, considering the Royals tend to take the term a bit too seriously- especially when they decide to display teamwork in a different sort of light and fall like nine pins without making any one of themselves look exceedingly bad.
Player to watch out for: Ryan Harris
The underrated but extremely accurate out-of-favour Australian quick is doing himself no harm by performing consistently well in the shortest version of the game on the biggest stage. Perhaps, Greg Chappell might soon realize that Steve Smith was actually a wicketkeeper all along and Cameron White has taken to the Gandhian philosophy. Just like Graeme Smith discovered a bit too late that Johan Botha was actually a batsman playing undercover as an off-spinner to avoid being branded as ‘that man behind yet another batting collapse’.
Needless to say, we are discussing players that are strictly not Valthaty- hence eliminating the need to include him in this category. One can be forgiven for mistaking the Vodafone 3G ad campaign with the all-in-one Super ZooZoo to be an extension of the match when this man is on the field (in any form).
Rajasthan Royals: (Winners 2008)
Fresh from a rained-out match (blessing or disguise?) against the Challengers (see what I meant about the effectiveness of the name changing as we go on?), the Royals- as bizarre as it may sounds- may have gained back that little bit of momentum. Whether this pumps them up and lifts them for their next result-oriented game is a different matter altogether- but whoever you may be, losing to the same team twice in three days definitely reeks of the bunny syndrome.
Shane Warne may have been a bit relieved- and it was not due to the presence of a special guest in the stadium, but more due to the fact that he did not have to name his starting 11 for this crucial game. If Botha does not find a place in the team anymore, people may start associating Warne with the stubbornness of Inzamam-Ul-Haq and the ineffectiveness of Rahul Dravid (purely captaincy-wise)
‘Spin Kings on a Wall’
He has been in this situation before, and he has also risen and gone on to BEDAZZLE (connect the dots) the next opposition batting line-up with a combination of bowling variations so stunning- that 24 balls per bowler seemed like a massive crime perpetrated against mankind in general. But every year is a beginning of a new cricketing chapter- and this seemed very much like an encore of 2008 till they ran into SRK’s Dark Knights. (Cricket weds entertainment? Anyone? No?)
One would have never thought this- but Rahul Dravid is an important cog in the wheel that drags the team through the burning desert sands, especially with a moderately daunting target to chase. Ross Taylor needs to do more than just finish inconsequential games and Ashok Menaria needs to stop living up to the expectations pre-maturely set to the curious case of Paul Valthaty (read flatter-to-decieve)
Shane Warne lacks support in the bowling department, and Shaun Tait must stop using the pitch as a long-jump approach and actually bowl balls that do not concede runs (including actual runs from the bat) Siddharth Trivedi must prevent himself from becoming another Asnodkar- making sure that we atleast remember his full name after IPL 2011. Abhishek Jhunjhunwala will have to step up and score atleast a run more than the total number of letters in his surname.
If all these conditions and more are met, Elizabeth Hurley (yes, that’s her name) will actually be able to talk about the memorable night when…er…Shane Warne led the ex-champions to the semi-final (or sixth round) glory once again!
Player to watch out for: Shane Warne
Cometh the moment, cometh the Blonde man. It is time to name this legend as the ‘player to watch out for’ simply because it is only a matter of time before his grey matter outthinks his prolifically active fingers. Scandals, blips in personality, gluttony and all things fun seem to have taken a backseat- and loyalty to his outfit and unromantic promises to certain close friends are now the most important things on his carefree mind. Yes- Ricky Ponting can now safely chant, without fear of being dropped, the famous Aussie anthem “All hail the ‘best Australian captain that never was’”!
Having said that, the murderous instincts of Shane Watson and Ross Taylor need to come to the fore without fear of conviction for player-slaughter. The local players need to just follow suit in a manner rules out a possibility of almighty embarrassment once again- and all shall be well with the twitter world once again.
Unless Watson decides to make his all-round presence felt, the Kings XI Punjab will look to make the most of the favorable schedule (so far) handed to them. A Kings Win might not be unlikely- especially if the following voice over takes over during the zen-like innings of their new destroyer-in-chief:
Voila! In view, a humble vaudevillian veteran cast vicariously as both villain and victim by the viscitudes of fate! Victory is not an option, but a vain necessity- hence, let me simply be verbose and valiantly announce my vivid identity: My very-unique name is V…for…