Bottoms up!

Match 36: Kochi Tuskers Kerala v/s Delhi Daredevils

Nehru stadium, Kochi

Form Guide: KTK- Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss,
                        DD- Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss,
Loss,

With two teams so low on confidence, it is difficult to imagine any one of them getting a turbo-boost after winning this game and going on to win the tournament in a fairytale rags-to-riches (literally) finish. It is difficult to create an energy or hype of any sort when the teams have almost accepted their inevitable playing-for-pride fate.

That both of them are electrifying in their own right (back in their day) and more than capable of causing a few more ‘upsets’, will only hurt their fans who are probably in a ‘what-could-have-been’ state of mind right now.

Mahela Jayawardene will be hurting from the pain inflicted on him by his best mate Sangakkara. After having the opposition on the ropes with the lowest first 10-over score in the history of this tournament, going on to sensationally lose (in some style) to the extent of turning on some neutral fans at the sheer possibility of watching a team that could be bowled out for less than 10 runs- was probably the last thing on Mahela’s mind when he stepped out confidently with the notoriously-consistently-inconsistent McCullum to chase a par score. At home. With the homeboy not cheerleading for a change.

To face Delhi at this point of time will not be of much consolation to them- because even the Daredevils are not aware of what they will do next. Planning how to go about a game is one thing- but basic execution seems to be in another hemisphere altogether for this suicidal Daredevil outfit.

Hence, this will be an interesting match-down between the two teams solely responsible (along with the fast emerging Pune) for creating some sort of comforting pattern and trends that have helped bloggers, columnists and TV experts keep their jobs due to consistently correct pre-match predictions for games that involve these employment-generating charity-obsessed squads.  
 
Kochi Tuskers Kerala:

From here on, Kochi will be re-christened K-040000, not unlike a stylish navy submarine, missile or even Bond-007 himself. It does have a ring to it- and one can be sure of the fact that S Sreesanth may have even suggested such an outrageous name before settling on Commando…er, Tuskers.

The number is the sole representation of what transpired on the famous night of 27th April, 2011 for this once-promising young outfit. That this sounds more like an obituary that will end with an inevitable ‘Ashes’ comment- is proof enough of Kochi’s demise at the hands on a tall, lanky, long-haired, profusely-adam-appled Indian fast bowler who was written off before the IPL began.

‘Dream Sequence’

When Kochi began the game in promising fashion against a fading Deccan, they were still known as the Tuskers. But when their top order folded with the sole intention of bringing Ishant Sharma back into the Indian team and discarding their own boring name, K-040000 was born (with the numbers representing the scores of the top 6 batsmen-yes, it happened). As a special sign-off to add some substance to their newfound avatar, Mahela cut Steyn for a boundary just for the ‘4’ to decorate the bland poultry-farm that was ‘0000’.

Of course, there were positives. With their score initially resembling a hard-fought tie-break set between Djokovic and Nadal (7-6)- to fight on and score a total of 77 (still the lowest this year) is a decent effort from an underrated lower-middle order who may have just discovered the true meaning of ‘lower middle order’. Apart from what has been mentioned already, there is really not much more one can say about their batting performance.

So putting that aside, let us concentrate on their newly-invigorated S. Sreesanth-injected bowling performance. That half of South India went gaga about the way he bowled during his first two overs (conveniently overlooking the irony of his life when the no-ball bowled Sangakkara) and he still ended with figures of 0-22 of his 4 overs- goes a long way in explaining his current status in Indian cricket. Yes, he did bowl well. He did make a comeback of sorts- fire in his eyes and all. But when RP Singh and Vinay Kumar took over the less-important responsibility of wicket-taking, Sreesanth decided to stick to his famous abilities- namely momentary brilliance and almost-wickets.

On a pitch that was helpful to seamers (as duly demonstrated by Sharma and Steyn minutes later), K-040000 may have expected a bit too much from the forever-talented-seamer-going-awry in a must-win game of sorts.

As predicted, his inclusion did not coincide with a thumping Kochi win. In fact, on the contrary….

Player to watch out for: RP Singh
The highest wicket taker in the history of IPL (much like Muralitharan for Test cricket) seems to be back to his old swinging ways- desperate to stake some sort of claim for the seamer-friendly England tour coming up soon. At times, the UP quick looks unplayable, and being a rhythm bowler- he is now visibly spreading the love to R. Vinay Kumar (who is not doing too badly himself).

With the highest run-getter in the history of T20 cricket in their team too (the young Brad Hodge), K-040000 will want to forget their torrid one-night stand with utter mediocrity and rise above the ASHES. Oops.

Delhi Daredevils: (Semi finals 2008, 2009)

When Sehwag decided to pull off yet another almost-masterstroke by inexplicably demoting his in-form batsman Venugopal Rao lower down the order to deal with the pressure of a chase that was rendered hopeless by the time he came in, half of Delhi could have been forgiven for wanting to side with their real son under pressure- Gautam Gambhir. So what if he was leader of the enemy? The real demons (devils- for those creatively inclined) seemed to lie within the team anyway.

In a way, one cannot blame him for wanting to trust the other batsmen in his team. After all, how long can Warner and himself lie next to eachother at night whispering soothing words knowing that if even ONE of them falls before the 5th over, the rest of the batsmen decide to emulate the ongoing nationwide aviation scandal by refusing to prove their batting credentials?

With James Hopes starting to resemble Cameron White and Naman Ojha wearing his keeping gloves while batting too, this Daredevil batting line-up has developed a tail longer than the combined length of a pony-tail manufactured from the chest hair of Anil Kapoor and Saurav Ganguly put together.

That the Daredevils self-destructed at the mere sight of a super-athletic Lee running in to bowl the penultimate over is testimony to the hours and hours of mental training they must endured while preparing for this tournament in their bathtubs, swimming pools and five-star hotel rooms.

‘Chalo koi nahi…’

A way up from here for Delhi is as probable as Rohit Sharma being chosen as ODI captain for the upcoming Windies tour, and they might as well play out the next half of their campaign for a tame draw. Or play out their draw for a tame campaign.
Either way, they are now officially the party poopers (read wooden spoon favorites) for IPL 2011.

Facing K-040000 will be soothing and almost therapeutic- with both sets of players more prone to sitting on the pitch in a circle and reminiscing their ‘moments of glory’ (admittedly a few already) from this year- in a desperate bid to relive those good times and inspire themselves to go one step further- like actually win a game. Or two.

Player to watch out for: David Warner
Two consecutive failures do not augur well for this once-destructive batsman who has been forced to curb his natural batting style at the risk of being as effective as Lasith Malinga with a round-arm bowling action. The next thing he knows, he maybe on a one-way hot balloon trip to player oblivion, not unlike his Aussie colleague White who has been jailed for consistently perpetrating intolerable crimes on T20 cricket viewers (and cricket in general). Unless he decides to display that famous Aussie doggedness- or sign up as opening batsman of Rajasthan Royals under the guidance of Shane Warne.

Shane Watson may have something to say about that.

Prediction:

Devil and the deep orange sea. Tough one- but one will have to go with the underdogs (really?) Delhi, if there is to be any excitement associated with the deceptively-complicated permutations of the next few league games.

Or as the famous F1 commentator (and eternal optimist) Steve Slater would say- ‘there are 7 league games to go and only 6 more wins needed for Delhi. If they go at the rate of a win a game….who knows? Ladies and North-Indian gentlemen, do not switch channels!’

We cannot switch channels, not when the Daredevils give us innumerable reasons to feel good about ourselves. 
 

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