It was the South African connection that Vijay Mallya had backed when he chose his Royal Challengers squad. For most part of the IPL, it hadn’t worked, but now that Season Two has reached the business end, the ‘home boys’ are coming to the party.
If Mark Boucher looks consistent as ever, both with the bat and the gloves, Jacques Kallis, too, is showing glimpses of his allround prowess that made him such a costly buy. Dale Steyn is still nursing the finger injury, but he is back in the dugout and the team management feels “he will play any day now”.
In addition, there’s South African coach Ray Jennings, who is working well in tandem with his South African and Indian wards and it has all made the Royal Challengers look a good counter-punching side.
Jennings is the first one to accept that as Royal Challengers beat Team Delhi and brace themselves for Thursday’s do-or-die affair with Team Hyderabad. “It was Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher who put my name forward to Dr Mallya. When I took up the job, Jacques said to me that whatever happens he will come close to being Man of the Series. He is living up to that promise and that’s a big boost for us,” Jennings said.
The coach went on to add that Kallis is one of the “captains in the team”. “Kumble is a legend and a great motivater, but he is more of a bowling captain. I ask Kallis for his inputs on batting and try to work on that. A legend like him has got helluva lot of experience, and to not use him would be stupid,” Jennings added.
It was Kallis’ experience that came to the fore on Tuesday night as Royal Challengers fought back from a difficult position to beat Virender Sehwag’s Team Delhi. And the veteran was not just effective with the bat, but with the ball as well.
“It was good to perform the way I did. I had bowled on this pitch, so I knew there was something in it for the bowlers. So, instead of going for the big shots right away, I decided to buckle down and got some very valuable support from the other end,” Kallis explained the mantra of his success on the Bull Ring pitch, which isn’t looking an easy surface to bat on.
Skipper Kumble, too, was all praise for the way Kallis has been coming good at crucial moments.
“Praveen and Jacques were superb upfront with the ball and then with bat we just needed somebody to bat through and that person was Kallis again. It was a fine performance by him and we hope to keep this going,” he said. Mallya, who has drawn flak for spending on players like Kallis, will also hope for the same.