Bangalore's wretched summer continues
When Rahul Dravid was asked to explain another depressing day at the IPL office, he spoke of being outclassed. There was a moment when you thought he would actually let off some steam, but instead he settled for the phrase: "Pretty much second-best." Had he said second-rate instead, few could have blamed him.
Everything about the Bangalore Royal Challengers' organisation is in shambles. The chief executive was sacked midway through the campaign, and the owner loves opening his mouth even more than Tom Hicks, the Texan tycoon now so detested by football supporters in Liverpool. With everyone else having done a Pontius Pilate, Dravid has been left to carry what is now a rotting corpse of a side.
This wasn't a contest. It was an embarrassment. With three Australians to the fore in the facile chase, you could close your eyes and imagine a team in green-and-gold battering some hapless invitation XI somewhere. It really was that one-sided, with Shaun Marsh and Luke Pomersbach using the stage, and a beautiful batting pitch, to highlight their ability.
Marsh alone has made 295 runs in the competition, from just five matches. When you consider that he, Pomersbach and James Hopes cost less than half of what Bangalore paid out for Jacques Kallis, the most expensive bench-warmer in the IPL, you begin to get some insight into why Bangalore are where they are in the table.
"It's been a fantastic experience," Marsh said of his IPL adventure. "You're playing with the greatest players in the world. And I'm getting to learn from the likes of Yuvi [Yuvraj Singh], Sanga [Kumar Sangakkara] and Mahela [Jayawardene]. And to play in front of crowds like this is something I've never experienced before."
That's not something Dravid or even a Mark Boucher could ever say. Yet, time after time, when the situation has demanded something special, Bangalore's finest have failed to deliver. It's almost like they lack an extra gear. A Mercedes convertible is an object of envy out on the road, but a tadpole amid sharks if placed on an F-1 track. Most of Bangalore's top players appear similarly out of place.
The two Twenty20 specialists have been a huge letdown. Cameron White's highest score is 30, while Misbah-ul-Haq hasn't gone past 21. He also finds ever more ingenious ways to get out. As for the opening partnership, that's almost an oxymoron when it comes to Bangalore.
"It helps to have openers in form and playing well," Dravid said with reference to Marsh's superb unbeaten 74. "It sets the tone for the game up front. We haven't had that, and it's filtered down to the rest of the batting."
As poor as Bangalore were though, take nothing away from the King's XI, whose bowlers were simply sensational. Post-slap, Sreesanth has focused more on his bowling and less on grimaces, and the results have taken him to the top of the wicket-takers' heap. Aside from a couple of poor short balls to Misbah, he was superb on Monday, swinging the ball at pace. The 94kph leg-cutter to get Praveen Kumar was magnificent, while the early wickets ensured that Bangalore never really got away.
His new-ball partner, Irfan Pathan, also has 13 wickets and he gave nothing away in a probing opening spell. Yuvraj Singh, the captain, saved his praise for the third musketeer though, calling VRV Singh's 1 for 15 a "matchwinning spell". And if the King's XI didn't get you with pace, there was the legspin of Piyush Chawla. Virat Kohli was utterly flummoxed by one that he played back to, while White's miscue became a caught-and-bowled for the highlights reels.
With six wins from their last seven games, Mohali are now poised to seal a semi-final berth, which most likely leaves India's three biggest metros - Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi - to slug it out for the fourth spot. Bangalore, like Hyderabad, have only pride to play for. Given the backroom shenanigans, even that might be exhausted by the time their wretched summer is over.