Saturday, April 19, 2008

Royal victory for the Kolkata Knight Riders

As the official website of Kolkata Knight Riders had put it 'Royal win for Kolkata Knight Riders', it was truly a win in ROYAL style. Right from the first ball bowled by Praveen Kumar to Ganguly till the end when Shukla got the ageing Sunil Joshi caught by McCullum; it was Kolkata Knight Riders all the way. The Bangalore Royal Challengers could never put up a good challenge and thus got crushed by a mighty margin of 140 runs in the opening match of the Indian Premier League held at their own backyard - The Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore.
But lets rewind ourselves to the start of the match. After the dazzling fireworks and the sizzling show put up by the performers, everyone was expecting a similar display from the players. And boy, did they get one! But it came from one of the most unlikely fellows in the team - New Zealand wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum. He hit an unbeaten 158 of just 73 balls, which included 10 fours and 13 sixes. Not only was it the highest score in the match (for which he rightfully got the Man-of-the-Match award), it was also the highest score by any individual in a Twenty20 match. Such was the impact of blitzkrieg that Dravid and his men were down and out when returning to the team dug-out after the Knight Riders' innings. The next highest score was that of Ponting who made 20 followed by extras which amounted to 17. Sourav hit 2 fours. Ponting hit a boundary and cleared the ropes once during his stay. Hussey played a bit too. But no one could take the glory away from McCullum. His innings was a show of clean hitting, improvisation and some clever positioning. That he was able to survive the entire 20 overs tells the story. The Bangalore Royal Challengers' bowlers had no clue as to what to bowl to him. Even Dravid admitted during the presentation ceremony that he tried various strategies to get him out; rotating his bowlers, trying new tactics; but to no avail. One of the shots that I truly liked was the attempted sweep which went for a six. Whew! How can one hit such a cheeky shot to the ropes, I just can't fathom! Quite deservingly, the Kolkata Knight Riders ended their innings at 222/3, thus setting the Bangalore Royal Challengers a target of 223 to be scored in 20 overs at an asking rate of over 11 per over.
Now what would you expect the captain of a team coming out to chase a score of 223 in 20 overs to do? You would want to see clean hitters opening the innings so as to get the boost. But what do you see? Wasim Jaffer and Rahul Dravid coming out to open the innings. I presume they took it as a Test Match where their Objective was to survive the 20 overs. The home crowd expected fireworks from their Royal Challengers team. But sadly there were none to come. In contrast, Kolkata Knight Riders chose to open the bowling with a rookie - Ashoke Dinda. He was quick, pumped up and accurate. From the first over itself, he showed no nerves (None of the bowlers needed to; the target was too big and the pressure was totally on the batsmen) and bowled to the field. His first over on the big stage was good but there was better to come. The prized bowler of the Kolkata Knight Riders - Ishant Sharma was next. And his entry was a bang. The first ball he bowled ripped apart the leg-stump of Rahul Dravid as he attempted to hit through the line. The WALL had been breached. Next came the captain of the Indian U-19 team - Kohli. Ishant Sharma was bowling in-swingers to which he had no reply. He was bowled by Dinda in the very next over. Kallis came in next and tried to steady the boat. he hit a six too. But the rout had started. He was caught off the bowling of Agarkar (who as usual got hit for a few runs but as usual took some wickets, which were all that mattered). And then Jaffer was caught by Ponting. The others just came in and tried their hands at swinging the willow. The Knight Riders were enjoying their time so much that Ponting could even afford to miss a catch ( so rare I don't remember any instance of this happening before). In the end it became a no-show with the Bangalore Royal Challengers getting bundled for a mere 82 runs, thus providing the Kolkata Knight Riders with a victory of 140 runs.
My roommates were joking that the Knight Riders don't have to bat in their next match. The opponent team should first chase down the remaining 140 runs, then they would come out to topple the score. In the presentation ceremony, Dravid was looking dejected as usual as he admired the innings of McCullum and Ganguly was understandably elated. The tournament had started well and I hope that the 40 day Festival of cricket really lives up to its massive billing.

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Abhishek Saha
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
A NRB (Non Resident Bengali) or rather a 'Probashi Bangali'; born in Kolkata, brought up in Jamshedpur and now trying to make his mark at IIM Lucknow.
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