RR…Re-railed!

Rahul Dravid... Making a point.-ROHIT JAIN PARAS

“We don’t really have a hangover of the last season. In some ways, we put that behind us at the end of last season. We spoke about it and acknowledged that it had happened. But after that we decided to focus on what we needed to do. We would like to show our fans that there are some very good people and cricketers in this team”…Rahul Dravid, Rajasthan Royals skipper.

The problems brought forward by the IPL spot-fixing scandal are yet to take leave of cricket. Though no further controversies have broken out during the ongoing Champions League Twenty20, ghosts from that murky episode continue to follow the sport.

Rajasthan Royals was particularly ravaged by the scandal, being the only franchise to lose some of its players. However, if skipper Rahul Dravid is to be believed, the rest of the squad has moved forward.

“We don’t really have a hangover of the last season. In some ways, we put that behind us at the end of last season. We spoke about it when we got it here and acknowledged that it had happened. But after that we decided to focus on what we needed to do. We would like to show our fans that there are some very good people and cricketers in this team.”

Dravid also claims that the controversy helped RR to become a more unified team.

“I would not say that before we were less determined. But I think it has been a great learning experience for all of us. It has brought the group closer; there is no doubt about it. Even last season, there were a couple of tough days. But after that the way we came together as a group was really heartening.

“There is a real determination within the group to not spoil a special environment just because of one or two incidents or people. So, I think it hardened our resolve to learn from the challenges and get better.”

RR’s impressive performances in CLT20 certainly seem to suggest so!

Player recognition problems “Hey, who’s that player?” “Which team does he represent?” “Have you watched him play before?”

Ever since Champions League T20 arrived on the cricketing scene in India, such queries have become part of the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of the tournament. Player recognition is, perhaps, at its lowest in this competition. 35 different teams have featured since the tournament’s inception. Due to the recent shift from state sides to city-based teams in countries like Australia and West Indies, a few participants will never return to this global T20 event.

Hence, it was not a surprise to see sparsely-crowded stadiums for matches that did not involve any Indian team. For those who were in attendance, sides like Perth Scorchers posed an acute problem. The Australians were severely depleted due to player injuries and commitments elsewhere. Consequently, virtual unknowns like Ashton Turner and Joel Paris took the field in the company of Simon Katich and Marcus North. Not to forget Jason Behrendorff, Hilton Cartwright and Burt Cockley.

Brisbane Heat's Matthew Gale celebrates with team-mate Peter Forrest after a strike against Titans.-AKHILESH KUMAR

Journalists and photographers were stumped alike. The cameramen faced much difficulty in attributing names to cricketers in the photos.

However, nothing can be compared to the amusement caused by a reporter at a Highveld Lions’ press conference.

The journalist bizarrely mistook coach Geoffrey Toyana for the left-arm medium pacer Lonwabo Tsotsobe. Consequently, Toyana’s quotes were attributed to the South African bowler. Fortunately, though, a timely intervention by a fellow reporter ensured the avoidance of an embarrassing blunder. No wonder the journalist was quick to express his gratitude afterwards!

The day of the bowlers

In low-scoring matches, the focus always shifts to the bowlers. The match between Titans and Brisbane Heat was no different.

First, a lesser-known Matthew Gale from the Australian outfit hogged the limelight with fabulous figures of four for 10 off 2.5 overs. Later, Marchant de Lange, a two-Test old speedster from South Africa, did a three for 13 to see Titans, which was defending only 123, record its first win by a slender margin of four runs.

Gale, who would turn 30 in November, had lost valuable time early in his career due to injury issues. Playing the first Twenty20 match of his career, Gale, who has played only six first class games in the Australian domestic circuit, was determined to make his mark.

Fast bowler Gale captured a crucial wicket for 10 runs in his first two overs. And in his second spell, lasting only five balls, Gale struck thrice to polish off the Titans tail.

It was another thing that Heat batsmen could not make the most of the situation. Of course, Titans pacer de Lange, who will celebrate his 23rd birthday in October, played a major role in halting the Aussies’ progress. He delivered a double blow, sending off Peter Forrest and Ben Cutting off consecutive deliveries and returned to pick up the wicket of Alister McDermott to signal the Titans’ victory.

A Sri Lankan with spirit

The low-profile Thisara Perera had always been contributing quietly for Sunrisers Hyderabad throughout the Indian Premier League (IPL) earlier this year. And in SRH’s first outing against Trinidad and Tobago in CLT20, the 24-year-old Sri Lankan all-rounder overshadowed two star performers from the Caribbean side to guide his team to an impressive four-wicket win.

As Darren Bravo, the left-hander resembling the great Brian Lara, launched a classy assault to score a 44-ball 66, containing four disdainfully hit sixes, Perera quietly claimed two important wickets to prevent the West Indians from posting an imposing total.

Later, when Sunil Narine, known for his guile, bamboozled the SRH batsmen and made the run chase an uphill task, the expressionless Perera clinically butchered the T&T bowlers. Perera’s brutal act was not mindless though. He was patient in Narine’s last over, the penultimate one of the SRH innings, as the off-spinner with an unconventional action added some thrill by picking up two wickets for an overall four for nine.

Perera, however, had the last laugh as he remained unbeaten and saw SRH home. His performance was so full of impact that T&T coach David Willaims had no hesitation in saying that the Lankan “took away the game” from his team.

Rampaul sizzles

Trinidad & Tobago, the lone representative from the West Indies, got off to a winning start, thanks to its bowlers, the pick being Ravi Rampaul.

The fast-medium bowler finished with four for 14, with off-spinner Sunil Narine, medium-pacer Rayad Emrit and leg-spinner Samuel Badree too producing crucial spells.

In a way Narine’s two-wicket haul in the 15th over broke Brisbane Heat’s middle-order.

T & T skipper Denesh Ramdin scored a punishing 48 from 38 balls and was adjudged the Man of the Match, as the team totalled 135. “It was Sunil’s two-wickets in the 15th over turned that the match in our favour,” felt Ramdin. Brisbane Heat captain James Hopes said the team’s defeat was owing to batting failure as the Australian outfit collapsed for 110.

Batting Super Kings

Chennai Super Kings’ strength is batting and this virtue came out strongly when it chased down Titan’s stiff target of 185. Opener Michael Hussey and No. 3 Suresh Raina hit up 47 apiece after Titans’ A. B. de Villiers had smashed 77 off 36 balls with seven 6s. Needless to say, both the attacks looked very ordinary.

Contributed by Priyansh, S. Sabanayakan & Y. B. Sarangi