Match#37- Kolkata Knight Riders v/s Kings XI Punjab
Eden Gardens, Kolkata
Form Guide: KKR- Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win,
KXIP- Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss,
The extravagant underdogs face the scrappy bulldogs in a match that could decide the future path of this tournament. Okay, maybe not- but hyping a midway game is never easy- especially when both teams clearly stand a real chance of making the knockouts. That they are one of 6 other teams (equally dogged) fighting for 3 places does not make it any easier.
Nevertheless, it will be Lee v/s Gilchrist- mouth watering for neutrals and yawn-inducing for anyone born after 2008 (or born earlier but living under a rock or in a cave till 2008)- both champions in their own right and at the twilight of their IPL careers.
Kolkata Knight Riders: (6th place 2008)
After a thoroughly unconvincing performance against the Daredevils that not-surprisingly resulted in a much-needed victory, SRK’s KKR (repeat it 5 times without breathing) can be forgiven for entertaining dreams of having brought their stuttering campaign back on track. Now for the real test (Sorry Dilli, but facht is facht)- and facing the Kings XI at home will be a massive mating call for Gauti’s Riders (er…) after sleepwalking through their last 3 games.
With Manoj Tiwary actually developing an identity of his own (without being mistaken for the famous Bhojpuri actor anymore), KKR can now boast of a classy sheet-anchor who often does the job when Kallis fails to rise up to the occasion (thankfully). The middle-order is still of slight concern with Eoin Morgan successfully portraying himself as the lone English orphan in this multinational league, and Ryan Ten resembling anything but a flying Dutchman.
‘Riders on the storm’
The near-fatal experiment of dropping Shakib to accommodate both of the underperforming batsmen was balanced out by a fired up Brett Lee resembling Lebron James while running out the ominous Venugopal Rao- hence saving his team from utter embarrassment (also known as just another year in the KKR world).
With the Kings XI likely to be rusty after a relaxing week and a fresh visit to Punjab’s vast and open fields (also known as Yashraj studios lot no. 8), SRK will be looking to renew his romance with the state that has been primarily responsible for catapulting him to demi-God status and hence allowing him to buy a cricket team of his own one day. Which makes Kings XI the prime reason behind KKR’s charmed existence. A mother of sorts- like Britain is to the world. But we digress…
Player to watch out for: Jacques Kallis
The perennial orange-cap pursuer seems to have forgotten his accumulating ways of IPL 2010- and will quickly look to get back in form by scoring a run-a-ball 55 while chasing a par score of 130 (massive pressure) and duly cementing himself as one of the lone upholders of ‘sensible percentage cricket’ along with Sachin Tendulkar (who seems to have outlived yet another threat to his legacy of immortality).
Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan will need to make sure that team-selection is not an issue anymore- simply by not even allowing Morgan to prove once again that he would rather be back home soaking in the importance and hype of the Royal Wedding instead, or worse- be part of the glamorous T20 English County championship.
Kings XI Punjab: (Semi finals 2008)
It has been exactly one week since Kings XI last stepped onto a field (not counting practice, nets, er…all that), and who would have thought that a break of 7 days was ever possible in the IPL? Last we heard of such a long break was between India’s games in the world cup and…we all know how that ended. Maybe it is a good omen for the Kings XI.
They did need a break- more for considerable introspection after their bowling attack was creamed for the highest total EVER in the IPL. That will not depress them as much as the fact that Delhi, out of all the teams, was the one to inflict such unparalleled harm on them. So after converting the Daredevils into believers, Punjab will do themselves no harm if they completely destroy the beliefs of half of Bengal and millions of SRK fans all over the world.
With their form going into the Delhi game (and out of it, from the way they fought), one would think that last Saturday was a minor blip in the larger scheme of things for the most exciting team of the tournament so far. With Marsh successfully doing a Valthaty in two consecutive games, they are never low on firepower- and they would give an arm and a butter chicken leg for their bowlers to perform similarly well- or even half as well.
‘Kinging it up’
But with Praveen Kumar and the usually-dependable Ryan Harris popping in and out of form according to the situation and Piyush Chawla not showing up most of the time (in kind), it is invariably left to the part timers to stem the flow of runs and get their strike bowlers out of the rut and…Eh? Yes, it is that kind of situation.
Valthaty, Gilly and Marsh may just score less than 200 one day- and then what? The team should not seek inspiration in the unique performance of a team called India in World Cup 2011- with an equally hopeless bowling line-up that decided to stand up only when it was counted. For the Knockouts, that is. Until then, they sat on a sofa flipping channels and teams.
For that, the Kings XI need to make the knockouts- and it seems considerably tougher to survive in this format of the game with a bowling attack that seems to miss S. Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan from the previous years. They might miss them a bit less though, if Yusuf Pathan decides to visualize the Gardens of Eden as a golf course. Er…somewhat.
The explosiveness of their batting though, more than makes up for the eyesore- atleast for the neutral viewer.
Hence, seven murders are forgiven!- though if those murders equate to losses, then they still JUST ABOUT make it to the semis- depending on the permutations and combinations of various other teams in the reckoning.
Preity Zinta will vouch for the filmy-ness of the situation. Especially against the very serious SRK- who is just not about promoting films, you know?
Player to watch out for: Shaun Marsh
The Marshmellow is back in the swing of things- and he seems to have rewound back to 2008 where he was the toast of Punjab. Unfortunately, the butter rotis and Dal Makhani got the better of him for around two years, and he seems to be on a new diet that includes all kinds of dishes from different parts of India- also called bowlers.
Now that the corny metaphor is done with- Marsh is the perfect combination of anchor-aggressor that this Kings side needs to stabilize their heartrate once either Valthaty of Gilchrist walks back. And if Marsh fires, as Delhi may have smugly realized (in a good situation), all is well. Especially if your bowlers refuse to defend anything less than 200.
Tricky, once again. Knowing KKR’s tendency to blow a good start to the league by consistently managing to make a hash of the home stretch, a Kings win would be a safe choice. Of course, there is always the small matter of Piyush Chawla somehow managing to make it out of his hotel room onto the field and bowl for the opposition (inspite of the Kings managements best efforts to tie his shoelaces at night), but the combined force of Valthaty, Gilly and Marsh makes up for his presence.
What better time for a Kings team to win and give plenty of creatively-challenged reporters the opportunity to somehow correlate their win to the future King of England getting married- in unique and distinctly unoriginal witty headlines.