The word dramatic perhaps wouldn’t be dramatic enough to explain the Kolkata Knight Riders’ collapse, against the Rajasthan Royals, at the Sardar Patel Stadium, in Ahmedabad, on Monday.
Such shocking was their capitulation from a position of strength that captain Gautam Gambhir admitted after the match that the 10-run defeat was “a bitter pill to swallow.”
Chasing the 171-run target, the Knights, who have been struggling with their batting in IPL VII, had a dream start as openers Gambhir and Robin Uthappa posted a century-plus stand. It was as if a bullock-cart overnight got transformed into a Rolls Royce.
But just when it appeared that the Knights would cruise to a comfortable win, things took a nosedive for the visitors. From 121 without loss, they were 123 for six within eight legitimate balls!
Captain Shane Watson and 42-year-old leg-spinner Pravin Tambe were the heroes for the Royals. First, the Australian removed Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa and Andre Russell in the 15th over. And as if that wasn’t enough a blow to the Knights, Tambe got rid of Manish Pandey, Yusuf Pathan and Ryan ten Doeschate in the very next over. That Tambe got a hat-trick was even more embarrassing for the Knights.
Thereafter, Gambhir’s men never recovered and, though Shakib-al Hasan and Suryakumar Yadav tried their best towards the end, they couldn’t avert the team’s fourth loss on the trot.
A stunned Gambhir was visibly disappointed with the result and didn’t hide his feelings at the post-match presentation ceremony.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow… We were cruising at one stage… 120-odd runs for no loss. I have not seen this kind of cricket… But we have to move on. We still have seven games left,” Gambhir said.
The Knights’ captain wasn’t very happy with his bowlers’ effort as well. “We still need to work on our bowling, as barring (Sunil) Narine and Shakib, others too need to take up the responsibility,” he said.
But Gambhir didn’t forget to point out that the opening partnership was a positive for them. “Our opening partnership was a huge positive,” he said.
Gambhir’s counterpart, Watson, was understandably a satisfied man. He was happy with the way the match ended, happy with Tambe’s super show… Watson was simply a happy man.
“It was a nice way to close out such a close game… That’s what we talk about in our team set-up,” he said.
Praising Tambe, Watson said: “What can I say about Tambe? He’s our very own PT. He just keeps going and going, getting big batsmen out all the time.”
With five wins from seven matches, Watson could even afford a joke. “Tambe deserves a pay rise, he is making my life easier for sure,” he said.
The captain was also pleased with Rajat Bhatia and debutant Rahul Tewatia. “Rajat complemented Tambe well… Tewatia bowled nicely in his first game as well.”
On his own bowling, which was more than impressive, Watson said: “It was nice on my part to make an impact with the ball too… A few things went my way. I didn’t have much of an impact with the ball before this match, so it was good to get those wickets.”