Match#18: Kochi Tuskers Kerela v/s Chennai Super Kings
Nehru Stadium, Kochi
Form Guide: KTK- Loss, Loss, Win, CSK- Win, Loss, Win,
On Friday night, Mahela Jayawardena left Wankhede with a sense of relief. For a change, he wasn’t the one who scored the century and ended up on the losing team. In a match-up between the top three batsmen of both teams (literally, nobody else) his Kochi team pulled off the second best run-chase in IPL history- and the second best run chase in 3 days.
The Tuskers are now a team with a swagger- not least due to Sreesanth being benched for a change. Ravindra Jadeja, the man we all love to hate and the only man who has been given more opportunities than Shoaib Akhtar to prove himself in World Cricket- finished the game off with two massive sixes and one over to spare in front of a stunned Mumbai crowd. Savour this moment. Savour this line- for it is as rare as Kamran Akmal gloving a ball. (mind you, ONLY gloving)
The change in attitude and a sudden ability to clear the ropes (in total contrast to his time in the Indian team) has made Jadeja the poster-boy for the new team- and maybe for a turnaround of sorts. As expected, their batting finally came to the fore with the elegant and classy McCullum (who never plays a rash shot) and Mahela himself- the marauder of attacks with his famous fall-over scoop. Wait…Okay, same thing. They’re still scoring heavy runs.
And if Vinay Kumar stops impersonating a Sri-Lankan and Perrera stops impersonating every Indian bowler, this Kochi team could be a handful for a professional-looking Yellow brigade who have just overcome a blip by facing (and needless to say- thrashing) the fast-fading-surprisingly-inept once-Royal Challengers. What must have been heartening for Dhoni is that his team’s bowling seems to have gotten their heads together and convinced themselves that batting is not the only skill needed to win an IPL game.
Kochi Tuskers Kerela:
Fresh from a jaw-dropping win against the favourites Mumbai, The Tuskers look to have finally found a T20 formula that does not involve mediocrity and self-destruction: All it involved was dropping S. Sreesanth (though I suspect that has more to do with his freshly orange-tinted hair) To their relief, he did not take their ex-name ‘Indie Commandos’ too seriously.
‘Lagaan? What’s that? This is my own invention.’
One man who has gone under the radar in this team is the young old man of Australian cricket- Brad Hodge- also known as the highest scorer EVER in T20 cricket. Never mind that T20 itself as a format is only half a decade old. That is still a quarter of Tendulkar’s short career.
His finishing abilities and priceless experience will be worth its weight in gold for a generally inexperienced Kochi team. Mahela himself is trying to make amends for a disappointing World Cup (as Indians, we love to mention it from time to time)
RP Singh looks as solid as he did during the first season- except the wicket-taking part. But after the match against Mumbai, it is safe to say that Vinay Kumar has carrying forward the mantle of a missing Sreesanth.
Player to watch out for: Ravindra Jadeja
One may have never expected this day to come, but yes, Jadeja is the player to look out for- if they are to revive their campaign over a long period of time. His economical (he always was) bowling and his effective and well-paced (gasp!) batting is exactly the kind of all-round ability Kochi need.
Unfortunately for him, the national team will never say that again. Atleast not in the near future (10 years)
Chennai Super Kings: (Winners 2010, Finalists 2008, Semi finalists 2009)
Back to their winning ways, the Super Kings are prone to losing their way midway through the tournament. MS Dhoni will be aware of that. Hence, steam is not expected to be lost during this encounter with a supposedly weaker team. Kochi look a bit stronger than a Delhi-cursed Bangalore team that have forgotten how to chase scores- instead depending- for inspiration- on the usual dose of expletives duly delivered by Kohli when he gets out, or takes a wicket (or misfields, or fields, or drops or catches)
‘Is that a bird? A plane? No…look…it’s Shantakumaran Sreesanth in orange!’
For Chennai though, it always helps that their batting has clicked in all their 3 games so far- and the bowling in 1.5 games. It also helps that their bowler-in-chief R. Ashwin (yes, a spin bowler) is back to his best. When one looks at him, it is impossible not to have an image of a bespectacled, pipe-smoking, well-read mathematician-cum-accidental-bowler pop up in your head. In short, he is a thinking smart bowler- and the future (or present, considering current spin resources) of Indian cricket.
Player to watch out for: Michael Hussey.
Mr. Cricket is back, and how. After repeatedly playing for his career in the recently concluded Ashes because of a familiar presence called Greg Chappell (have to give him credit), the man is back to prime form. Fresh from another ODI century in Bangladesh (not rare though), the hustler looks to have carried on from where he left off. Chennai will value his contributions immensely because Srikanth Anirudha has started to resemble his father in more ways than one- he seems to have only one gear (verbal abilities cannot be confirmed yet)
Suresh Raina needs to forget about the World Cup (atleast for the time being) and concentrate on his USP- T20 cricket. Also- he may do well to understand that a well-paced 60 is significantly more valuable than a quick and reckless 30- Especially for the fluttering hearts of the Chennai faithful.
Inspite of a surprisingly brilliant performance by Kochi in their last game, looking past a Chennai win would be foolhardy at the moment- especially when they look to be getting better with each game.
If McCullum and Mahela do not take matters into their own hands once again, somebody in Kochi gonna geta hurta real bad!