Weekend Foes: On the Bounce

Match#17: Kolkata Knight Riders v/s Rajasthan Royals

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

Form Guide: KKR- Loss, Win, Win, RR- Win, Win, Loss,

No, you’re not watching the highlights of the Friday game. Yes, the jerseys are the same, the players are the same, the owners are definitely the same (how can we star-struck lot miss them?), but the venue- vastly different.

From the desert to dense mayhem, both the teams might be forgiven for not exchanging pleasantries again- and SRK might be contemplating wearing a black-and-gold Dhoti today (looking unrecognizable seems to be working for him). So technically, the teams have played a one-day match (almost) spread over the period of three short days.

As if Friday’s game wasn’t one-sided enough (surprise, surprise), organizers must consider the possibility of informing the sides that the team with the maximum aggregate after today’s game (Part deux- in filmi terms) should be given the points.

On a serious note, Shane Warne’s fortress- the Sawai Mansingh stadium has been breached- and it must hurt. So what if a certain British actress (who refuses to age, just like him) is arriving soon to show her unconditional support and ‘friendship’ to the sober, blond, faithful superstar- it must be little consolation to the man who sounded like Jose Mourinho (with the formidable home record) just a fortnight ago.

And it must hurt even more to know that the man behind their demolition was South African. Jacques Kallis has been tormenting most IPL teams for a while now- with his consistent batting and periodic wicket-taking spells (and orange-cap wearing). Yes, the man with the largest heart (simply because it has been broken far too often in ‘big’ ICC tournaments) displayed once again why brain overpowers brawns in the shortest form of cricket. And what’s more, he had the bullish Gautam Gambhir at the other end- as they put together a record IPL partnership to swat the Rajasthani bowlers aside as if they were…er…250 kms up north.

Shane Watson showed signs of intimidation while batting- but when he was cleaned up by the classy Shakib (finally playing for a competitive team) in the 16th over, Rajasthan had to promptly give up glossy dreams of a 180- and had to settle for a less formidable 160. Not that it made much difference in the end, but the mindset of Kallis might have changed a bit. And we all know what happens when that happens. (hint: his national team)

Just saying.

Kolkata Knight Riders: (6th place 2008)
A comprehensive display that will have definitely warmed the romantic heart of their owner- is an ominous sign of things to come from this new-look team. One must also not overlook the important contributions of Yusuf Pathan, the all-rounder. So what if he doesn’t bat, he can bowl- and he sure can catch (after a horrific first game)

KKR
 ‘Not them again…chalo boys, highlight time!’

Sooner or later, Eoin Morgan, Pathan and Shakib will have to bat- most probably under a pressure situation. Gambhir will hope they are not too undercooked when that time comes- though we doubt Pathan cares too much about our expert analysis on future occurrences.

One cannot remember the last time a Kolkata outfit looked so confident and…well, one cannot remember them winning too much altogether. Hence, they will be keen to carry forward the momentum to today’s game against…the Royals. At Eden Gardens no less- in front of a crowd that, hopefully, decides to appear along with their favourite son.

Player to watch out for: Brett Lee
Though he may ponder over the sense of flying from Dhaka to Jaipur and then back to Kolkata, one thing is clear- Brett Lee was, by far, the most dangerous Australian of the World Cup- and he seems to be enjoying a second wind not unlike the curious case of Sachin Tendulkar. Watching him bowl against Rajasthan, one could not help but think that this was only the trailer to a very long movie that may, in all probability for the Knight Riders, last till the very end of this tournament with a group stage not half as yawn-inducing as the World Cup group stages.

England fans will tend to disagree though.

Rajasthan Royals: (Winners- 2008)
An off-day, some may say. ‘As expected’- others may conclude. Whatever it is, this Royals team has got opposition fans whispering, and so much so that everyone considers beating them a ‘feat’- something that seemed very unlikely just a few weeks ago. Two games into their campaign, and it was 2008 all over again. 

Hence, what surprised most including Warne was their sudden inept inability to defend a score after chasing them twice in a row. The proud record of never having lost while defending a score of above 145 throughout the IPL- was now shattered, with alarming ease no less.

Not a performance to panic over, and Warne would rather have it come at the beginning of the league when most teams are still shaking hands and having bi-weekly orientation ceremonies complete with polite pats on the backs and British-accented ‘Well-played, mates!’

That the British themselves are conspicuous by their overwhelming absence in this tournament is another matter altogether.

Player to watch out for: Ashok Menaria

ashok menaria
‘My name is Menaria and I’m not a one-match wonder.’

The local lad (from Udaipur) looks very much like the discovery of this year for the unofficial-talent-hunting-reality-show-on-wheels Rajasthan Royal outfit (inspired by Madame Shetty’s second rise to stardom, no doubt). Menaria looks classy and must rise above the gorgeous cameos if he has to really get the selectors talking. He does have age on his side, but so did the original little master Ishant Sharma- though his lack of height probably worked against him.

Warne himself will want to remind the ex-test specialist Yusuf Pathan of his important contribution to Pathan’s subsequent and subtle transformation to a hitter of sorts- preferably by trying to convince him to try out for the Indian test team instead.

Prediction:
Going the gutsy way and predicting a reverse here. A Rajasthan win- not entirely because romanticism prevailed on Friday night. In fact, it got way too romantic. Even SRK might agree (with his arms held aloft towards the heavens)

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