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First-person reports from the stands
Choice of game
A hot sunny April afternoon in Jaipur may hardly sound like the best setting to watch cricket at the stadium. However, having missed the last game between the Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab, and the prospect of watching Jacques Kallis, Brendon McCullum, Brett Lee and once our very own Yusuf Pathan go up against the home team meant there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity.
The festive atmosphere in the ground, with the Royals' Army people wearing safas and pagdis, made it a unique experience which can hardly be replicated on the TV screen.
Being a Jaipur resident, there was never going to be any doubt about this one. Shane Warne led the Royals to victory with his tactical brilliance and aggressive approach in the field during the first IPL. And now the new man at the helm - Rahul Dravid - seems to be doing the job with his calm workmanlike approach.
For me, it was to be "Halla Bol" all the way irrespective of the result.
Brad Hodge, an experienced Twenty20 cricketer, gave us a batting master-class. He started off with singles, and once set, smashed the ball to all parts of the ground, by when it didn't really matter who was bowling and where.
The second key performer was that gigantic West Indian named Kevon Cooper. He came in with a big reputation in T20, and two matches into the tournament, he's lived up to the expectations. His two wickets in two balls turned the tide in favour of the Royals at a crucial juncture in the game. And the best part - his wicket celebrations are a treat to watch, reminiscent of the golden days of West Indian cricket.
One thing I'd have changed
I'd have liked to see Owais Shah and Cooper bat up in the batting order. Ashok Menaria and Shreevats Goswami batted well, but the innings nearly came to a standstill from the ninth to the 13th over, till Hodge let loose. I think the Royals could have got another 15-20 runs with a little more innovation in their batting order.
Face-off you relished
Lee v Dravid - two match-winners who have been around for more than a decade. Lee is any coach's dream fast bowler: fast and accurate, he steams in every time he's asked to bowl. Dravid, meanwhile, is an encyclopaedia of batting. Though he'll always be remembered as a Test specialist, it's wonderful to see him bashing the opposition bowlers in the T20 format. He opened up by hitting two sixes and was going strong till he was run out, and my dream face-off ended abruptly.
What an entry
By Amit Singh. Two big wickets - Kallis and Gautam Gambhir - in two balls of his first over put the Kolkata Knight Riders on the back foot in a tense chase. No one in the ground expected such wonders from this little-known player so it was the best possible way for him to announce himself on the big stage.
Just when the crowd (including yours truly) was gasping for breath after Amit Singh's two wickets in two balls, Ankeet Chavan had the danger man McCullum plumb off the next delivery. It was a team hat-trick, and barring any Pathan heroics, I knew the match was in the bag for the Royals.
The crowd went nuts when Shah Rukh Khan was seen on the big screen posing with some pretty girls. He was right next to the Knight Riders' dugout and a stone's throw from my stand. Needless to say, the women in the stadium lost interest in the match after that and were busy trying to get a sight of King Khan whenever possible.
Shot of the day
Dravid's six off Lee was the best shot of the day. Dravid isn't known for hitting big sixes, that too early on in the innings. The crowd had barely settled in their seats, when, in the third over, Lee tried to bounce out Dravid, who responded by sending the ball scorching past fine leg into the crowd.
The ground was nearly full, and there were no empty seats in sight. People wearing blue pagdis gave the ground a royal feel. The cheer girls' lehenga cholis (traditional Rajasthan attire) instead of their regular outfits were a huge hit with the crowd. There was plenty of support for the Knight Riders as well, especially for Pathan, who played an instrumental role in helping the Royals to their IPL title.
The music during the over breaks was awesome. Popular Bollywood numbers kept people on their feet during the over breaks and the strategic timeouts. The cheerleaders were their usual best, entertaining the crowd by dancing to the beats of foot-tapping numbers.
Superb game. There were some brilliant performances, and the better team on the day won convincingly. The Royals are looking to get back to their invincible ways of the first season. The crowd was fantastic, and despite the scorching heat, the atmosphere was thoroughly enjoyable.
Marks out of 10
I'd reckon it was 9 out of 10. Despite being an avid Royals supporter, I'd have liked to watch a closer encounter - that's the real thrill of T20 cricket. Once Pathan was back in the hut, there was no doubt about which team was going to win.
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