Rajashtan Royals batsman Brad Hodge plays a shot during the IPL Twenty20 cricket match against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Sawai Mansingh stadium in Jaipur. AFP Photo/Sajjad Hussain
Just after Kolkata Knight Riders lost to Rajasthan Royals, skipper Gautam Gambhir rushed into the media conference room, visibly angry.
Gauti was prickly especially on issues that appeared to question his decisions and cricketing logic. Asked why Bangladesh all-rounder Shakib Al Hasan wasn’t played, he replied, “I don’t talk about individuals in press meets.” He repeated this line at least three times. To a question, “why Lee (who hit 25) wasn’t promoted? he said tersely, “Bhai saab, he is a bowler.”
After KKR’s second defeat in a row to start the season, he was furious and laid all the blame on the batsmen, saying if they can’t handle pressure they shouldn’t play. The match itself showcased the difference in the leadership of Gambhir and his opposite number, former India skipper, Rahul Dravid, who led his team to their second straight win. While Gambhir is an aggressive leader, Dravid stayed as calm as ever.
In the IPL, Dravid is letting local players take the front seat - he’s slotted them well among foreign players. Gambhir, perhaps due to the presence of heavyweights in the KKR lineup, wants his international superstars at the top to knock the opponents out. It failed as Dravid’s strategy won in the end.
To his credit, Gambhir took on the media, a rare attribute for a losing Indian skipper. KKR began well as Gambhir confused the batsmen, using as many as six bowlers in the first nine overs. The hosts made just 62 losing three wickets, including Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane early. Dravid may be looking to turn young for T20s, but certain things like his run-out exposed his slowing reflexes, as he was too slow to take off for a second run.
But just when Gambhir thought his job done, local batsman Ashok Menaria mixed enterprise with proper shots. England's Owais Shah and Aussie Brad Hodge, who have little future with their national sides, also forced the pace in the end. Brett Lee, Jacques Kallis, Sunil Narine and Yusuf Pathan couldn’t do much against what was a planned assault.
Captaining big names brings its problems. Once when Menaria squeezed a boundary off Kallis's full toss through point, Lee, standing square on the offside, walked up to Gambhir suggesting, through gestures, a shorter length. Gambhir sped off to Kallis.
Whatever transpired between the two, Kallis kept his length up, got a wicket but went for runs. And while chasing, Gambhir packed the top order with the stars. Again, Dravid’s touch carried the day. Amit Singh and Ankeet Chavan got the three big guns. When Brendon McCullum, the third of the trio, fell, the score was just 8. The writing was on the wall.
Asked if it was the right strategy, Gambhir calmy said: “They (international stars) know how to handle pressure.”