Royals' run continues

Swapnil Asnodkar... Rajasthan Royal’s surprise package.-Sandeep Saxena

Swapnil Asnodkar lived up to the expectations of his skipper Shane Warne. His breezy knock paved the way for Rajasthan Royals’ fourth successive victory. G. Viswanath reports.

Rajasthan Royals’ skipper Shane Warne has been indulging in some bombast following his team’s run of victories. He was at it again after the Royals crushed Kolkata Knight Riders by 45 runs at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium in Jaipur.

The leg-spinner said that Yusuf Pathan had used his brain in scoring a half century, but singled out Swapnil Asnodkar’s performance, saying he was the chief architect of the Rajasthan team’s victory. Warne also said that some of the teams in the Indian Premier League were trying to copy the tactics employed by Rajasthan Royals.

One gets the feeling that Warne tends to go overboard while singling out Indian players for their performances. Earlier, when the Aussie talked of Dinesh Salunkhe and predicted that he would be future superstar of Indian cricket, discerning observers were startled. Salunkhe scored some 20-odd runs against Delhi Daredevils and then claimed the wicket of Mahesh Jayawardene of Kings XI Punjab at the Sawai Man Singh Stadium.

Former India batsman Praveen Amre, who has been following Salunkhe’s career, was of the view that he needs to work hard to become a quality leg-spinner. Salunkhe, incidentally, was in Leicestershire for a four-month training session last year.

Warne has also named Rajkot’s Ravindra Jadeja as an India future superstar.

Hampshire’s Dimitri Mascarenhas, who has the reputation of being an attacking all-rounder, joined Rajasthan Royals at its practice sessions prior to the match against Kolkata Knight Riders.

But Warne, who is also the coach of the Rajasthan team, chose the Pakistani left-arm seamer, Sohail Tanvir, over his pal from the Rose Bowl County. Warne also opted for Asnodkar to face the likes of Ishant Sharma, Ajit Agarkar and Ashoke Dinda and challenge them. The small-made right hander from Goa has a reputation for batting fearlessly.

Having rocked to the sounds of ‘Halla Bol’, the local fans were taking a few minutes rest when Asnodkar exploded into action. Graeme Smith’s dismissal made no impact on Asnodkar as he proceeded to lay the foundation for a massive total of 196 with a breezy 60 (34 balls, 10 fours, one six).

The packed stadium was at its feet again as the experienced Mohammad Kaif (21) and Yusuf Pathan (55, 33 balls, six fours, two sixes) kept the scoreboard ticking.

The fall of Shane Watson — leg before to Umar Gul for no score — didn’t seem to affect Rajasthan Royals much as Ravindra Jadeja blasted a 19-ball 33 (three fours, one six). During the innings, he made the most of two free hits, scoring a six and a four.

Warne later slammed umpire Rudy Koertzen’s decision against Watson as “terrible”, but was punished only for his public criticism of Sourav Ganguly’s show of dissent. Warne accused Ganguly of time-wasting tactics and going against the spirit of the game. Both Ganguly and Warne were reprimanded and docked 10 per cent of their match fees.

Chasing 197 for victory, Kolkata Knight Riders folded up for 151 despite a fighting half-century by skipper Sourav Ganguly (51 off 39 balls, four fours, two sixes) and David Hussey’s 42 (30 balls, one four, two sixes). Watson, Tanvir and S. K. Trivedi took two wickets each.

In the final analysis, it was Asnodkar’s knock that paved the way for Royals’ victory. “I worked on his batting for two weeks and told him that he will be thrown in as a surprise tactic and when the opponent is not expecting him to play. Twenty20 is all about tactics and surprise and we surprised them with Swapnil. I don’t know if we were smart, but I think we had them on the hop,” said Warne after Royals recorded its fourth straight win in the competition.

The Scores

Rajasthan Royals v Kolkata Knight Riders, Sawai Man Singh Stadium, Jaipur, May 1, 2008.

Result: Rajasthan Royals won by 45 runs.

Rajasthan Royals 196 for seven in 20 overs (S. A. Asnodkar 60, M. Kaif 21, Y. K. Pathan 55, R. A. Jadeja 33, Umar Gul 3-31) bt Kolkata Knight Riders 151 in 19.1 overs (S. Ganguly 51, A. Agarkar 20, D. J. Hussey 42, S. Watson 2-22, Sohail Tanvir 2-30, S. K. Trivedi 2-31).