Match#29: Chennai SuperKings v/s Pune Warriors
MA Chidambaram stadium, Chepauk, Chennai
Form Guide: CSK- Win, Loss, Win, Loss, Loss, PWI- Win, Win, Loss, Loss,
The only thing both these sleeping Giants (drugged to oblivion) have in common at this stage- apart from sensationally underperforming and turning the form guide on its head- is that they have freshly been beaten in tense encounters by the Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede. Sachin Tendulkar and Co. decided to test themselves a bit, and what better opportunity to do that than against the two strongest team (supposedly) in the league apart from themselves? With both games going down to the wire (out of sheer boredom against Pune, though), the SuperKings and their valiant Warriors (common ground, again) gave themselves a sniff of victory before promptly proceeding to lose their sanity due to the vociferous home crowd- combined with the sheer shock of seeing the back of Sachin Tendulkar to the pavilion. After all, they hadn’t planned for it- and there was never going to be a plan B.
Hence, with Mumbai playing their ultimate trump card- and actually exposing the rest of their never-seen-before players against clueless Western and Southern opposition- there was going to be only one winner all along. Barely have the wounds healed, and the Captain and his Commander of the national team that conquered the world just a fortnight back find themselves at the opposite ends of the same spectrum. In Dhoni’s den. Not that the venue will make much of a difference- with a majority of the studied South Indian crowds eager to express their gratitude and respect towards the player of the World Cup, simultaneously hoping that Yuvraj Singh decides to live on those laurels for the rest of this tournament. Having exploded in one solitary game against Delhi with bat and ball (which Pune promptly went on to lose in the upset of the tournament so far), Yuvi has tried to emulate Sachin by leaving the actual winning part to the rest of his action-starved teammates. Needless to mention, it has not worked wonders for him yet.
MSD on the other hand, is showing signs of exhaustion and (gasp!) burnout. His competitive juices may keep him going for the rest of the IPL, but with barely an opportunity to let the World Cup win soak in- he, along with the other Indian captains in this league (except for, again, Sachin), need a long break with time to contemplate tougher challenges ahead (like Winning the World Cup again. GREED, GREED!)
But with the IPL slated to carry on for atleast another month, Dhoni and Yuvraj will need to find innovative methods to keep themselves going (the money is JUST not enough) and drag their young team across the line (read end of the league stages) before it is too late.
Chennai SuperKings: (Winners 2010, Finalists 2008, Semi-finalists 2009)
The Super Kings are the only team in the history of the IPL (and a long history it is) to have failed to NOT go past the group stages even once. And as we know, 2011 is a record-breaking year for MSD himself- and he is looking good to stride past this unbelievable failure and make sure that his team tastes success in this aspect. Another year, another broken record. Life is only getting better for the cool Indian captain.
‘Bleeding Yellow does not sound right’
Giving him solid company is the highly-rated Suresh Raina and the classy Murali Vijay- who refused to be auctioned earlier this year simply because this was the one goal that this premier club team is yet to achieve. Failure to fail, at all costs, will not be tolerated again.
Retaining almost half the squad from the previous year (or three), the Super Kings will hope that their exemplary start to the tournament this year is not a false start (unlike last year). Proving their new prowess to Mumbai is only part of the larger picture- and they will now be keen to demonstrate their superior choking ability against the Warriors. With R. Ashwin looking set to join his teammates as the most sensational story of this year, the only party-pooper seems to be the excruciatingly-consistent Doug Bollinger who seems hell-bent on some Aussie Revenge. Michael Hussey seems to be a similar problem too- but he is slowly learning the art of not winning enough.
But sadly, one can never rule out the extraordinary ability of this famous team to choke (everyone) right at the end of the group stages- only to make the knockouts with considerable momentum. With the massive failure of last year still resounding in their pained minds, (to make matters worse, they pulled off an upset failure at the Champions League too), Dhoni and Co. will look to repair burnt bridges- and make sure that there is no illusion this year. Fast and straightforward will be the mantra- only Delhi seem to be pipping them to the post right now.
Player to watch out for: Murali Vijay
The cleanest striker of the cricket ball (barring the current Indian team) looks to be in prime touch- but he seems to have developed a severe case of the Rohit-Sharma-disorder (previously known as the Virat-Kohli-disease). Throwing away great starts and consistently flattering to deceive seems to be working in the context of his team’s eventual ambition (of succeeding to lose), but he may want to play a blinder or two just to remind the naysayers that grace combined with talent makes for a beautiful spectacle.
Of course, he will have to wait his turn. Rohit Sharma seems to have the same idea.
Pune Warriors India:
With Tim Paine being a surprise inclusion into the last game against Mumbai, the entire batting order promptly lost their mojo to none other than Munaf Patel and the little-known pint-sized medium-pacer Abu Ahmed. With Robin Uthappa doing his best impression of a daring rescue (that fizzled out faster than last year’s haircut), Mumbai put on their best display of brotherly love and affection for their neighbours only to leave it for more festive occasion (preferably Maharashtrian)
‘I’m in the record books. I dismissed him!’
With the momentum of their first two games duly destroyed- and the tag of favorites or even ‘best debutants’ passed onto other in-form teams- Pune will look to command the kind of respect and authority that was previously associated with them before they had even played their first game (on paper). A lot of that was a result of the other team debuting with them refusing to name themselves decently- and hence the Warriors, by default, were the more sensible and strong-hearted Commandos, er…outfit.
Yuvraj Singh will want to take more responsibility on his broad shoulders- and not shy away from pressure situations where his team may need his swagger more than Uthappa’s over-confidence. Against Mumbai, there was no reason for him to drop himself even lower down the order after his team lost 2 quick wickets. He must do unto others what Dhoni had done unto him during the World Cup- show faith in himself. Stick to his strengths. And drag his team through fire and rain.
Maybe the calming presence of Dhoni on the field (albeit on the other team) may bring out the best in him once again- and while at it, he can fool himself (with that familiar feeling) into believing that he is indeed fighting for a place in the Indian team with Suresh Raina once again.
Player to watch out for: Alfonso Thomas
The South-African journeyman, who has played for more teams over his career than the number that signifies Robin Uthappa’s current waist size- will look to continue his consistent bowling performance for the Warriors, and maybe acquiring a bit of eccentricity and explosiveness that normally takes over sportsmen in the twilight of their careers. Combining with his talented countryman Wayne Parnell with the new ball- seems to be working for Thomas, simply because Parnell manages to make him look much better than he actually is.
With Shrikant Wagh turning up only every alternate game (in spirit), Yuvraj needs to instill some kind of belief in his troops and inspire them with a pep-talk with something on the lines of ‘Having so much South-African blood running seamlessly through our line-up will assure us of atleast sailing past the group stages! Uske baad…dekha jayega *coughs*’
A Chennai backlash is on the cards- and Pune will be hoping that they are not the first victims of a mighty yellow bloodbath that may last for a good month. Somehow, something tells us that Chennai will be playing the SuperKings today- and the Warriors may not be able to do much but sit back and enjoy (read brood over) the show.
Unless Yuvi decides to…(forgive me, Lord)….Bleed BLUE!