Jokers on a Knight

Match#65: Pune Warriors v/s Kolkata Knight Riders
 
Dr DY Patil Sports Academy, Navi Mumbai
 
Form: PWI- Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, 
            KKR- Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Loss,

In yet another semi-meaningless affair, Pune will take on KKR and hope to give the proud holders of Ra.One premier passes a few palpations or two before they make it to the playoffs. 
 
But of course, we don’t really care, do we?- for this is the game that Kolkata (the city) has been waiting for- and it is, in no way, related to their position in the standings. In a delicious twist of fate, Saurav Ganguly will be facing the team that shunned him, not only as captain- but as batsman and motivator. Okay, forget the fact that they are on the verge of the semis for the first time because of his absence (oops)- but think of the sheer twistedness of this scenario: SRK and KKR (tongue-twister-alert) come to Mumbai to face Dada and Pune at their ‘home’ stadium- in front of passionate SRK fans who will probably root for their ‘home’ team Pune.
 
Being remotely aware of the fact that every ‘duel’ that is hyped till kingdom come inevitably ends up coming a massive cropper, let me stop right here and concentrate on promoting the exciting prospect of a massive choke. Really, what else is there to this game other than Uthappa falling further in the eyes of every talented youngster that dreams of a slim-and-trim career?
 
Pune Warriors India:
 
After yet another frightfully inadequate performance against fellow-strugglers Deccan (that might seal their fate of being long-lost twins of different sexual orientation with the Daredevils), Pune now face an uphill battle to avoid finishing dead-bottom on their first picnic outing as an IPL team. You’d think that a team named Commandos for a period of time would automatically have assumed that mantle, but IPL has proved all of us wrong once again. The crystal ball may fail just yet- with Delhi still not rooted to the bottom as firmly as we’d like them to be. 

 Dedicated to my Dada, er, Papa.- yuvraj singh
Dedicated to my Dada, er, Papa.

Anyhow, Yuvraj once again tried to listen to his ‘people’ and promoted Uthappa up the order. It is not his fault that Robbie seems to be under a cloud of depression after being ignored for national team selection for the 56th time in 3 years. Mitchell Marsh duly seems to have established a record of sorts by going from bowling all-rounder to batting all-rounder in less than a game. Wait, word has come in- Irfan Pathan still holds that record. Sorry, Marshy boy. Maybe you’d want to show Shaun a few pointers of how not to ‘freeze’ when in the 40s.
 
Pune will feel good to know that they still have two games in hand to avoid the Wooden Spoon honours (which they had unofficially claimed just a week ago)- and let Delhi stick to their ready-made excuse of Sehwag’s absence being the reason for their ‘weak’ finish to this league. 
 
Facing KKR will not make things easier, and they will have to play out of their black jerseys to nullify KKR’s delicately balanced team (that has taken 3 years of humiliation and hard work to form)
 
Player to watch out for: Jesse Ryder
 
Start on a high- finish on a high. Sounds a lot like Jesse’s nocturnal outings back in Auckland, but this one can’t finish with him throwing up in a jail-cell. He’d not mind Lee or Balaji throwing up though, because he needs to play more than just those sparkling cameos and lift his team out of their short-sighted mode and put them into the big league (above number 8).
Agreed that he is still reeling from the lack of, er, nourishment after being shunned by RCB in the auction (withdrawal symptoms, they call it)- but he must get himself together- even if it means paying for a bottle of Kingfisher from his own pocket. 
 
Kolkata Knight Riders: 
 
True to the cliché, they are truly riding the storm now- and are precariously placed outside a Champions league position as of now- an unthinkable possibility before the arrival of Christopher Gayle (sounds less crude). In danger of achieving just one of the pre-set goals now, KKR might do well to do just that- achieve that one goal and reach the playoffs with no more fuss. Unlucky against RCB with the rain Gods doing unto them what they had previously done unto an in-form Chennai, KKR now join MI in the premature ejaculation scrapheap making sure this race ‘goes down to the wire’.

Kallis
Dedicated to the purists 

Today, destiny might just make an about-turn and sock them in the face in the form of two words. Da-Da. He is back- and faces his former team away from home (thankfully). With nothing but pride and saving face to play for, Pune might just unleash all their fury on an unsuspecting KKR side who are intent on dangling a butter-chicken breast in front of a eager and hungry Punjab team. A loss here, and things will get mighty interesting going into the final round- and Mumbai might have it undeservedly easier. 
 
Yusuf Pathan showed glimpses of destructive form against RCB the other night- until Gayle literally rained in on his party and swept them away with a cool swish of his Rastafarian beads. Brett Lee might need to come to the party against the explosive Pune openers- because if Ryder gets going, there might be a new perspective altogether (family warning!) to the name of the Kolkata franchise. 
 
Having said that, even if Kolkata implode and drive SRK to yet another tearful statement- they will need to perform really poorly to be trumped by Punjab (or Kochi) on run-rate as of now. Mumbai might take care of that, though- when they face KKR in the last league game. 
 
Things are heating up- and Kallis, Gambhir and Tiwari need to fire collectively to end all discussion right here, right now. No more scenarios, then. Done and dusted, and they will concentrate on stealing 3rd from a clueless MI side. 
 
Maybe they should consider opening with Mark Boucher and letting him do what he does best- and drop Morgan for a game or two. This is the time to be brave. Is Gauti up for it? Is SRK listening? But then, there’s always the problem of two South-Africans opening the batting in a crucial game…
 
(What do you call two South Africans Opening the batting?- Nothing, the ‘Choke’ is on you!)
 
Player to watch out for: Gautam Gambhir

The bulldog from Dilli must fire if their team is to post a respectable total (or chase a good one). After Kallis duly nullifies the innovation of Morgan at the top, it is Gambhir’s duty to re-start the innings from scratch with the destructive Tiwary and the graceful Pathan. He has been going through a lean patch, and will do well not to open his stance every few dot balls and invite the ball to join his stumps for Tea and Mishti Doi. Captaining is indeed a stressful job, but as seen previously (and most of NZ sheep are aware of), it brings out the very best in this tenacious fighter. 
 
Prediction:
 
KKR could end the suspense here- and turn the attention towards the way-more-interesting battle at the bottom. All said and done, you’d have to be uniquely talented to lose the plot after being FIRST for most of the league. 4th is still not too bad- but any further down and we might see a beleaguered superstar on a mission to ‘find’ himself soon after IPL-2011 concludes.

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