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When scorpions fight to the finish

by Gaurav Sethi

There is much in common between Virat Kohli and David Warner:  Bully openers, closure masters, boss captains. While one had anger management issues, the other continues to fuel his cricket with fury.  Both share the same star sign, Scorpio. Both are in their late 20s, Kohli’s 27, Warner’s 29. Both have the identical top score in T20 internationals, a 90 not out.

Both are full-on Aussie in their approach to sport. Both have curbed their natural T20 instincts, preferring to battle boredom for the team. Both want to win this IPL so bad you can almost taste it on TV. Both have just about done enough to win it on their own. Going into the finals, Kohli has 919 runs, Warner, 779 runs. That’s the top two run scorers this IPL.

Both their cricket journeys have been shaped by Delhi in no small way. While Kohli is from Delhi, Warner’s opening for Delhi Daredevils (under Virender Sehwag) by his own admission, defined his game -

“When I went to Dehli, Sehwag watched me a couple of times and said to me, ‘You’ll be a better Test cricketer than what you will be a Twenty20 player’.”

And can both field. They hurl themselves at the cricket ball as if a magnetic field were pulling them to it. Both did not open in the World T20, but after this IPL, who will stop them?

Tonight, only one will win the IPL.

After winning five back-to-back knock-out matches and making it to the finals, the trophy seems like just another routine chase under lights for Virat Kohli.

Kohli has in his XI, four outright match winners with the bat, Gayle, de Villiers, Watson and himself. Warner has just one: himself. He’s pushed this Sunrisers’ campaign with his bat and his bowlers. 

Even the absence of Ashish Nehra and Mustafizur Rahman hasn’t stopped him.

The IPL finals are at Chinnaswamy. For RCB, it’s not a home game, it’s a backyard game, with friends and extended family - 40,000 chants of R-C-Bee, R-C-Bee will be baying for Warner’s blood.

On 12th April, when the two played in Bangalore, RCB sucked the Chinnaswamy for all the runs it was worth – 228, beating SRH (Nehra and Mustafizur included) by 45 runs. Warner made a 25 ball 58. For RCB, Kohli 75, de Villiers 82 sealed the deal. When the Sunrisers returned home, they knocked off 194 beating RCB by 15 runs. That man Warner again, a 50 ball 92.  One-all, one to play. 

For RCB, off spinner, Parvez Rasool played both games. He played the last of his four games this season more than three weeks back. Will RCB play him again to counter the two left handers on top? Or will they expect Gayle to bowl with his big bat? Will Kohli risk his left arm spinner, Abdulla against Warner? Or will he go as Raina did with Jadeja against Warner, and not bowl him at all? What about the leg spinner, Yuzvendra Chahal?

What about out of favour Sarfaraz Khan? Has he shed enough weight to be picked? Not only is he an October 27 born like Warner, he tonked a 10 ball 35 when he played the Sunrisers, most of those runs were behind the wicket, scooping, paddling, doing all kinds of horrible things to Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Such was his impact that day, poor Bhuvi all but gave up on bowling yorkers till just the other day. RCB might find more of baby Sachin in Sarfaraz than they will in Sachin Baby. It’ll be a gamble worth taking, negating Bhuvi could be the game. Bad memories do strange things to sportspersons.

The other big call for RCB is gambling with Lokesh Rahul behind the stumps. It could not just cost them runs, it could cost them the trophy. The only way wicketkeeper, Travis Head makes it to the playing XI if Chris Gayle does not.

Chances are RCB will go with their same winning eleven. And a prayer. It’ll be down to Warner to dismiss Warner. And hoping the other left handers, Dhawan and Yuvraj don’t mess up Abdulla and Chahal too badly.  
Either way, a loss in the IPL final will not make either a lesser player. A win for Virat Kohli though, will feed the IPL dream like few things can. (Like Dhoni’s used to in his heyday, you remember?) It’ll add yet another chapter to that story he continues to write on the field. Through the covers. And sometimes, even in the dugout when he fails to score.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

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