October 2, 2013
Choice of game
I had laid out my plans for this match long before the tournament, believing this could have been Dravid's final game of competitive cricket. An overnight trip from Delhi to Jaipur felt like a pilgrimage to see the legend take the field.
Rajasthan Royals. Dravid's presence, Fortress Jaipur and Otago's 14-in-a-row streak gave it a mini-Kolkata 2001 feeling.
Despite Brad Hodge's match-winning, iceman-like innings, Rahul Shukla's revelatory bowling performance, James Neesham's all-round performance, my pick is Ajinkya Rahane. His innings set up the chase and held it together for the most part, and its technical perfection and class would have made his captain proud.
One thing I'd have changed
Shaun Tait bowling on this pitch in tandem with the rampant Shukla would have been a treat to watch. With a generous sprinkling of grass and quite some assistance on offer, Royals could have inflicted greater damage on Otago in the Powerplay. Instead, Tait was in the dugout, talking to commentators on air.
Face-off I relished
Pravin Tambe v Ryan ten Doeschate. Not the biggest names on the pitch, but these two dished out a duel that took us back to the days of classic, flighted legspin, with the odd flatter one thrown in. Having come in with his team tottering at 20 for 3, ten Doeschate showed no signs of trouble against any bowler, attacking with gusto. But when he tried stepping out repeatedly to Tambe, he was beaten by a combination of flight, pace and dip. In his third over, Tambe trapped ten Doeschate in front with a flatter one. A week shy of turning 42, Tambe has been doing everything in his capacity to prove Douglas Adams right.
Shane Watson's (dead) ball of the century, which had about as much chance of landing as there is of Watto not reviewing an lbw dismissal. Watson should have looked up to the commentary box for empathy. Who better than Murali Kartik, the last man to perform this wayward feat against a Kiwi team, to go to in such times?
Pravin Tambe's exploits on the field have thus far gone unnoticed. An acrobatic dive at the boundary, followed by poor recovery, cost Royals a boundary. However, Tambe would not give up trying. He dived again and saved overthrows for his team. It reminded us of a certain Bermudian policeman's efforts, six years ago.
For the first few overs, most of the spectators did not recognise the fielder at fine leg. But after the fourth over, things changed dramatically. Rahul Shukla became the more-rooted-for Rahul throughout the Otago innings, which is no mean feat considering his namesake's stature.
Before the game, Murali Kartik and Sanjay Bangar, who are part of the Hindi commentary team, were engaged in a conversation on the field. Suddenly Kartik started mock-punching and shadow boxing his old Railways team-mate .
Shot of the day
Neesham played quite a few exquisite shots, including a picture-perfect cover drive off Watson. However, the shot of the day came from Rahane's bat. For the better part of his innings, time seemed to stop as per his whims. A couple of cover drives off Neil Wagner left us wanting more.
The turnout was sparse, probably because Rajasthan had already qualified. That is not to say that there was a dull moment in the game. At the beginning, the announcer called out to Rajasthan supporters, asking them to stand up. The whole stadium did so. As if to remind the world that all was well with our game, the crowd did the same when it was asked for Otago. Well, as they say, at the end of the day, cricket is the real winner.
Chant of the day
When Otago lost a flurry of early wickets, the crowd started cheering for them, wanting them to get to a competitive total to ensure a good game. Towards the end, every boundary was met with raucous cheering, every run was applauded. Ian Butler's boundaries were met with: "Jeetega bhai jeetega, Butler jeetega [Butler will win"].
ODI v Twenty20
I prefer ODIs, because they provide a lot more time for reflection and discussion. T20s leave us with very little time for anything apart from the dance-cheer-dance routine.
Marks out of ten
7. Tait's absence, Dravid's dry run and the lack of a nail-biting finish (yes, I'm looking at you and the tied Super Over, Otago), meant the game fell short of the perfect score. While the vantage point and the vacant seats in our stand ensured an excellent view of the proceedings, the lack of spectator-friendliness from volunteers was a significant negative. We ended up with a damaged credit card due to rash security checks, and were not allowed to stay back for the presentation ceremony, for reasons unexplained to us.
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