When Vijay Mallaya had received the first congratulatory text message on his cell phone for selecting a great test side for a t20 tournament after the IPL auctions, he would have taken the good old theory – “A good player is good in every form of the game be it test cricket, ODIs or t20”. Every theory is bound to get challenged and he would have realized it by now. With four out of five matches lost, his Royal Challengers are placed at the bottom of the table. They are even behind an absolutely jaded looking side - Mumbai Indians.
If the last match was a story of fighting their hearts out to achieve martyrdom in form of defeat, today it was the patch up work for the last 25 over’s of the match.
When they managed to get the dangerous Sehwag out cheaply, they made sure they wont be chasing a never heard off score. Delhi Daredevils have their best three batsmen in top three positions. One more wicket would have made the life much easier for RC. DD looked all set to post such a score that would have made them feel that “its good that law of averages caught of with Sehwag here”. But RC made a come back in last 5 overs and once again showed that if you get at least 2 of DD’s top three quickly, they start bleeding. Once they bleed, they could be killed. Kings XI Punjab had done exactly the same in the last match with their potent bowling attack. Although RC have been terrible so far, their bowling is still good with Zaheer, Dale Steyn and Praveen Kumar in the line up. Just that they have been a little unlucky that wicketkeepers have consistently found their best form against them. In the first match, apart from Maccullum everyone struggled. Chennai Super Kings were struggling before Dhoni found his old destructive self which was missing in Australia and England.
It’s the batting which has been major concern for them. Imagine a batting line up boasting of Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid and Jack Kallis. It’s a bundle of three technically sound and gritty batsmen you would feel safe to save a test match on the 5th day. But in t20? Jaffer has hardly played any ODIs, half of Rahul Dravid’s ODI career could be labeled with the “unfit for ODIs” tag and Jack Kallis has often been criticized for his slow batting. They have one fighting demolisher in form of Mark Boucher but so often either he is left to do the impossible or he fails occasionally because he is bound to. He failed in the last match and they lost. He was left to do impossible today and they lost. Praveen Kumar is more of a bowler belonging to the psychology of young Kapil Dev – “If I pay attention to batting, I would not have enough energy to bowl”. Hence he seems to be taking batting in a hit out or get out mode. Virat Kohli seems to belong to the generation of Sree Santh who play more with their facial and body expressions rather than bat or bowl.
Having said it all, RC did play well today. Being a purist, I care a damn about IPL. I watch the matches for two reasons – first, I have nothing better to do after work hours and second for watching some individual performances like Ishant Sharma’s fast in swingers or Warne’s leg spin mixed with his entire build up before the delivery.
Today the treat resided in the partnership of Dravid and Kallis like two technicians at work. The cover drives, the cuts, the pulls, the straight drives, the cheeky steer to third-man were much better than the typical slog to mid-wicket when balls sails 70 meters and commentators on MAX shout – “What a big hit? That has gone miles into the stands” or the so prevalent sweep/scoop to fine leg on a fast bowler.
In addition to that, batting is not all about hitting else what is the difference between Cricket and Baseball. It’s also about the survival or the art of it. The partnership also had perfect defensive shots on the deliveries demanding respect. When a batsman hits across the line and even a good ball sails towards the stands as so often we have seen in IPL, it’s definitely skill but the connection is also a matter of luck. Even a boxer (okay, and ordinary batsman) with bulging biceps might do it with some cricketing skills. When a batsman judges to leave a perfect out swinger which would have got him out with the slightest of indecision and cover-drives the very next delivery similar to it but pitched further up by a few centimeters – it becomes an art. But may be the future wants boxers, not artists.
The daredevil Gautam Gambhir had a spat with Jack Kallis. Umpires intervened and so did Dravid. Dravid tried to pacify Gambheer only to get a reply from him which left a really dejected smile on his face as if the reply left him insulted. No one knows the details on who said what but when once clubs a few events in last fifteen days and today – is there a hint of times to come???
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