On Wednesday morning I got match passes for my family. This is a usual practice. The families of cricketers and support staff get premium seats at the stadium to watch a game. These are provided by our employers during IPL i.e., the franchise owners.
The passes were in an innocuous-looking envelope. I opened it and took the passes out just to check if everything was in order. But the thing that hit me was the word in black and bold “ELIMINATOR”. I checked other details and quietly slipped them back into the envelope.
For about a minute or so the word “ELIMINATOR” stayed with me. Did it trouble me? Was I worried? Was I under pressure considering that it was a do-or-die game? Perhaps not. We had already beaten Hyderabad twice in this year’s IPL and were confident that we could do it again. Elements – both cricketing and otherwise – were working in our favour. After losing eight tosses in a row I finally won this one and we decided to chase. With Hyderabad on 71 for three I wasn’t thinking the word “ELIMINATOR” on the passes nor was I thinking victory. I was very much in the present.
Like life, sport needs constant attention. A minor slip or lapse can result in a weak/poor decision in life/sport. I won’t say that the missed run out chance of Yuvraj Singh was the turning point or anything but that slip meant that we had to score about 20-25 runs more. I am not even blaming Robin for not getting the throw right. I have been in the game long enough to realise that pressure makes you do weird things. You just need to recall the way I dropped Virat Kohli in our game against RCB to understand the correlation of pressure and performance. It all ended well for us in the first innings and I thought 163 was a reasonable target.
Post Robin’s dismissal Colin Munro walked into bat. With Hyderabad playing a pace-heavy bowling attack our plan was to unleash Munro on them. He was beginning to look confident before yet another needless run out hit us. I thought the New Zealander had it under control as he had called to run towards the danger end. But Yuvraj nailed him with a direct hit. I thought the game turned for us at that point. Manish Pandey started off well but was hit by regular loss of wickets at the other end. I didn’t do justice to Manish by playing a rather laborious looking pull shot. It was all quite disturbing: the continuous fall of wickets and then the lack of big-hitting by our lower-order batsmen.
The word “ELIMINATOR” on the passes was with me again. It was hitting me with every falling KKR wicket. The end was near and I as the leader of this group could do nothing. Chinnaswamy Stadium, May 29th, IPL final vs RCB.......all this looked like a distant dream. Instead, we had a KKR farewell, check-out from the hotel and the void.
The void is what stares back at me now. It’s this place where there is no cricket for me. Trust me guys, for a sportsperson there isn’t anything worse than sitting at home and watching his peers play on TV. Unfortunately, we as a team chose this for ourselves. Bye for now....more later.
(The writer is captain of the Kolkata Knight Riders)