No 'kwaai' for also-ran Riders
One of the first Afrikaans words I was taught by friends here was 'kwaai'. Depending on the situation, it can either mean aggressive or cool. Thus far, the Knight Riders had been neither, and they desperately needed some kwaai when they got to St. George's Park. Defeat, and they could pretty much forget about the last four, with half the season still to be played.
The empty seats in the stands on a Sunday afternoon told a story, of a team as hyped as Manchester United, but playing more like Scunthorpe. And that trend didn't change in the opening overs, with 26 dot balls played out in the Powerplay. Later in the day, the Kings XI failed to score off 16, while managing nearly twice as many runs. On such things are Twenty20 games lost and won.
And it wasn't as though the Knight Riders were facing Brett Lee or Sreesanth either. Irfan Pathan hardly bowls at express pace, and Yusuf Abdulla has a physique more appropriate for the Sharks' front row than a cricket pitch. But between them and Ramesh Powar, they had Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle making church mice look boisterous.
McCullum spoke of a batting plan that involved keeping wickets in hand, but it's hard to think of any strategy that would excuse 26 scoreless deliveries in a Power Play. But for Brad Hodge going against the team ethic and earning his salary, this would have been another pathetic display.
John Buchanan, who has gone from most successful coach to master of obfuscation during the course of his KKR tenure, spoke of his disappointment at the IPL rules that restrict teams to four foreign players a game. Excuse us? Obviously, this doesn't affect other teams. After all, Bangalore always intended to keep Dale Steyn on the bench, as did Delhi with Glenn McGrath.
Instead of such facile excuses, Buchanan would be better off looking at why the Knight Riders haven't managed to unearth even one stellar performance from their young Indian contingent. The Rajasthan Royals have Abhishek Raut, the Chennai Super Kings have discovered Shadab Jakati and the Deccan Chargers have replaced VVS Laxman with T Suman. Who do Kolkata have? Even Ashok Dinda is a pale shadow of last season's self, left with his prodigious jump and little else.
With the Knight Riders on catching holiday - "It's one area we should be able to control," said McCullum later - the Kings XI never looked like slipping up in the run chase. Apart from a little contretemps involving Yuvraj Singh and Ishant Sharma - "Ishant said something sweet and I blew him a kiss when I was walking off. Pyaar mohabbat mein sab kuch hota hai [everything happens in love]" - this was straighforward stuff, and when Mahela Jayawardene lofted Ishant over mid-off for a four in the penultimate over, you knew which way the match would go.
Charl Langeveldt, Mashrafe Mortaza and Ajantha Mendis continue to ride the pine for the Knight Riders, with Buchanan speaking of a "batting strategy" that makes it hard for international bowlers to get a game. By the time they do get the call, the Knight Riders' season could be over, and all they'll be left with is jargon that wouldn't fool a five-year-old. At least Ishant showed some kwaai. His team-mates could do with a transfusion of it.