Match#15: Deccan Chargers v/s Kings XI Punjab
Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, Hyderabad
Form Guide: DC- Loss, Loss, Win, KXIP-Loss, Win,
When Praveen Kumar struck in the first over against Chennai not once but twice, Preity Zinta could have been forgiven for flashing us that dimpled smile once again. That the same smile was flashed when a delivery went for anything less than 3 in the last 4 destructive overs of the Chennai innings only proves her to be one of an optimistic and enlightened soul who cares not of victory or defeat, but the journey travelled. (easily a line that could justify last season’s performance)
But this time was different. Maybe she knew, unlike any of the 30000 desperate North-Indian fans in the stadium, that a man named Paul ChandraShekhar Valthaty (Mumbai-born-and-bread-earned) would reach dizzying heights of instant stardom over the next 2 hours- the magnitude and speed of which cannot be seen in any other sport. That he scored the first century of this edition and the second highest by an Indian in IPL (highest while chasing) only added to the aura that surrounded this player with a disarming smile and a life story that mirrors that of many failed-players-turned-coaches-themed-films in recent times. That he too, much like a shooting star called Manish Pandey (in the 2009 edition), came out of sheer anonymity to grasp victory from the jaws of his own bowlers (quite comfortably actually) against a Champion side, only helps his cause.
One may only want to hope now that he, unlike the sporadically-appearing Manish Pandey and erratic Murali Vijay, settles on a path much more stable and deserving of a player of his guts and stature.
Murali Vijay was one of the first to congratulate him. Maybe he also slipped him a note with a ‘do-and-donts’ list with one of the points definitely stating (from his own experience) that consistent performance in the money-spinning IPL (or Champion’s league or T20 in general) may not be enough to guarantee you success and stardom on the international stage- given a chance, that is. It may also have been signed by a certain Rohit Sharma.
The Kings (for now) should fancy their chances- especially considering the fact that their captain Gilchrist is due (for that once-in-ten-games performance) and that Shaun Marsh is yet to fire. Actually, so is Piyush Chawla and atleast another five players in the side. And to be honest, from what has transpired so far (apart from a miraculous performance or two) both these teams do still look like prime contenders to fill in the bottom half of the table.
Deccan Chargers: (Winners 2009)
So the Chargers are playing at home. That should automatically ensure a result that even they may believe is beyond their power. Perhaps the concept of ‘Home and Away’ applies only to football- that is what the Chargers seem to have proven over the last 3 topsy-turvy winless-at-home seasons.
But their last game against the fast-fading Royal Challengers has changed things. Firstly, one cannot deny the ‘World Champion’ effect. Quite rapidly, a lot of Indian youngsters have started rising to the occasion and playing uninhibited cricket- previously associated with the West Indian brigade- and it has a lot to do with them believing that they could actually get picked for a Champion side if they pull up their socks. Bharath Chipli, the latest of them, is an exemplary case. Not only has he gained inspiration from Valthaty the day before, he has gone on to lift his depressed side to the brink of yet another IPL comeback- much need in these days of Western (India) domination.
Player to watch out for: Amit Mishra.
He looks the best Indian spinner right now, which may not be saying much yet, but he has the potential to lift his team when needed, with an accurate non-Piyush-Chawla-spell-of-Bowling. (hint- Indian selectors, leg spinner? Really?)
Also, with Sangakkara back to relatively decent batting form, his leadership will be much appreciated if the Chargers want to shed their Pakistani-inspired inconsistency and bounce back before it is too late. Again.
Manpreet Gony, the Dhoni-discovered Incredible yellow hulk now in Deccan colours is an intimidating Desi-Flintoffesque presence on the pitch. His bowling isn’t too bad either.
Kings XI Punjab: (Semi finalists 2008)
Armed with a new found star (or Godsend in Punjabi), the Kings will look to capitalize on a pretty effective mauling of the Champions and extend their hostility to yet another South-Indian side. An ex-champion side, to be precise. Their bowling though, is still of startling concern- and Piyush Chawla will quickly need to stop resting on the laurels of being called a World Champion drinks-carrier. Being taken out of the attack after one over in the first game and going for more than 8 an over in the second game just does not measure up to the solitary wicket in the last column. And this time, there’s no Dhoni to argue his case either.
As stated previously, Valthaty must try his level best to not be dismissed as a one-match wonder- and considering that the team has atleast 12 more games to play, he has ample opportunity to prove that. (Just like a certain K. Pollard, who was given more than ample opportunity- not by his national team though)
Player to look out for: Shaun Marsh.
Once again, the fortunes of this team in the long run will depend on an Australian (Headline of newspaper when Chappell took over India coaching job) A couple of failures will only add to his determination, as will that infamous dimpled smile. All he needs now is to tell SRK that he is already taken- by Punjab.
Prediction: Tough to call. Both coming from victories against stronger opposition. But going with the newfound trend that is emerging, let’s go with a Deccan WIN. (those of you who follow this part of the blog enough will know by now that there is atleast a 75 % chance of Punjab winning now)
Yash Chopra may have something to say about that.
‘Cheer up boys!’