Asian Showdown: Clash of the World Cup Generals

Match#45: Kochi Tuskers Kerala v/s Kolkata Knight Riders

Nehru Stadium, Kochi
 
Form Guide: KTK- Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win,
                       KKR- Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win,
 
Another Sri-Lankan captain faces yet another Indian captain. Asian dominance has acquired a whole new meaning- with the World Cup seemingly not enough to assert the eventual shift in power. 
 
With both these teams fresh from wins in their last game, it will be interesting to see the players of the World Cup final- Gambhir and Jayawardene- lead their band of merry men (and boys) against eachother in the midst of an extended lull (the never-ending group stage) before the inevitable storm- and still act motivated enough to achieve victory at any costs. 
That both of them are set to leave on a foreign tour very soon- is an interesting fact and one will do well to keep that in mind when they see Gauti and Mahela shaving off their heads and staging an impromptu ‘Make love, not cricket’ protest in the middle of the pebbled-pitch at the Nehru stadium today. 
 
Kochi Tuskers Kerala:
 
After 3 consecutive losses that threatened to transform Kochi into Pune (the shame!), Mahela and Co. finally managed to score a much-needed win against the run of play. That they were facing the Daredevils twice in three days- must have definitely helped the beleaguered Kochi outfit who looked like they were too busy taking down notes on paper in the previous game back at home anyway. 
A comfortable reverse that secured their dwindling status of being ‘away’ specialists- is probably the only positive they K-040000 (the name remains) will be able to boast of at the end of a topsy-turvy cruel-ways-of-the-IPL campaign for them.
 
Let’s be realistic- in all probability, Kochi will not make the semis. Jayawardene will be leaving the team before the knockouts in any case, and hence according to an age-old clichéd belief in the Ravi-Shastri dictionary of cricket- ‘Wounded tigers are dangerous for they have nothing to play for…but PRIDE and HONOUR!’
 
Baby’s Day Out
 
Pride shone through when S. Sreesanth bowled yet another good spell to confirm his status as a maverick (he likes the sound of it), and when McCullum and Hodge masterminded an electric chase to finally shove DD out of even mathematical contention. An inevitability, one may say- but Delhi did threaten to end the career of many experts with a brief turnaround in Kochi on Saturday. 
 
With Parthiv coming to the party with an innings of mature class (one will always associate him to a 17 year old babyfaced keeper that does not know his way around the world yet), the Tuskers finally executed a chase that showed signs of their previous avatar- much before Deccan had christened them K-0400000.
 
To face one of the favourites (once again) will pump them up- for they seem to specialize in upsets against the top teams, and it will be perfect for them to go back with bragging rights. Much like an Arsenal football team- who manages to beat all the top 3 consistently, and then falls to minnows, promptly attributing it to inexperience. 
 
Player to watch out for: Mahela Jayawardene
The tiny hyperactive captain is due- and big ones are his speciality. He has consistently shown sparks of brilliance, but has not been able to capitalize yet. Mental exhaustion maybe an issue here, but now that the pressure if off him, he may just decide to choose this BIG game to turn things around for himself. 
 
One is not sure about his team though- with the game being played on the minefield of a pitch back home, consistently defeating their own purpose of trying to make things difficult for the opposing team (promptly forgetting about their own inexperience at home)
 
Kolkata Knight Riders: 
 
With one foot in the knockouts and one foot teasingly enticing other big fish in the league to fall for bait, KKR has sneaked their way up the table- not unlike the content of many a wet (tear-inducing, we mean) dream that SRK has had over 3 years of horrid nights. 
 
The virgin team of the league has finally come of age, with all 8 of the original teams of 2008 now having made the semi-final atleast once. 
 
Okay, KKR are not there yet- but one does not see anyone (not even Kallis, despite his perfectly-paced efforts) standing in the way of their long-overdue date with destiny. 
 
He is not coming to KKR! Thank Heavens!
 
Having said that, ‘Destiny’ could also be the name of the dancing girl at the bar that they might end up frequenting in various states of intoxication if they somehow manage to glitch up their chances from here.
 
With Yusuf Pathan trying to be consistent version of his former self, life will never be the same for preying opposition attacks who manage to get past Kallis, Gambhir and Tiwary. With Morgan peaking (by his standards) and Boucher strengthening a disgustingly-strong team already- the future cannot look any brighter than the current Kochi jersey (cruel joke on them…)
 
Of course, it has helped matters that they were facing a clueless Deccan team at home (or the North Pole, for that matter)- who were trying their very best to make the mad scrap for a knockout berth much less complicated. 
 
Player to watch out for: Brett Lee
Faster and meaner in his 30s (Uthappa could take a lesson or two- what with his ‘30s’), Brett Lee is only inches away from making me use the proverbial ‘finer with wine’ comment that spells literary death for many a writer. Ravi Shastri may disagree, but never mind. 
 
One can feel that a magical spell of a 4-for is only a game or two away, and like every Australian team (of the last decade), he is pacing himself perfectly to peak at the right moment.
 
Boucher will want to prove that his considerable commentating skills (relatively) has not diminished his cricketing powers. Going by the inversely proportional trend so far (Gavaskar, Shastri, Manjrekar), he seems to be on the right path. (hint: link decently-great players to their commentary skills and…voila!)
 
Prediction:
 
KKR will want to exact revenge for what Kochi did to them at the Garden of Eden only a few weeks ago. Having said that, even I do not remember the sequence of events that transpired in that game (possibly because it was only the 453th game of the 890 games to be played)
 
Hence, a neat little KKR victory- confirming their new status as possible knockout chokers- can be safely expected. 
 

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