Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Can the Knights Ride home to the ultimate victory?

Yesterday, while watching the Indian Premier League (IPL) coverage on television, I couldn't help but ponder on the fact that how brittle the Kolkata Knight Riders' team looked in totality. Kolkata Knight Riders had just won their match against the 'injured' King's XI Punjab via the Duckworth-Lewis method and they were showing Mandira bedi's interview of Shah Rukh Khan (SRK), the owner of the Kolkata Knight Riders team. One loss and one win from two matches. According to SRK, it wasn't bad. The team started slow on the first day against Deccan Chargers. Deccan Chargers looked the hungrier side. He defended his team beautifully setting the multiple captaincy saga, Gavaskar lash behind. He can be excused for that. After all, I can imagine what amount of hate mail he must have got when Sourav Ganguly a.k.a. Dada was removed from captaincy. But when he said that his dream was to bring the IPL trophy home to Kolkata, was he really serious?
Don't get me wrong! I have my loyalties set correctly. My heart is for the KKR team. I have the KKR wallpaper on my laptop wallpaper. I have the KKR theme on my orkut profile. I listen to the 'Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo' song on television atleast once a day with much pride. I follow KKR on twitter. I plan to buy the official t-shirt too. When any discussion comes up over the team, I defend it religiously. But then the mind does not believe in the team. It would definitely bet upon Delhi, Mumbai or Chennai for that matter for the IPL '09 trophy.
And why wouldn't it do so? Okay they won their match against the Punjab team. Veer's team had defeated Zaara's team. And Zaara would surely not be kissing or hugging Yuvi last night. But was the manner convincing? I mean just look at the stats. It was a 2-man show for Kolkata. While bowling, it was a beauty of an over from Dada that got us 2 wickets in quick succession and stemmed the start. If he had not done that, then Punjab would have scored above 180 and the match would have slipped. And while batting, it was Gayle. His whirlwhind 44 which included 4 sixes and the rate at which he hit made sure we were ahead on RR and thus put us through when the D/L method came into effect. Now look closely into the bowling statistics and you would find a lot of mistakes. When you have a specialist spinner in Murali Karthik why bowl him for only one over and Shukla for 2 overs? Was Karthik picked up as a bowler or an all-rounder? I don't have much knowledge about the stats but I certainly can say that Karthik's batting is not something you would bet upon to win you matches.
Now lets come to the batting. It has always been said that to succeed in IPL, you need the local lads to fire. Depending totally on foreign imports is like playing with fire. Most of them don't stay up for the entire tournament and then you have the cap of playing only 4 per match. KKR's batting totally depends on the foreigners. If Gayle and McCullum both don't fire on the night, the brittle middle order gets exposed badly. And we don't have any tried-and-tested consistent performer in there. Sure we have Dada. But let's be realistic. Can you really depend that much on him now that he does not play for Team India anymore? And this fact was heavily exposed in the match against Deccan Chargers. You have a Brad Hodge there to bail you out at times but then again he is a foreign import and you have the max 4 foreigners playing criteria. So can you be totally confident with this team?
Having said all this, last night's victory also told us a few things. Firstly, you don't need to have a team effort to win matches. How many of the T20 matches have actually been team effort victories? Secondly, you need just one or two members in the team to fire and that's it. You are done. Unfortunately, the Kolkata Knight Riders seem to be heavily banking on this. I too share the dream with SRK to see the IPL trophy come to Kolkata. I too would like to dance 'Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo' on the streets of Chowringhee when we have the victory lap. But its a dream which needs to be heavily worked upon and a dream which does not look to be fulfilled in this edition of the Indian Premier League.

Cross-posted on Mutiny - India's Thought Terminus ,

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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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