First-person reports from the stands
Series/Tournaments: Indian Premier League
Choice of game
Can any reason be bigger than the prospect of witnessing a Gayle blitz? The anticipation of a few hits coming my way was reason enough for me to watch this game live. Moreover, I'd like to believe, I've been lucky for Gayle in Jaipur - the previous two times I saw him bat at the SMS Stadium, he scored 70 (unbeaten, in last year's IPL) and 130-something (again, unbeaten, against South Africa in the 2006 Champions Trophy).
Rajasthan Royals. Royal Challengers Bangalore had the likes of Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Virat Kohli and Daniel Vettori in their line-up, but my loyalty and die-hard support will always remain with Rahul Dravid. And he didn't disappoint with the bat today.
AB de Villiers. Watching him bat in the manner he does, smashing bowlers all around the park, I always think it's time he inserts a "C" into his name to make it ABC de Villiers. That way, he can tell people, "I'm the ABCDE of batting!" Some of his strokes at the Royals game were so breathtakingly brilliant that most of the local fans gave up all hope of another home win even before their team had come out to bat.
One thing I'd have changed
Royals' decision at the toss. I'd have made them bat first, undoubtedly. Why give the opposition a chance to set a target when you had set them an unbeatable target just a few days ago? Royals scored in the vicinity of 190 then, and won with ease. Here, Royal Challengers scored in the vicinity of 190 and won with ease.
Face-off I most relished
Rahul Dravid v Vinay Kumar. Karnataka boys and India internationals, both. Daniel Vettori also gave Vinay an extended spell today, three overs out of the first six. In his first two overs, Vinay kept things tight - the only blemish was five overthrows gifted away to Dravid - but in the third over, the batting legend came into his own. The first two balls of the over were duly dispatched, one over midwicket and another a crisp-sounding cover drive. Two varied, glorious shots that reminded me of the Rahul Dravid of 1999.
KP Appanna. Most of the Jaipur crowd did not know who he was. He was introduced as a left-arm spinner, and as he came on to bowl, people thought he would be easy pickings for Dravid, Ajinkya Rahane and Co. But the young Karnataka player started with a dot ball and had Rahane caught at long-on off just his second delivery. The crowd couldn't believe what they had just seen. The orange-cap wearer was walking back and the unknown spinner was celebrating. It was just the beginning of what would turn out to be a dream spell of left-arm spin bowling.
Today's game clearly told me who is the man to watch from now on when at an India game. It's Virat Kohli. Although he isn't really setting the IPL alight with the bat, Kohli's the red-hot favourite as far as the crowds go. Today, the chants for him, and the cheers he received every time he approached the boundary line, be it deep midwicket, long-off or long-on, were unbelievable. It was hard to imagine a non-Rajasthan Royals player getting such massive crowd support. A future (or should I say, present) superstar for sure.
Shot of the match
What better than the Dilscoop? Watching such a shot live in a stadium is something a fan will take back as a fond memory. This evening, I told my brother, "Wait for the Dilscoop now, as the fine leg fielder is within the circle." Dilshan obliged just two balls later, with a fabulous scoop over the head of the wicketkeeper. Two bounces and it was a four.
De Villiers, when presented the Man of the Match award, asked Appanna to come forward and share it with him. It was such a lovely gesture. I think it is these little things that lift the morale of young cricketers and boost the reputation of the stars even more. I can certainly say that tonight, de Villiers added at least one more name to his already long list of fans.
The stadium was packed, but this time the spectators weren't as well behaved as usual. A man threw a piece of trash on a spectator in the front row who was standing on his seat and obstructing the view of the people behind him. This, sadly, became a game. For a brief but intolerable spell, the attention of fans in my vicinity moved from the match to throwing things like paper cups and plates, banners and caps on to the spectators in the front row. When the situation looked like getting out of hand, the security intervened.
The DJ at the stadium did his best to entertain the crowd with the latest numbers and, of course, the signature IPL trumpet tune. However, the local rules state music can't be played after 10pm, so by the time the Royals' innings started, the DJ's job was done.
For the first time at the SMS Stadium, I could choose to eat a Dominos pizza. I've been to about eight games here, but Dominos pizzas at the match were a genuine first for me, and something I could never have imagined.
It was a one-sided game from the time Royal Challengers prised out Rahane. Any margin of victory of over 25 runs in a Twenty20 game would suggest that. Here it was 46. Multiply that by 2.5, to get the corresponding number for a one-dayer, and that's a victory margin of 115 - an ample demonstration of the one-sidedness of the game. There were some great moments, though, as always. Rahul Dravid's half-century, de Villiers' five sixes, Appanna's four wickets, the cheers for Kohli… but all in all, it would have been better if it were a closely contested game.
Marks out of 10
Seven. Three marks deducted because the match, as some would say, didn't go "down to the wire". Also, it loses some points as the team I was supporting was not in the game for too long.
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