Match#42: Deccan Chargers v/s Kolkata Knight Riders
Rajiv Gandhi International stadium, Uppal, Hyderabad
Form Guide: DC- Loss, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Win, Loss,
KKR- Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win,
One team is desperate for survival. The other is desperate to go where no other ex-team has gone before. Huge expectations. Huge results in the making. This is it. Do-or-die for the beleaguered Chargers, and kill-kill-faster-faster for the Dragon Riders.
Once again, it is an Indian captain facing off against a Sri-Lankan Captain. At the risk of sounding repetitive, are there any other teams in World Cricket right now?
Oh, Sanga, Sanga! First it was Dhoni, now it is his Deputy GG. 4 losses to 4 Indian players masquerading as IPL captains may not be the best of tonics for Kumara after the World Cup Final. The time for revenge has long passed, and it is time to play for pride. Ask any Bangladeshi (or even Australian captain) nowadays- and they will know what it feels like.
Deccan Chargers: (Winners 2009)
Two days after losing a game they had no right to lose- the Chargers are back in action against the almighty Riders of the ‘Night’. Having displayed a streak not dissimilar to a man with no ambition in the middle-east (hint), Deccan will be quite devastated after losing a game that had everything going in their favour.
With Sangakkara briefly suspending all illusions of logic and trying to do a Dhoni complete with a ‘midas touch’ by sending in Chipli before him (not so bad, really), the Chargers still had the match in their grasp until Sanga did his best impression of the fearless-but-senile Sunny Sohail (who, no doubt, still thinks he is in the mustard fields of Punjab with no care in the world)
No if, no buts…just guts!
With Ojha, a former purple capper, finally abandoning memories of his almost-death-experience with VVS Laxman in a test match and actually counting among the wickets (3 crucial ones, at that)- DC could have been forgiven for wondering if lady luck had finally decided to give in to a night of unbridled passion with them, after 1.5 useless years of pursuit and wooing. Especially when Sunny (Deol, from the looks of it) was batting as if he had been possessed by a spirit that often resided in Harbhajan Singh and Curtly Ambrose (combined together), the Chargers looked like making a mockery of a mighty Chennai side that were really only doing the basics right.
If Sanga and Co. need to stand even the tiniest of chances of making the knockouts, they must learn the art of swinging without winging back to the pavilion and committing mass-suicide. But if the most sensible captain in world cricket (ex, maybe) decides to play an outrageous shot more suited to the likes of Robin Uthappa and Misbah, a team can only follow suit and maybe save face by getting dismissed in an orthodox calm fashion- as aided by Morkel and Bollinger later.
A loss more could mean the end of the road for Deccan- if they decide to play even half as badly as they did against the Super Kings- and there is no turning back. They need to win 5 out of their next 6 games to stand a solid chance, but with most of them being played at home (or so it seems), even the Gods may not be able to drop some blessings onto the team with possibly the worst home record in the history of team sports.
A minor observation- Dale Steyn was rested. Yes, rested. For a crucial game. Mid-way through the tournament. Against the champions, no less. Is the league all wrapped up, Sanga? Really? Like the World Cup, maybe? Mendis? Ahem.
Player to watch out for: Dale Steyn
The man who could have turned the game on its head was sitting on a bench wondering how Ishant was getting tonked for 2 of the biggest sixes of the tournament by an all-rounder with an identity crisis. Steyn’s mere presence inspires Ishant- and when the ball travelled a distance (over two shots) that even Usain Bolt would struggle to cover in 20 seconds, the writing was well and truly on the wall. This was no Kochi pitch. There was no help for seamers- unless you are Lasith Malinga (who does not really need the pitch to play up for his toe-crushers)
Expect Steyn to breathe frozen fire against a potentially intimidating Kolkata batting line-up. After all, scores have to be settled. Not making the semis will be bad enough, but not being known as the best bowling side this year will be an almighty slap on Deccan’s face- especially if it is SRK using his newly-minted superhero fists.
Kolkata Knight Riders: (6th place 2008)
No you are not hallucinating. No, substance abuse is not the latest trend. And no, SRK is not acting in a sequel to Chak De (yet). KKR is a contender. KKR will make the knockouts. And KKR ‘might’ just win it. The massive-bits-and-chunky-pieces team that looked mighty on paper before the tournament began- had given rise to a few cynical sniggers and chuckles among us naysayers. We love preying on a team- and if it has an optimistically pessimistic superstar, it is even more fun. After all, they had consistently defied expert opinion and logic in general- to finish below 6 for the last 3 editions. And yes, they did have strong teams on two of those 3 occasions. Maybe their time has come. Maybe, Karma is indeed a b*itch.
With Gautam Gambhir rapidly making a logical case for dropping an out-of-form Kallis (now that he has assumed role of finisher-in-chief), KKR can afford to make such radical changes simply because of their bench-strength. With someone like Eoin Morgan finally getting a decent look-in (and proving to be non-English, literally), the world is Kolkata’s black-and-gold oyster.
We’re almost there! Ra.One is releasing soon!
Back on path after a few agonizing losses, KKR look to be calm and collected at the moment- and barring a psychological disaster of biblical proportions- nothing can prevent them on finishing in the top 4. But they be satisfied with that?
Considering the inescapable fact that their owner has been satisfied with the title of ‘the people’s superstar’ for more than a decade (we know what that ‘REALLY’ means), KKR might do well to not listen to his inspirational speeches after each game- and instead play back a video of a film where he was women’s hockey coach of the Indian team. (the thought of which did not seem too far-fetched in IPL 2009)
All the opposition team (this time, it will be the Chargers) needs is for Kallis to be back in batting form. Only then, can they stand a real chance. A 40-odd of 45 balls under the pretext of anchoring the innings (Orange cap? What?) will be perfect. For Deccan Chargers.
Player to watch out for: Iqbal Abdullah
This painfully-consistent left-arm youngster is making news for all the right reasons (unlike a right-arm leg-spinner for Kings XI)- and is faithfully bowling to the convenient tradition of bowlers east to Kolkata (Shakib might object- but it is true). Clearly the find of the tournament so far (atleast for KKR), Iqbal might want to make an early charge for the flight to the Caribbean, considering the fact that the rest of India’s spinners seem to be resting on their laurels. (remember that 5-for for Rajesh Chauhan? Exactly!)
Deccan win- at all costs. To keep things interesting, in the spirit of the short-but-sweet tournament. Ruling anyone (South of Delhi) out but the Debutants would be a bit of a downer for the academically-inclined South Indian fans.