Preview: Punjab vs Rajasthan, Match 23

April 21, 2011

Whenever the downfall of Australia from its lofty perch in world cricket is discussed, the names of Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist invariably crop up about 2 minutes into the conversation. And with reason. Both have been all-time great cricketers and the way they both ply their trade in the IPL always makes people wonder if they could still turn out for their country, since the skill does not seem to diminish. They have often crossed swords in the past three IPLs, but this time they will do so with different teams.

Rajasthan Royals: Their two crushing defeats at the hands of the Kolkata, Rajasthan’s wheels have come somewhat unstuck. However, they are from from down and and out, and are still very much in the race for a spot in the semi-finals. Their batting has been the main worry, though it is a worry that will immediately be solved once Shane Watson hits his stride. Watson has played two games so far, but not quite repeated the form he showed against Bangladesh, or even what made him the IPL’s Man of the Series in its inaugural 2008 edition. Even otherwise, Rajasthan were hurt by the absence of Rahul Dravid and Johan Botha – both of whom have contributed good runs up the order – in their past few matches. If both are fit, they will take their place back in the eleven. The fourth overseas player in the mix (after Watson, Warne and Botha) is the redoubtable Ross Taylor. He is someone else who hasn’t quite hit the big runs expected of him, but with the talent available, Rajasthan are just one good batting game away from finding their groove. The bowling is led by the evergreen Warne and as always he has inspired the men under him to come up with performances that outshine reputations.

Kings XI Punjab: The Punjab side seem to have discovered a shining diamond in Paul Valthaty, who has seen everything he touched turn to gold in the last two matches. Valthaty is in the middle of a golden run and he is now amongst Punjab’s key players. His emergence has lightened the load on the more established names and might even help them since the pressure is less. It certainly helped Gilchrist, who roared back to form against his former franchise the Deccan Chargers. The Punjab side will also have to settle on their overseas player combination. Alongwith Gilchrist, Ryan Harris and Ryan McLaren should both make it since Harris brings much needed teeth to the bowling attack and McLaren’s all-round abilities lend balance to the side. Between Shaun Marsh and David Hussey though it is a tough pick. Marsh hasn’t fired so far, while Hussey brings in the additional option of a few useful overs, which could mean Hussey gets his first game. The bowling though, needs to tighten up. Punjab’s – or rather Valthaty’s – spectacular batting has covered for some runs leaked so far, and if the bowling steps up a notch, Punjab will be very hard to beat indeed.

Final Word:

Both Warne and Gilchrist know what it is to lead a team to IPL glory and team-mates who have played under either of them acknowledge their inspiring leadership. They both know how it feels to not have their teams winning too much in the IPL too. Further, they both know each others’ strengths and weaknesses in detail and it will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this battle that will be as much mental as on the field.

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