Today’s game was super entertaining, but it was played under a dismal backdrop. ‘Professor’ Dean Jones passed away due to sudden cardiac arrest in Mumbai, where he was due to commentate in the game tonight. He was one of the best analysts and presenters that the game has seen. Apart from that, his playing career was extremely illustrious too, with a career average of almost 50. Even the players all wore black armbands to pay tribute to him, and deservedly so.
Coming to the game now. RCB came into this game with winning form, having beaten SRH with ease after Chahal’s gamechanging over. KXIP on the other hand…. Well, they should have beaten DC with ease when they needed just 1 run from 3 balls but…..yeah. They completely blundered the game and ended up scoring no runs from the 3 balls, and eventually lost in the Super Over. RCB also looked to have the better squad overall. So, you wouldn’t blame experts for thinking that RCB would have the upper edge. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The game started out with both teams being on par with each other. KL Rahul looked in good knick, but gave no signs of the brilliance which was to come. After the powerplay, the KXIP batsmen stepped on the gears, and KL started a bit of an onslaught. After 10 overs, KXIP’s score was an impressive 90 runs. But then the RCB bowlers pulled back, led by Yuzvendra Chahal. From overs 10-15, Kings XI managed to score only 34 runs in 30 balls and lost the momentum that they had gained from the earlier charge. It seemed like it would be an easy-ish run chase for RCB, but the man who makes KXIP the one-man army – KL Rahul, was still at the crease.
Rahul had been quietly notching up runs and getting set while other KXIP batsmen came and went. As soon as the death overs started, KL begun his blitzkrieg into the RCB bowlers’ camp. Six after six after six, and then another six, and then some more for good luck. His carnage resulted in KXIP’s score reaching a mind boggling 207, out of which he scored 132 runs himself! This is the highest score by an Indian ever in IPL history! Not just that, it is also the highest score by a captain in IPL history! KL Rahul is a generational talent, and he must be nurtured properly. I think it’s time for Shikhar Dhawan to step down from his openers spot in the national team, and give KL Rahul a chance. If his talent isn’t utilised well, the BCCI won’t be able to forgive themselves.
His inning wasn’t completely flawless though. He gave two catches, but both were dropped. By the same person. By the best fielder in India. Yes, Virat Kohli dropped two catches! And both of them were absolute sitters! Virat might be losing his edge on the field. Although, we might be wrong to blame him here. Shreyas Iyer dropped a catch in this Dubai stadium outfield too, and said that the floodlights caused problems while judging the catch. Virat also looked at the lights with anger after he dropped those catches. So, the ground staff of Dubai International Stadium should think about making some reforms or this could become a regular occurrence.
Anyway, even after conceding 207 runs, RCB were still somewhat in the game. If there’s one batting unit who can chase down that score, its RCB’s. But they made quite a mockery of themselves with their performance today. The new star kid on the block, Devdutt Padikkal, lost his wicket extremely early, causing RCB to start off on the wrong foot. After Padikkal’s wicket, captain Kohli was expected to come in, but instead the youngster Joshua Phillipe was sent in. He had an opportunity to make Kohli and Mike Hesson look like strategic geniuses there, but he stuck around for just 3 balls before falling to a peach from Mohammad Shami. Virat Kohli walked in finally.
Now, along with lots of other fans, I was expecting Kohli to do well here. These are exactly the sort of situations that Kohli thrives in! He’s angry at himself for dropping those catches, his team is in a tough spot, they’re chasing, and chasing a big total at that. A captain’s innings was on the cards. But all he did was seal up one of his worst ever overall performances, and went back after scoring just 1 from 5 balls. At this point, the score was a pitiful 4/3. It was pretty clear that the game had been lost already, but still AB De Villiers and Aaron Finch’s partnership gave RCB a glimmer of hope. That too, disappeared with Finch’s wicket in the 8th over. After that, it was merely a formality, and a matter of net run rate and pride.
Credit also has to be given to KXIP’s pace duo of Mohammad Shami and Sheldon Cottrell. I have to admit that I was sceptical of their pace prowess, but they have proven that they can really stop the opposition from getting off to a good start. After the pacers got the initial jigs in, it was the spinners who made the finishing blows. They went with two leg spinners today, bringing in Murugan Ashwin for KG Gowtham, and it paid off. Ravi Bishnoi also kept his place in the XI, and formed a leggie partnership with M Ashwin. Both of them got 3 wickets each, and completely ripped apart the RCB lineup. Bishnoi looks like a very promising talent. Let’s see how he develops further under the guidance of Anil Kumble, a stalwart leg spinner himself.
There is a really absurd pattern in this IPL. 5 out of the 6 teams who have batted first have won the game! In previous editions of the IPL, teams batting first were always at a disadvantage. But here in UAE, that seems to be completely untrue. What’s even more interesting is that even though teams batting first have won most of the games, no team has chosen to bat first after winning the toss! Every team has chosen to field, and then most have proceeded to lose. This is actually great for the game, since a major criticism of the T20 game has been that it is heavily dependent on who wins the toss. It seems like the teams have eliminated that, and now it is a game of skill through-and-through.
My Prediction Counter – 5-1 (I am really killing it!)