What a finish! Generally one would have liked to start off by saying, "What a way to start the season", but the way we got off in the match, both while batting and fielding, prevents one from saying so. It was definitely not the best of starts after getting first use of the pitch. Two wickets in the first four balls doesn't augur well, especially when you are teeing off against the holders. Also it doesn't send out the right message from a team that is determined to make a mark after suffering in the first two years of its existence.
More than the Deccan Chargers bowling doing us in, it was improper shot selection on the part of our top order that led to the initial hiccup. After the quick departure of our first four batsmen, the team desperately needed someone to drop anchor and Owais Shah slotted into the role very smoothly. Not only did he keep one end up, he rotated the strike and delivered the occasional big hit, keeping the pressure from building up on the fifth wicket partnership. Owais got a well deserved fifty and there is no doubt that both he and Angelo Mathews set up the platform for our fantastic victory.
In limited-overs cricket, whether 50-overs or Twenty20, you have to go out and play your natural game. This is not a Test match where you have the opportunity to settle down, size up the situation and then take control. Angelo just tried to be normal, walked out to the middle and started to bat the way he likes to. It was indeed a delightful innings and the best part of it was that he was not slogging - there were some pure cricketing shots that went the distance.
With Angelo taking charge of the scoring rate Owais had just to ensure his partner got the maximum strike. I am pretty confident that we'll be discussing more of Angelo during this tournament. He is good batsman, a very useful bowler and a decent fielder. He will mature and serve Sri Lankan cricket and Kolkata Knight Riders for long.
With 160 on the board we knew we could give the opposition a run for their money. For that, though, we needed to be spot on with our bowling and also catch anything and everything that came our way. As with our batting, we didn't have a great start to our fielding campaign. Adam Gilchrist was initially lucky to have got away, and there were some shots by Deccan that didn't carry to the fielders and fell just in front or behind. There was a time when we desperately needed a break to stay in the match and Murali Kartik got it for us at the right time.
With Laxman's exit, Deccan's scoring rate dipped, because a new batsman is bound to take some time at the crease to hit his stride. Our bowlers were also settled by that time and the middle overs were an example of disciplined bowling. One had to shuffle the bowlers to keep the batsmen guessing and force them to adjust to a new bowler on a wearing pitch. The bowlers now bowled to a set plan and with every passing moment the pressure shifted from us to our opponents. The 22 yards at the D Y Patil stadium was spongy in nature; batting second was definitely tough as the pitch was losing pace with every passing over. In the end it was a well-fought victory for us.
We play our first match at home on Sunday against Royal Challengers Bangalore, who were runners-up last year. They have some seasoned campaigners - the likes of Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Jacques Kallis, Dale Steyn and Mark Boucher will come hard at us - and the young brigade of Virat Kohli, Manish Pandey and Bengal's very own Sreevats Goswami.
It is always pressure playing at home and with our nail-biting victory in Mumbai, expectations are bound to soar. The youngsters in my team have definitely gained in confidence from the victory in the tight first match. We have to tighten every department of our game if we intend to keep the momentum going. The rust should be gone, having played our first match.
Maybe after a good first match at home we can tell ourselves, what a way to start off!
(Professional Management Group)
Sourav Ganguly led India in 49 Tests between 2000 and 2005, winning 21