|Kolkata Knight Riders celebrate a wicket during the Champions League T20 match against the Perth Scorchers, in Durban, on Wednesday. (AFP)
Durban: From the highs of the IPL-V triumph, the Kolkata Knight Riders plunged into the pits of elimination from the group stages of the Champions League T20. All in about four-and-a-half months’ time… Fame, it seems, has a very short life span in the shortest format of the game.
What is more painful for the millions of Knights fans is the fact that their team had to suffer the ignominy of being the first team to be knocked out of this edition’s CLT20.
Apart from the Knights’ poor form, the heavens, which opened up on Wednesday, can be blamed to some extent for the Gautam Gambhirs’ exit. Having lost the first two matches, the Knights had to win against the Perth Scorchers at Kingsmead to stay alive in the tournament. However, 14 overs into the game, the match was stopped because of rain. As the game never resumed, it was all over for the Knights.
In the Group A standings, the Titans, who won the day’s first match against the Auckland Aces, are perched at the top with two victories from as many matches. The Delhi DareDevils have four points and have three matches in hand. The Aces, on the other hand, also have four points, but have two matches left.
By virtue of the ‘no result’ on Wednesday, the Knights have two points from three matches. The only match that they have in hand is against the Titans, on Sunday. Even if they win that match, the maximum they can garner is six points.
The Titans, with eight points, are already out of the Knights’ reach.
The DareDevils play the Aces on Friday. Whichever team win that match, would go beyond the Knights. Even if the match gets called off, the teams would get two points each, which would take them to six points.
In the scenario that Friday’s match gets called off and both the teams, the DareDevils and the Aces, lose all their remaining matches, the Knights will not have a chance. That is because both will have to play the Scorchers, the fifth team in the group, and if they lose, the Scorchers will be the team who will move to the semis. The Scorchers have two points from two matches as on Wednesday. So, the inference is that the Knights are out of CLT20.
Coming back to Wednesday’s match, Gambhir once again won the toss under overcast conditions. Unlike in the last match, sanity prevailed as he included Brett Lee in the XI in place Shakib-al Hasan. May be as an after effect of the two heavy losses that he suffered, Gambhir made two more changes in the team.
While including Iqbal Abdulla in place of the lacklustre Pradeep Sangwan was somewhat justified, one didn’t understand why he dropped all-rounder Rajat Bhatia to include batsman Debabrata Das in the side.
After putting in the Scorchers, the Knights began on an impressive note when Lee removed the dangerous Herschelle Gibbs off the fifth ball of the first over. An ambitious Gibbs wanted to chip it over the cover region, but was caught by Abdulla.
Captain Gambhir included a surprise element in his strategy when he tossed the ball to Yusuf Pathan in the second over of the innings. The move paid off somewhat as Pathan conceded just four runs in that over.
With the Kingsmead pitch providing bounce, Scorchers’ Simon Katich and Shaun Marsh were a little circumspect. But their cautious approach didn’t go in vain as they combined to stitch a 70-run stand for the second wicket.
Marsh was slowly getting into the groove. But after having made 38 off 39 balls, he was adjudged leg before off Kallis’ bowling.
Katich, who made full use of the two reprieves he got earlier in the innings, was batting on 43 off 32 balls when the rains intervened.
The awful form that the Knights had exhibited in the tournament almost needed some divine intervention for rectification. The heavens did intervene, but, alas, with a different plan.