On Wednesday morning, I got match passes for the family. This is a practice. Families of cricketers and support staff get premium seats at the stadium to watch a game. These are provided by our employers i.e. the franchise owners. The passes were in an innocuous-looking envelope. I opened it to check if everything was in order. The thing that hit me the most on the passes was the word in black and bold ‘ELIMINATOR’. I checked other details and slipped them back in 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-ordie game? Perhaps not. We had beaten Hyderabad twice this year and were confident we could do it again.
Elements – cricketing and otherwise – were working in our favour. After losing eight tosses in a row I won this one and decided to chase. With Hyderabad at 71 for three I wasn’t thinking of the word ‘ELIMINATOR’ on the passes nor was I thinking of victory. I was in the present.
Like life, sport expects constant attention. A minor slip or lapse can result in a weak decision. I won’t say the missed run out chance of Yuvraj Singh was the turning point, but that slip meant we had to score about 20-25 runs more. I am not even blaming Robin Uthappa for not getting the throw right. I have been in the game long enough to realise that pressure makes you do weird things. You need to recall the way I dropped Virat Kohli against RCB to understand the correlation of pressure and performance. It ended well for us in the first innings and I thought 163 was a reasonable target.
Post Robin’s dismissal, Colin Munro walked in to bat. With Hyderabad playing a pace-heavy bowling attack, our plan was to unleash Munro on them. He was beginning to look confident before 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 labourious-looking pull shot. It was a disturbing sight to see the continuous fall of wickets and lack of big-hitting by our lower-order batsmen.
The word ‘ELIMINATOR’ was with me again. It was hitting me with every falling wicket. The end was near and I as leader of the group could do nothing. Chinnaswamy Stadium, May 29, IPL final vs RCB.......all this looked a distant dream.
Instead, a KKR farewell, check out from the hotel and the void where there is no cricket for me had started to settle in. Trust me, 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 KKR captain