Bangalore Royal Challengers v Rajasthan Royals, IPL, Cape Town April 18, 2009

Pietersen makes the perfect start

Victor Brown
Twenty20 captaincy feels like a lottery at times but pretty much everything Kevin Pietersen did came off. He may as well just ride the wave

No one can accuse Bangalore Royal Challengers of not preparing properly. Their new captain, Kevin Pietersen, was on the phone repeatedly with their new coach, Ray Jennings, ahead of the tournament. Tactics were discussed, names learned. Earlier today, as Mumbai Indians got things under way against Chennai Super Kings, the pair of them were side by side in the media centre, watching, analysing, possibly fine-tuning. Neither was involved last year, when Bangalore lost 10 games out of 14, but they share a sense of responsibility now. And how. The champions didn't know what hit them.

For a while it looked as if the planning would go to waste. Pietersen had won the toss, but the pitch was drier than when MS Dhoni chose to insert Mumbai in the opening match. In that respect, Pietersen's decision to bat first was fair enough, but it may have ignored the problem of contending with Newlands as the lights come on and batsmen struggle to pick up the ball in conditions that are neither day nor night.

Nought for two after three balls with Dimitri Mascarenhas on a hat-trick was not the dimension he had in mind. Pietersen did, though, survive the hat-trick ball before whipping the next through midwicket with a trademark flourish, but Robin Uthappa soon became Mascarenhas' third victim. At 17 for 3, memories of 2008 had returned with indecent haste. At 88 for 6, they seemed to be settling in for the duration.

But Rahul Dravid was not giving up. Last year Bangalore opened themselves up to ridicule by picking what quickly became dubbed a Test team. This was a bit unfair on Dravid, who was captain then and overcame a sticky start to become the franchise's leading run-scorer by a distance. Today he eased into the senior role again with a clever 66 off 48 balls to put Pietersen's attractive 32 in the shade. A score of 133 for 8 was at the very least a basis for negotiation.

It quickly became more than that. Swapnil Asnodkar, an unexpected star in 2008, carelessly tried to pull his second ball but instead top-edged Praveen Kumar to point, and it was 7 for 2 when Graeme Smith poked Praveen to Dravid at slip. Pietersen, who moments earlier had spoken to umpire Tiffin for apparently awarding Rajasthan a wide after a meaningful stare from Smith, enjoyed that moment.

The runs dried up completely. Ryder nipped in with the wickets of Niraj Patel and Tyron Henderson, and Mascarenhas was run out first ball. There may not be a worse time-out score all tournament than the champions' 32 for 5. The rest, including a double-wicket maiden for Anil Kumble, who finished with the astonishing figures of 3.1-1-5-5, needn't have bothered.

"Pietersen has been keen to play down the storyline that has him proving his leadership credentials to a chastened ECB. But if Bangalore win six out of six before he flies home … well, you can imagine the pieces that will be written"

Pietersen has been keen to play down the storyline that has him proving his leadership credentials to a chastened England and Wales Cricket Board. But if, for the sake of argument, Bangalore win six out of six before he flies home for Test duty … well, you can imagine the pieces that will be written. Twenty20 captaincy feels like a lottery at times but pretty much everything he did here - including the introduction of the medium-pace of Ryder as early as the seventh over - came off. He may as well just ride the wave.

Victory was presumably all the sweeter for coming against his old friend-turned-lukewarm-acquaintance Shane Warne. For a while, Warne had threatened to do what he does best and steal the show. He bowled Virat Kohli with his fifth delivery, a very full leg-break, then tempted B Akhil down the pitch and bowled him too past the inside edge with one that turned only a fraction. A diving catch at extra cover off Dravid was proof that his 39-year-old limbs still respond to orders.

But the man nicknamed Hollywood doesn't write all the scripts. "We weren't smart enough with our shot selection," he said. "We've got to have more common sense. We weren't up to scratch and we expect better of ourselves." Pietersen 1 Warne 0, and Rajasthan Royals all out for 58 were certainly not the headlines he had in mind.

Victor Brown is a freelance cricket writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ashok on April 20, 2009, 18:25 GMT

    KP and Banglore were lucky that all the breaks went in their favour. However but for Dravid and Kumble's(both former Indian test team captains) fine performances, Bangalore would have lost the game easily.It remains to be seen whether these 2 veterans will still keep up their form to carry Banglore's run of wins. As for KP, he is the most unlikely leader of a team where he does not know most of the players. Even when he knew all his team mates in England, he performed poorly as a Captain.His chances of winning all the 6 games before he leaves are zero. He would be lucky to win 2 out of 6. Deccan team is weaker than Bangalore but if they produce the same form as in the first game then KP will lose even that game. It is unfortunate that a calm leader like Dravid was deprived of captaincy in favour of grossly overpaid KP, who is more individualitic than a team player, If the team owner wants to learn the hard way it is his choice.Kallis, Dravid and Kumble can still surprise me with wins.

  • sathish on April 19, 2009, 10:48 GMT

    Thats Dravid's capability....sachin shows in victory of mumbai...same Dravid shows in Bangalore's win....Hat's of Dravid...and Kumble..

  • Ananth on April 19, 2009, 9:46 GMT

    'Pieterson makes the perfect start'!? What a farcial headline? Shame on you Victor Brown. Your headline should have been "Rahul does KP a Favour". Take his innings out and BRC would have struggled to reach even 50!

    In the earlier match, Sachin made a scratchy 59 from 49 balls, and Victor Brown wrote about 'a calm Tendulkar' and said he was 'a model of good sense'. Here RD plays a better innings (66 from 48 classy, chanceless)single-handedly rescues the team from 17-3, holds the innings together without any support whatsoever, virtually saves the day for KP, and what does Brown do? Praise KP for his captaincy! Not a word about the HERO of the day, or the opening bowlers who strangled the RR batsmen, or about Jumbo who came back to clean up the tail and ensured that they folded up inside 15 overs.

    I am sure even if BRC had lost the match Victor Brown would have found something to praise KP. May be about his achievement in winning the toss in his first match as captain in IPL!?

  • Abhiram on April 19, 2009, 9:15 GMT

    Ha......Dravids Perfomance got B'lore imensly to the top.Ryder had a bad day with the bat but with the ball he was amazing.Praveen Kumar njoyed Cape Town the wicket favoured him n the ball was swingin crazily..old is gold..Kumble prooved it by bagging 5wickets.....

  • Sriharsha on April 19, 2009, 5:57 GMT

    That's a one helluva performance form BRC. after they posted that total I switched off just to find Jumbo walloping with his fiver in the morning. Gosh, RR surely are finding their tails nipped off.....forget warne it was the day of Indian legends....and tell you what i rate Kumble more than warne.....

  • Ankit on April 19, 2009, 5:20 GMT

    Honestly speaking never been a huge RD fan...but his performances in NZ and especially yesterday has raised taken him to a next level! hats off to him..and as fars as Jumbo is concerned...his 600+ test wickets are good enough to speak for him..I somehow hope to see him as the captain once KP leaves..

  • Aravind on April 19, 2009, 5:12 GMT

    peeps say if cricket is a religion, sachin is god..but, i think sachin is god and dravid is goddess in disguise.

  • sharath on April 19, 2009, 5:08 GMT

    Both Dravid and Kumble showed what class in cricket means. And also the way Dravid celebrated shows his dedication and proved others wrong about his ability in this format of the game. Am sure most of the hero emerged last year will definitely struggle as this is IPL in SA.

  • Vijay P on April 19, 2009, 5:04 GMT

    Dravid proves once again that he is capable of playing quick knocks of substance. It is unfair that he is branded only as a test player. One should not forget that his approach is in the best interest of the team.

  • Harish on April 19, 2009, 4:37 GMT

    I Salute Dravid, the class act! He played gem of an innings with classic cricketing strokes all round the ground. It was turning out to be a hopeless situation with wickets falling regularly at other end. Still he struck 66 glorious runs at 138 strike rate. Except Pieterson with a 30, no other batsman could reach double figures as they were not upto the mark to bat in these conditions. Mindless slogs was never going to fetch any runs in this pitch. Dravid was mainly responsible for giving the bowlers a winning chance. It needed the skill and calibre of Dravid to get out of the woods and eventually win the match. I wish all the best for BRC and Dravid in the coming matches.

  • No featured comments at the moment.