The clash between the two royals will probably give an indication of how Season 3 of the IPL is going to pan out for the winners of the inaugural season. The Rajasthan Royals triumphed over much-fancied teams and won the first tournament in style. They were the least expensive of the franchises and their highest paid player was less than half of what other franchises paid for their icon players.
The team also didn't seem to have any big names apart from Shane Warne and, so the expectations were not too high. Maybe, that worked in their favour as they could play freely and fearlessly and, in doing so, they upset many teams that looked stronger on paper.
It is this pressure of expectations and how teams deal with it, which will determine which teams go forward in this edition. The Kolkata Knight Riders were on a high, having won two successive matches and that raised expectations sky high and with it the pressure to perform. Believe me, there is no pressure like the one at the Eden Gardens. No wonder, once Dhoni launched his onslaught, the Knight Riders caved in despite having the example of the Indian skipper right in front of their eyes. He started slowly and, as he settled down, opened his shoulders, hitting some really great shots that gave the Chennai Super Kings the impetus. The Knight Riders needed a good solid start but that didn't happen and, with wickets falling regularly, there was no partnership worth the name.
What Dhoni, Kallis and Gambhir have shown is that even in this ultra-short format of the game, there is room for a player to give himself some time to get used to the pace of the pitch and the conditions around. Even in the nets, where there is no fear of getting out, it is not possible to start hitting the ball straightaway.
As always, there are exceptions and Yusuf Pathan and Virender Sehwag have shown that they don't need sighters to hit the first ball for six. But even they cannot keep doing it match after match. Cricket, the great leveller, was seen again as Yusuf after that blitzkrieg in Mumbai was dismissed for a duck in the very next game. Not just that, he fell awkwardly while fielding and that may mean he might not be able to swing the bat freely. The Rajasthan Royals are struggling with injuries with Graeme Smith and Mascarenhas out of the tournament. And if Yusuf also is unable to play, Shane Warne will have to pull a rabbit out of his hat to work a miracle for his team.
The Royal Challengers' win over Kings XI Punjab also showed how a top-class Test match player can make adjustments and come up trumps in the shortened format of the game. Kallis' innings and his electrifying start with Manish Pandey was just the platform the Challengers needed to launch the counterattack and then Uthappa finally delivered on the promise with a smashing innings that took them to a remarkable win. The race is still open but for Royals, the options are fast running out.