This is how it all began for Kochi Tuskers Kerala, their Indian Premier League entry kicking off with a game against Royal Challengers Bangalore, a side which like them made its way into the inaugural IPL as the second most expensive team. That RCB finished second last then will not be lost on the Tuskers, who at the moment at least are in a much better position, which is sixth in the 10-team table.
Now it’s time for the return leg and revenge, the Tuskers having narrowly lost the opener to RCB in Kochi. The game against hosts RCB at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Sunday will be Tuskers’ 11th with five wins and an equal number of losses having been notched up in the first ten.
Mahela Jayawardene will know that he will be up against a red-hot RCB, even if they are to don new green uniforms in keeping with a ‘go-green’ initiative. How such initiatives match up with the bursting of fire-crackers (leading to a heck of a lot of smoke) every time that man Chris Gayle sends the ball roaring for a six is beyond comprehension but that indeed is the way of the world.
Much time will have been spent by the Tuskers think-tank on how to contain Gayle, who only on Friday cut to shreds the Kings XI Punjab attack. But then, with Gayle around, prayers more than planning may work better as most opponents may have realized by now.
Tuskers’ own dance king, S Sreesanth may just be the one to lead the prayers. As it is he seems to do enough of it on field, he just needs to be more specific. Sreesanth hasn’t done too badly with the ball actually, as the economy rate of 6.14, the best in his side, shows. And should he get the kind of seam movement that some of the Kings XI pacers got on Friday night, the prayers may just pay off.
Sreesanth will not be wanting for support either with the local state captain R Vinay Kumar in fine wicket-taking form. The leader of the Karnataka pace attack, Vinay with 11 wickets in his kitty has been Jayawardene’s go to man and has rarely failed.
What Tuskers would hope for is for Brendon McCullum also not to fail. The opener from New Zealand is very much like Gayle, either he hits or misses, but like Gayle again, even when he mishits, the bowlers suffer. It was the start that he provided in the opener along with the presently out-of-favour VVS Laxman, that set the Tuskers on their way.
For them to go further, they will need their skipper to fire again. Jayawardene is a man who caresses the ball rather than strike it but his hitherto average of 24 does not do any justice at all to the form he carried over from the World Cup.
His RCB counterpart, Daniel Vettori, who rarely loses form, as an economy rate of 5.5 will tell you, will not mind if Jayawardene does not regain his touch for one more game at least. But then he should be more worried about Jayawardene’s Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan and his continued mediocrity at the top of the order for RCB.