Greenhorn and greyhair take Bangalore through
A veteran and a novice, who couldn't be more different in personality, made the difference for Bangalore by playing in character. Anil Kumble did the job with the ball and, though Virat Kohli didn't finish the game, he provided the edge to the successful chase. It was left to Ross Taylor, the Man of the Match, to play a subdued, mature knock to see Bangalore home. It's something Kohli's fans hope he will someday grow up to do because in the here and now he seems to leave you with a tease act.
Kumble, even after all these years, never ceases to surprise with his commitment and intensity. His prominent features in caricature are his ears but the astute cartoonist will have the proud chest sticking out and the eyes frozen into a steely glare. On the field, he almost mirrors that image and today he once again led by example. He took upon himself all the tough things that he might have asked other bowlers to do. With Matthew Hayden in murderous form, he bowled the first over and gave away just four runs. He returned for the seventh over, with Hayden in full flow, and gave up only two runs. And, with Chennai at 101 for 3 in 13 overs, he came back to remove Hayden and prove to be the catalyst for Bangalore's spirited revival.
His art is not a visual delight like Warne's but an intellectual treat. Today his bowling against Hayden was of high quality. He kept bowling slower and slower. Hayden seemed to expect the quicker one and was early in most of his attacking shots. Kumble gave him the googly, a odd skidder, the round-armed legbreak and couple of floated topspinners.
Then came the wicket ball, the game's turning point. Kumble had just shouted had an lbw appeal turned down, Hayden hit too high while sweeping early. Hayden seemed to have made up his mind about the next ball and planned an attacking stroke. In his brutal art, Hayden likes to let the bowler know what he is going to do and intimidate him into committing an error through astonishing skill. Today, though he was done in by a cleverer bowler - and a man who doesn't get too intimidated. Hayden gave him the charge and Kumble slowed down the googly even more. It almost hung in the air, forcing Hayden to lunge for it, and ended up at deep midwicket where Vinay Kumar took a fine catch. With Hayden's exit, the runs dried up and Chennai ended up with a below-par score.
Kohli showed today why he is rated highly, why he earned the India cap early - and also why he excites, infuriates and frustrates people in equal measure. Ray Jennings, Bangalore's coach, had one succinct observation on his young ward: "He is a very talented kid but sometimes thinks he is better than the game." It's his strength and weakness. It's that confidence that elevates him above the rest of India's fringe players. Today, he took on Muttiah Muralitharan, just as he had done Shane Warne in an earlier game. He charged and swept both of them.
At the end of the tenth over, as he returned after facing one over from Muralitharan where he had tried going after the bowler, Kumble took him aside for a chat. Virat spoke animatedly, excitedly and Kumble nodded encouragingly and gave him a pat on the back. It was a like father listening to his son's plans for the future. Kohli returned to play more shots against Muralitharan. One almost did him in - he went for an impetuous lofted shot but was saved by a mess-up from Hayden at long-on. The situation didn't require him to play such a risky shot but that's how Kohli plays. Next over, he hit a six over long-on before falling to a hook shot. His dismissals are typical - either aggressive or a wrongly timed 'cute' shot. Though Bangalore wobbled a bit after he left, Ross Taylor and the tail got them over the line.
Kohli is yet to mature but a few more years should temper his instincts. Especially if he spends some of that time with Kumble.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo