Number Cruncher

Match#64: Chennai Super Kings v/s Kochi Tuskers Kerala
MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Chennai
Form: CSK- Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Win, Win, 
            KTK- Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Loss, Win, Win, Loss, Loss, Win,
With IPL-2011 entering an exercise in listlessless (read wet dream for statisticians), most teams will now begin to perform to their true potential- which is why we see DD back to their regular predicted position (rock bottom) and Kochi somewhere in the middle of the table (neither here nor there). Yes, they have been outplayed by a determined Punjab side (who have 2 games to send SRK into retirement)- but they have, to an extent, proved their credentials as a formidable debut team with limited talent but plenty of heart. Jadeja has been the face of this team- and his rise has symbolized the sudden surge in the ranks of Indian (long-forgotten) youngsters. 
Kochi face Chennai is a rematch of Kochi’s first impressive win this year, and MSD will be looking for vengeance (though it does not really matter anymore). With Chennai almost assured a spot in the top two (barring a MI-style collapse), they will look to send the Tuskers out on their own terms. 
Needless to say, the result of this game will have no effect whatsoever on Kochi’s impending departure. A win may only seal their reputation as the true giant-killers of this year, with a respectable mid-table finish. 
Kochi Tuskers Kerala:
Today, Kochi play their final game of IPL 2011 and it will indeed be a season to remember for them. From the depths of K-040000 to the highs of destroying the giddiness that surrounded SRT’s maiden IPL century- this Mahela-led team has flattered to decieve on more than one occasion. But one must remember that they were tagged as the ‘no-hoper’ debutants at the beginning, and the fact that they even flattered says a lot about their performance.  Of course, we know who ended up as the real no-hopers (which only symbolizes the immense flexibility of this format. There are no favorites, ever, unless Delhi is playing)

 Tussi Caribbean naa jaoo.
Tussi Caribbean naa jaoo

With a convincing Hodge-inspired (with the ball!) win against the self-destructive Royals, Mahela and co. made sure that Rajasthan exit the tournament in a disgraceful manner much like the recent ways of their whining captain-cum-legend Warne. The least Shane Warne could have done was leave on good terms after a memorable 4 years, but that was not to be. 

Everything went right from Kochi on the day, from Sreesanth actually bowling well to new legend Paramaswaran figuring among the wicket-takers too. Hodge’s sudden spark with the ball only confirmed the Royals inept status as the worst batting side this year- by FAR. Formalities were done in style, with Hodge carrying on from where he left off with the ball and Patel basking in the glory of being India’s number two keeper. All is well- and a win against the champions should top off an impressive overachieving year for this year’s true underdogs. Mahela has definitely left more of a mark than his soulmate Sanga- with his innovative captaincy (ranging from the ridiculousness of the Gomez over to the sublime decision to drop Sreesanth for half the tournament)

The Orange Squash enter the yet-to-be-breached Chepauk to make a final statement: Even mediocrity is underrated. 
Player to watch out for: RP Singh
The UP speedster is back amongst the wickets, peaking a little too late- and is finally proving why he sits on top of the IPL all-time wickettakers table (the term ‘alltime’ could be highly misleading). He has kept Warne out successfully but it will only be a matter of time before Malinga achieves what he was always meant to. Hence, the purple-cap wearer of 2009’s Deccan-winning season will make hay while the sun shines- and want to prove that he is second to only Praveen Kumar in the ‘swinging’ stakes. (no pun intended)
Chennai Super Kings: (Winners 2010)

The Champions look in no mood to foreit their throne just yet (hopefully, we will not be saying the same thing at this stage next year- for the sake of ‘change’)- and along with their sly neighbours RCB, this team of sizzling sirens look to be the most formidable all-round outfit this year (as they do, every year). After demolishing Delhi in a Sehwagless game one barely remembers, the Super Kings now face the harder task of putting the Tuskers back in their places- and maintaining their unbelievable unbeaten home-record (and duly take over  the record from the overrated Royals at their own ‘fortress’)

 Man with the Yellow touch
Man with the Yellow touch

Dhoni is peaking at the right time once again, and it will be a wonder if he does not black out on a cricket pitch sometime soon, considering the machine-like pace he has been going at for months now.  Even his beard is beginning to show streaks of grey- but one does not know if that is a good sign yet. 
As they make their final charge hoping to finish at the top of the league (a rarity), CSK will then be given MORE than one opportunity to reach the finals (with the playoff format). It will be a miracle if we do not see a sea of yellow at Chepauk in the final. All along, we thought this format would favour MI- but this has only bolstered Chennai’s Shakti Kapoor-type hold over the IPL franchise. 
Needless to say, as we speak, other teams are giving in their resignations citing reasons that are more applicable to the education quotas in colleges nowadays. 

Player to watch out for: S. Badrinath

The Badri is back with the national team- deservedly so, and his IPL performance has only been the icing on his domestic cake. He will anchor a low-on-temprament ODI batting line-up in the carribbean and probably seal his place ahead of Rohit Sharma as the second choice race to Raina and Pathan- unless someone slyly convinces Sharma that the West Indies ODI team is nobody but a poorly-disguised Daredevil outfit trying their  T20 luck abroad. Won’t take much convincing- considering the current Gayle-less Windies outfit.

One does not see CSK doing a Mumbai- for they are way too classy to be bogged down by lack of motivation or dead weight (Saha, anyone? HOW?) In fact, players like Vijay and Bravo will use this opportunity to enter the ‘in-form’ list of the team that currently includes 9 of their teammates.
The mighty may be falling in most other sporting arenas, but IPL may have to wait a few more years- until MSD begins to look older than SRT, and takes up bowling instead. 
They might still win IPL-2014 though- depending on which Delhi decides to show up in the final. 

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