Sweet Victory with Strange Tactics!
A win no doubt, thanks to Uthappa's born again knock, and RCB's contnuing good run, but the tactics adopted tonight are worthy of an analysis.
When the hitherto undefeated Kallis edged the second ball he faced to Parthiv Patel to the glee of the keeper and bowler, the man who mattered most, umpire Tiffin, didnt hear the edge with 50,000 fans roaring in the background. And then when Balaji lost the ball in front of flood lights to give Kallis another reprieve and his first boundary, it was evident that Kallis had finally decided to get out as soon as possible but his luck was still with him. Then he edged one past the diving Hayden to get another streaky boundary and Morkel must have thought what he can do more to get Kallis out.
On the other hand, Pandey was scratchy on a lively pitch offering swing and bounce to Morkel, Tyagi and Balaji and finally he lost his wicket with a strange strike rate below 75 for his standard, but was expected on such a wicket. By now, it was clear that Kallis had decided to take Pandey's role and also appeared to be looking to get dismissed as quickly as possible. Perhaps he wanted the effect of law of averages not to haunt him at a more important time later in the tournament, or wanted to give Dravid and his middle order some time in the middle or being so aware of his earlier luck, took it a bit too far.
The Super Kings used the early conditions at the Chinnaswamy stadium very well. Aided by the local man Venkatesh Prasad's bowling coaching, all 3 pacemen used the swinging conditions very well. Not seen such conditions in earlier matches, and also due to chasing down targets in the last 3 victories than batting first, the Royal Challengers may have adopted such risky strategy of trying to hit every ball out of the ground.
There was clearly some strange tactics batsmen brought to the crease this evening. One of them was 'Robbie' Uthappa's repeated reverse sweeps and a switch hit to Murali. While the captain and his mates on the bench were looking at each other in disgust when Ashwin dropped Robbie's switch hit skier, Robbie continued to live dangerously as if the tactic was to upset Murali's rhythm or to give RCB's middle order the much needed batting practice! Kumble's expression was perhaps hinting that coach Jennings had provided a method to Uthappa's madness and Chennai just provided Uthappa a long rope that tightened around their own necks!
In between all of these strange tactics that get forgotten in this short version of the game, we saw some sense return to the middle with the one and only Rahul Dravid. A beautiful ondrive from Dravid off Murali that went close to the top quality fielder Raina at short midwicket and reached the fence like a bullet. But the next ball saw the old war horse Murali bowling a straigher one that Dravid failed to connect and was bowled. That was just to show how technically superior batsman and bowler, with such glorious achievements in tests and ODIs have adapted to this Miniature cricket format.
With the chances he got from Ashwin, Patel and also Vijay, it was evident that Uthappa was going to make the Super Kings pay dearly. And exactly thats what happened as we all saw a marauder in Uthappa hammering sixes at will. As the selection for the T20 world cup coming up in 3 days and with the chairman of selectors K Srikkanth in the stands even though with the CSK team, Uthappa would have done no wrong to his chances of getting an unexpected call up to the Indian dressing room.
Seeing the conditions and with 3 pacemen in great form - two of whom have taken 3 wickets in one over and one bowling at 150kph speed, followed by Kumble's accuracy and Kallis's utility, it was certain that RCB had more than enough total on the board. against an easier bowling attack of Punjab they could muster only 137. Rightly the Challengers defended it with aplomb with all bowlers chipping in with good performances on a lively track. While Praveen provided the breakthrough in the very first over, Steyn fired his 150kph shoots and Kumble started his spell with just 1 run given to Hayden. Dravid running Hayden out was another show of youth from the Karnataka old war horse after Saturday's real 'kamaal' catch.
Chennai's strategy of replacing Gony with Tyagi was questioned by the hosts in the studio with Akash Chopra and Saba Karim feeling that changing after one bad performance is avoidable. Karim also suggested that Shadab Jakati should have preferred than the young paceman Tyagi. Commentator Gavaskar felt it was a good move that will give selectors a chance to see Tyagi's bowling before the ensuing world cup selection in 3 days time. Though Tyagi bowled well in this match, Chennai would have indeed done well to select Jakati for Ashwin to provide variety to the spin attack with so many right handers in RCB camp. Tissara Perera has more reputation than to deserve continuous benching and probably his hard hitting skills were required instead of Bailey. Anyway, despite a lot of restlessness at the beginning by RCB, CSK were nowhere near to challenging the Challengers. Even an innovative Badri nor the 'mongoose' Hayden could change the script.
Challengers continue to be on top and it will take a mammoth effort from other teams to displace them from that position. May be when the other 3 batsmen Pietersen, Taylor and White along with leg spinning allrounder Smith arrive, they will be plush with choices that may affect RCB's rhythm a bit. At that time however, RCB would have already done enough to qualify for semis, giving the hardworking guys like Kallis, Steyn and Kumble much needed rest. Its a great position to be in and to be honest, they should lose one or two matches before the semis to avoid peeking too much before the key 2 matches at the end.
By the way, it was quite nice to see a smartly dressed Ramya make an appearance with the chatty commentator on the ground showing her designer RCB kit alongside another film star Puneet. Way to go RCB ambassadors!
Thanks to technology, I am pleased to have posted a blog of match analysis once again at the same time as the last ball of the match, bowled by Vinay Kumar (after the last one achieved last Saturday).