Dead Rubber: A Practice in pointlessness

 Match#61: Kochi Tuskers Kerala v/s Rajasthan Royals

Holkar Cricket Stadium, Indore

Form: KTK- Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win, Loss,
              RR- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Draw, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss,

The Royals must consider themselves lucky at this point- because if not for that washed out game against RCB ages ago, they could found themselves in an unenviable position of being below one of the debutant teams. That both of them have an equal number of wins- should make this dead game intrinsically important- just for the sake of some die-hard fans who refuse to accept defeat even if their face was shot off by an S. Sreesanth break kick.

No amount of hype can possibly do any justice to this game- unless both of them decide to do themselves a favour and give IPL-2011 atleast one close game to remember. A Super Over, maybe? Doubt it- the absence of Pakistani players in this edition has effectively ruled out the possibility of any snatching-defeat-from-the-jaws-of-victory games and match-changing moments. Just saying.
Don’t read between the lines. No assumptions. No comments. *requests Z-level security*
Concentrate on the game on hand:  

Kochi Tuskers Kerala:

With Jayawardene fast taking over the mantle that Tendulkar has successfully carried for many years (hero in a losing cause), Kochi now find themselves mathematically out of contention for a place in the playoffs. Well and good, we say- for if a team cannot defend a score of 178 against a notoriously weak batting line-up but can chase down 188 against the best bowling line-up in this year’s IPL on another day- the only deserved tag that Kochi deserves is that of ‘The Pakistan of IPL 2011’. And even that is a bit of an exaggeration.

 

The Chander-scoop

The Chander-scoop

After bowling figures that defied the very qualities that cricket, as a game, represents (team work, discipline, determination, skill) only RP Singh pulled off a scintillating performance (that may have reminded us why he is the top wickettaker in IPL history) that only failed to nullify the consistently dreadful efforts of local lads Sreesanth, Parameswaran and Gomez. Mahela must surely have been disappointed after such a bright start to the game- especially with McCullum proving to be a great support act to his own unique symphony-Orchestral performance. Things looked hunky dory until Ravindra Jadeja decided to put an end to his suicidal performance with an unconvincing shuffle against an even-more-unconvincing Chawla. To have lost from going a position where they were going at 10 an over for 13 overs, Kochi have nobody but themselves to blame- with the only consolation being their apparent lack of experience as an IPL team (apart from the presence of Sreesanth continuously distracting cheerleaders whose clueless faces, in turn, distract certain ‘foreigners’ in the side)

Facing an equally dismal Rajasthan outfit that seems to have taken the same route as them to the nearest exit, K-040000 will now look to put the past behind them and start afresh- with a convincing 4-wicket loss that might forever demolish the tainted memories of themselves, at one point, threatening to self-destruct for a total of less than 10. Yes. 040000 was the dreaded order.

Player to watch out for: Owais Shah

Finally landing a much-coveted place in this Orange-squashed team, Shah will take consolation out of the fact that he is only the second ‘English’ player to be playing in this league without actually being English. Morgan and him have often been seen planning ‘down with the Raaj’ movements secretly, and are considering a move back to their native countries after the revolution. Unfortunately, Shah may not get into a second-string Ranji team in India, and Morgan has lost his place to an Englishman by the name of Collingwood who has duly taken over reigns of Ireland’s limited over team.

On a serious note, Shah adds some depth to Kochi’s batting order- especially considering the fact that Hodge is happy watching himself grow into a fossil deep in the backwaters of Kerala.

Rajasthan Royals: (Winners 2008)

Well and truly dumped out from IPL-2011 (not Deccan style, though), The Royals find themselves depressingly short of atleast 5 consistent batsmen and 1 more bowler- after an initial surge that had them briefly arouse memories of IPL 2008. Alas, with MVP 2008 (Watson) entering the squad- the balance went awry and the Royals never really found a way back in- with even their formidable home form starting to resemble Hyderabad. Of course, it may not be entirely their fault that the top 4 teams are way more dominant than the bumbling rest- with the playoff spots taken earlier than expected- but a team’s fate lies in their hands, and sadly, Warne is bowing out in typical Aussie manner (after a brawl and a foul-mouthed rant)

Hmm, Maybe the pitch isn't the problem.
Hmm, Maybe the pitch isn’t the problem.

The clue to their un-performance could lie in the shocking statistic that may have most Indians scratching their backsides with considerable disgust: RR have scored only 3 individual half-centuries this year- One from Dravid, one from Botha and one from Rahane. That Watson has decided that the IPL is beneath him after a wondrous Bangladesh tour, has not helped matters for the perennial underdogs. 3 measly 50s on sub-continental pitches? Encouraging bowlers and breaking norms is all well and good- but were they really expecting to go the distance because of Warne and Botha’s momentary trysts with brilliance? Unless you’re an enigmatic Indian team pushed and prodded along by your home crowd in a world cup inspite of having an incompetent bowling line-up, you are not getting anywhere near a trophy with such statistics.

And what better way to summarize their dismal showing in 2011 than against the Challengers just a few nights ago- where Gayle scored his fourth 50 of the tournament, one more than the entire RR team has managed so far. The Royals boasted about a great home record second to none- but it seemed like they had almost taken wins for granted on tailor-made pitches- and were dealt a curve-ball when the pitch was given a ‘rest’ in the crucial game against RCB.

Lesson learnt from IPL-2009, 10, 11: Cheapness does not pay. Spend money, buy a few more players. Miracles cannot be repeated by holding onto your pockets.

Player to watch out for: Ross Taylor
It doesn’t really matter anymore- but if the player called ‘law of averages’ has to ever resurrect his career, now is the time. Only ONE of Taylor and Watson needs to fire to even come close to winning a game. If only this had been realized 4 games ago, when RR found themselves facing early knockout situations.

Also, time to throw caution to the wind- be brave and bring in Shaun Tait. Destroy. Having said that, Taylor might be the one dropped to accommodate the mercurial retirement-specialist Aussie.

Prediction:

If Shane Warne does not threaten yet another walkout, the Royals can probably pull off an upset away from home. *waits for applause* That was THE joke. Come on.
Anyway, Kochi at yet another home should be hard to beat- and expect them to run over a hapless Royals side who seem to have lost the motivation to rule a stadium- forget a whole Kingdom.

Hence, a Kochi win may relegate Rajasthan to yet another position closer to the pre-tournament prediction of their original finishing position (8th)- and duly prove most of the experts and bloggers right in the long run. There we go. 

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