Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne are legends of Australian cricket, now retired and leading their respective teams efficiently in the cash-rich IPL.
It will be as much a clash of two strong personalities as it will be of the two teams when Kings XI Punjab take on Rajasthan Royals at the PCA stadium on Thursday evening.
After the none-too-impressive opening game, nobody had given KXIP much of a chance, branding them as ‘Paupers’ rather than the ‘Kings’. But the emergence of Paul Valthaty has brought about the resurgence of KXIP. It would be apt to say that their fortunes have risen along with his. Such an impression he has made with a century and a half in the last two games that he may well play for India before he does for his state in first-class cricket.
Of course, much will depend on how well he performs in the remaining IPL matches before the national selectors sit down to pick the team for the ODI series in the Caribbean. For their two wins, the KXIP owe it to Valthaty.
But now is the time for the other players to come to the party as it would be unfair to expect the Mumbai lad to do it match after match. The likes of Shaun Marsh, Dinesh Karthik and Abhishek Nayar need to put their hands up and make contributions, especially against Rajasthan Royals, who are in the top half of the points table following their washout against Royal Challengers in Bangalore on Tuesday night.
RR, on their part, have had a topsy-turvy start as they depend heavily on Shane Watson. He is in the form of his life and whenever he provides a blistering start, the team invariably ends up winning.
Thus, KXIP have their task charted out – get Watson and Rahul Dravid (if fit) early and put the batting under pressure. Without Dravid and Johan Botha in the side, the team had looked mediocre against Knight Riders the other day, so much so that Warne lashed out saying “we played like kids!”
On the eve of the match, he said RR had learnt their lessons and will hopefully play more mature cricket. “That collapse was hopefully a one-off thing and the batting should be back in the groove.” He added that the washout was frustrating. “But that is history. Now we have to concentrate on the next match.”
KXIP have had a prolonged rest of four days while RR have been hopping from city to city, losing, winning and abandoning their games in that order. They may well be fatigued by all the travelling, having arrived in the city only late in the evening from Bangalore. Warne said the hectic schedule was a part of modern-day cricket and surely cannot be excuse enough for poor performance.
With a majority of matches being won by the team chasing a target, one would expect the captain winning the toss to opt to bowl first on a flat batting track at the PCA, where the dreaded dew factor could also come into play in the night game. “Yes, till now more games have been won chasing. But that cannot be a norm. The captain has to take a call after looking at the conditions on the ground and overhead,” said Gilchrist. “At the end of the day, the team that plays well will win, whether chasing or defending.”