This was bound to happen sooner rather than later. A side with a decent spin department was bound to trap the Kolkata Knight Riders in their own trap.
So Kochi, the new kids on the IPL block, were to face off with the old losers, KKR. Batting first, Kochi opened with long time KKR gunner, Kiwi dasher, Brendan McCullum, who seems to have struck a purple patch after leaving KKR. They took the quicker bowlers to the cleaners and it did not take Gambhir much time to realize that the spinners were the key. Once they were brought in, the game changed colors drastically. Between themselves, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib al Hasan snagged 6 of the 7 Kochi wickets to fall. Apart from the opening stand between skipper Mahela and McCullum, the rest of Kochi looked rather lack luster until the much reviled Ravindra Jadeja came to strike. He struck a few lusty blows to give the Kochi score some much needed impetus as he scored a quick fire thirty to propel the team by the distance which would, in the end, prove just crucial for the result.
In response, the KKR started circumspectly as they were pretty confident of being able to chase down the score. Bisla rode some luck to edge a couple of boundaries, and things were trundling along fine, although Jayawardena, the Kochi warden, decided to bring in spin in the very second over of the game. Things went disastrously wrong from the 3rd over onwards. Kallis fell, for the second time running, to a short ball that he smashed down the throat of the guy at deep square leg. He was soon followed by Gambhir, who got a peach of a delivery from R.P. Singh. Once the toast of the nation, injuries and a fluctuating form has kept this temperamental quickie out of business for quite some time. Today, he bowled Gambhir with a delivery that reminded us why he used to be such a potent force.
RP bowled a yorker length delivery, which came in towards Gambhir’s legs with the angle. As he shaped to play a flick shot, the ball just swung out a tad – enough to elude the bat and crash into the middle stump. The KKR skipper was too dumbfounded by the ball. It would have gotten anyone, any day.
After that, it was a procession of sorts. Bisla, who still remains an unsuitable opening option, fell playing a stroke that a number 11 will not be playing nowadays. He attempted a wild, expansive cover drive off a Jadeja arm ball which snuck in between his bat and pads and tickled his off stump. Manoj Tiwari got stuck in for some time, but was too slow. He ran out Eoin Morgan who was looking good after a horrid yes-no situation. He was unable to milk the spinners for singles and ended up wasting too many balls for his 46 (51 balls). It may have been a great striking rate for an ODI, but for a T20, its just a horror.
Eventually, the inevitable happened: KKR was kicked in the nads. So what do I conclude from this defeat:
- Although KKR has a sterling batting line up, batting second on Eden is always a dicey affair, even in a T20. Almost always, the pitch starts to aid the spinners too much after the cracks open up a bit. Gambhir needs to revisit the bat second option here, especially against teams like Kochi, who have great spinners, like Mutthiah Muralitharan on their side.
- Bisla is an inappropriate choice for opening the innings. He doesn’t have the technique or temperament with the bat. However, he is doing a good job with the gloves and could walk into the team on his keeping prowess. In that case, he should bat lower. Maybe like 6/7.
- On spinning tracks, Tiwari should start bowling. His fastish leggies, if delivered with accuracy, could be a cause for headache for the opposition on Eden’s turners.
- Rajat Bhatia: A useless appendage. He rarely bowls his quota of overs, isn’t the fleeted footed of players around, doesn’t have the power strokes to clear the boundaries. I feel he has Gambhir’s vote of confidence because of their history with Delhi.
- Laxmi Shukla, the guy whose name I was to pop in lieu of Bhatia’s came in to field for some time when Yusuf was injured. But he fielded so badly that I am now a little doubtful as to his abilities. The very few minutes that he was on the pitch, he managed to piss off Gambhir with his poor efforts on the field.
All said and done, defeat is a part of every game, and it comes sooner or later. The one good thing is that the defeat was eventually by a margin of 7 runs, so there should not be a severe dent in the net run rates. However, this defeat raised several ugly questions, which were forgotten following the 3 victories on the trot.
If KKR has to go to the semifinal levels for the first time in 4 editions, they have to make a lot of adjustments in the next few days. I am sure that better things are to follow, but this left a rather bitter taste in the mouth…