Gambhir has a roaring time

Gambhir (below) with the bat and McGrath with the ball were the heroes for the Daredevils. Vijay Lokapally reports.

Gautam Gambhir knows the Kotla like the back of his hand. He can step on to the field and in no time get into the act of making runs. “I like the ambience. It brings the best out of me,” declared the normally shy cricketer from West Delhi.

The place where Gambhir sheds his inhibitions and gives freedom to his expressions is the pitch. At the receiving end were members of the Bangalore Royal Challengers caravan that travelled to the Capital for the Indian Premier League match. The margin may appear close in the end, but at no stage of the match was the Bangalore outfit in a position to give Delhi any anxious moment.

There is nothing meticulous about the Kotla. It was no different in the second match of the IPL there. The enhanced security at the ground failed to control the unruly entrance of the spectators and the police played havoc with the organiser’s (GMR) plans to give the audience a comfortable and enjoyable outing. The entertainment package did not include the cheergirls, withdrawn by GMR, even though the Royal Challengers brought its own group. But it remained in the background once Gambhir took the stage and smashed the ball around the park. Some of the entry points of the venue remained unmanned as the private security people bowed to the dictates of the boorish cops, who were not averse to manhandling even some of the officials. Many ticket-holders were thus denied their money’s worth.

The organisers turned a deaf ear to the pleas of the spectators who had bought tickets. The venue was invaded by hooligans in most stands because of the breakdown of organised entry at various gates. Unmindful of the discomfort, many of the cricket lovers craned their heads to get a glimpse of Gambhir’s glorious batting against an opposition that played much below its potential.

The ambience at the Kotla, as Gambhir has visualised, was electric. His batting matched the occasion even as Virender Sehwag flattered to deceive. Shikhar Dhawan was in his elements and played some rousing drives, but the evening belonged to Gambhir and the night to Glenn McGrath. After Gambhir had set up the game with a lovely 86 off 54 balls the Australian legend took over to hand some of the young opponents a lesson or two in professionalism.

McGrath brought his experience into play and left the Challengers in a state of frustration. He packed off three batsmen in his first spell of three overs and then added one more to bag the Man of the Match award. In the process, he also drove home the point that this was not necessarily a young man’s game. Jacques Kallis tried making a match of it, but he ran woefully short of partners and the momentum that Gambhir had set was enough to carry the day for the Daredevils.

McGrath was mobbed by his team-mates and the support staff and was a hit at the media interaction where he was repeatedly asked if he would love to come out of retirement. An emphatic “No” from McGrath conveyed the master’s desire to stay away from the game that he had so dominated. “It is a question of four overs and it is easy that way.

I did not quit cricket because I was not performing. I had had enough,” was the Australian’s candid submission.

The Scores

Delhi Daredevils v Bangalore Royal Challengers, Feroze Shah Kotla, New Delhi, April 30, 2008.

Result: Delhi Daredevils won by 10 runs.

Delhi Daredevils 191 for five in 20 overs (G. Gambhir 86, S. Dhawan 50) beat Royal Challengers 181 for five in 20 overs (J. Kallis 54, R. Dravid 38, M. Boucher 31 n.o., G. McGrath 4-29).