Battle Royale!

`Prince of Kolkata', Sourav Ganguly, currently the Pune warriors skipper, shares a joke with Kolkata knight riders owner Shah Rukh Khan after the match.-AP

The KKR-PWI match at the Eden Gardens had plenty of dramatic moments accentuated by the simmering sub-plot, but things finally went KKR's way. Over to Arun Venugopal.

It was billed as the match of this year's IPL. The emotional high woven together by a medley of events had great potential for revenue-generation. The clash between Kolkata Knight Riders and Pune Warriors in Kolkata — however it would or wouldn't turn out to be — had ‘money-spinner' written all over it. Conveniently enough, the Sourav Ganguly angle was brought in; the contest was talked up as his homecoming and, in a way, a match to ‘avenge' his ouster from KKR.

What does one do to create more drama? Simple, bring Shah Rukh Khan, the self-anointed ‘Badshah of Bollywood', KKR owner, and also the brand ambassador of West Bengal, into the picture and pit him against Ganguly. KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir suggested that it was “KKR against Pune and not KKR versus Ganguly”. But who was listening? The tickets to this battle royale were predictably sold out but the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) had some grand plans to milk the cash cow dry.

There was a proposal to install giant screens across the city to broadcast the match. “At home you have your television. But what about those who will be out on the roads for various reasons? As the local cricketing body we want them to savour the flavour of the match while on the move,” CAB joint secretary Biswarup Dey said.

The setting up of such screens would have been a first for the IPL but the Kolkata Police had other ideas. “The police informed us today (Thursday) that they would not give permission as the giant screens could lead to law and order problem,” CAB treasurer Subir (Bablu) Ganguly said. There was also the fear of rain playing spoiler. But the match did go on anyway and, contrary to what was expected — 70,000 fans cheering for their home team — there was an equal distribution of purple and blue jerseys in the crowd.

Quizmaster-turned-politician Derek O' Brien conveyed the split loyalties that were on view with this tweet: “All set then. Daughter supporting KKR but I am rooting for Dada's Pune Warriors”.

The match had plenty of dramatic moments, accentuated by the simmering sub-plot, but things finally went KKR's way. Gambhir celebrated his relief by mouthing unmentionables; the same expletives that have adorned the lips of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma in recent times.

KKR did a lap of honour thanking the fans for their loyalty to the ‘home' team. Shah Rukh was seen sharing a joke with Ganguly. At the end of it all, the fans must have left for their homes with the same delirious feeling that they came to the ground with.

Tait pokes back KP

Finally, Shaun Tait gets a game. After spending the bulk of this year's IPL mixing drinks, the injury-prone paceman finally turned out for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab. With Tait, you can never tell. The mercurial man that Tait is, he could concede 50 runs or decimate the opposition with toe-crushers.

In this case, he produced a rare, controlled performance. At the end of the match, Tait was asked by a television presenter about the overwhelming presence of Australians on the field that day — Brad Hodge, David Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Ryan Harris, Shane Watson, and Tait himself. Tait cheekily reminded the presenter about Kevin Pietersen's diatribe against “second-rate Australians” in the IPL. Trust an Aussie to hit back at the right time.

Lehmann's sense of humour

Darren Lehmann hasn't had a happy outing at all in this year's IPL. With every passing game, there seems to be more worry lines on his forehead. And Deccan Chargers' continuing fielding miseries have ensured that he has very little excuses left to defend his side.

Darren Lehmann... worry lines on the Deccan Chargers coach's forehead.-K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Arriving for the post-match press interaction in Chennai, Lehmann had a wry grin on his face half-expecting what the scribes would ask him about. The questions were predictably directed at the team's fielding and a tendency to keep dropping catches (Deccan Chargers had spilt a few on that night as well).

Lehmann's constant, circular shake of his clean-shaven head complemented perfectly his restrained tone. But what was most impressive was his sense of humour. “Fielding is a big part of the game isn't it?” he said half-in-jest wondering how it was letting his team down badly.

‘Were some harsh words exchanged with his wards?' he was asked. “There are only so many times you can have stern words with the players otherwise you end up with a headache yourself, so it's about improving.” The journos chuckled and Lehmann had done well facing up to some tough questions.

Smith's mixed bag

Steve Smith has been hailed as one of the most promising young stars in this IPL and not without reason. His lusty, lower-order hitting and awe-inspiring fielding skills have caught the eye of everyone. In the already heavily discussed KKR-Pune Warriors clash at the Eden Gardens, Smith, like many others, experienced a roller-coaster of emotions.

In the field, he probably created the photographic moment of IPL-5: he leaped high near the boundary and flicked a ball into play — all in mid-air — before tumbling down. Smith saved a certain six. Ganguly has often been criticised for not sending Smith up the order. The New South Welshman was sent up the order but wrongly adjudged leg-before just when he was settling in. More salt was rubbed into the wound when he was later slapped with a fine for dissent. Cruel game, Smith.