Of despair and prayer
Though Kolkata may still make it to the semifinals by winning one or two of the three remaining matches, they must aim to win all. A Mukhopadhyay reports.cricket Updated: May 20, 2008 00:40 IST
A campaign that was looking rejuvenated after three straight wins is back to choppy waters following the setbacks against Mumbai and Chennai. As far as mathematical possibilities go, Kolkata may still make it to the semifinals if they win one or two of the three remaining matches, but for all practical purposes, they should be looking at winning all and the test begins on Tuesday.
The cramped schedule means there is no time to savour success or reflect on defeats. That way, Sourav Ganguly and John Buchanan may approach the match against Shane Warne's Jaipur in a positive frame of mind. The problem for them is that there are problems aplenty. They start at the beginning of the innings, run smoothly down the order and come back in the shape of Shoaib Akhtar when the team starts bowling.
Is Shoaib fit?
It's clear despite the speedster's buccaneering performance on IPL debut against Delhi that he is not fit. Shoaib's roaring run-up came to an abrupt halt when he was about to deliver the first ball on Sunday. He held his waist and side, the sign of discomfort obvious on his face, and struggled for pace and direction in the two overs he bowled. His robust presence had injected energy into the team against Delhi and for a side unable to put up good scores, Shoaib was vital in terms of defending modest totals.
In what was perceived to be a batsman's game, Ganguly's team is in a mess in this department. There are too many holes and few plugs. There is no one to score quickly in the first six overs when only two fielders are allowed outside the circle. This is in complete contrast to Jaipur who have got Grame Smith, Yusuf Pathan and Swapnil Asnodkar to cause havoc in the beginning. The middle-order has been brittle with David Hussey carrying too much on his shoulders, which again is in contrast to the way Warne's team has fared.
Pray for luck
Given the situation they are in and the reasons behind it, the only realistic justification for Kolkata being upbeat is the law of averages. Jaipur have lost just two of their 10 matches as against Kolkata's five out of 11. It's not impossible, but difficult, for a team to keep on winning and pushed to the brink of elimination, Ganguly's men can hope that Jaipur's bad day comes against them. It's not the best thing that a team should look at, but given the shape their campaign is in at the moment, Kolkata have little else to seek positives from.