Few things never change. For example, Mahela being the sole fighter of his team irrespective of the team he is playing for in IPL, and Indian players below par performance specially for Delhi Daredevils, and not to forget the performance of Irfan Pathan that puts a question on his allrounder tag, as well as the heavy price Delhi Daredevils paid for him.
Whether it was Kings XI Punjab or Kochi Tuskers Kerala or now his Delhi Daredevils team, Mahela has always found himself to be the solo fighter of his team. While earlier he had the company of the likes of Yuvraj, Sangakkara (in Kings XI), and Brendum McCullum (in Kochi Tuskers), in the current squad of Delhi Daredevils he has only two batsmen to give him company, Sehwag and David Warner. Unfortunately for him, even Sehwag was not playing their opening match against the defending champions, Kolkata Knight Riders.
He came to bat on the second ball of the match when Brett Lee, the mentor and leader of KKR bowling attack gave a rousing start to the IPL by delivering a beauty on the first ball of the match to get the off stump of Unmukt Chand, the young Indian captain of Under 19 team who hit the century in the final to win the World Cup.
Facing his first ball Mahela pushed Brett Lee’s second ball of the over that was searching for lbw to boundary. His intent was clear. Warner (21 runs in 19 balls) gave him company till the 6th over when Narine’s arrival saw him return to pavillion on another beauty by KKR bowlers.
After that the parade of Indian players and so-called overseas allorounders continued. Juneja (8) went in 9th over, Naman Ojha (9) in 12th, Botha (7) in 14th, Irfan Pathan (4) in 16th and then Russell (4) in 18th. On the end Mahela kept fighting the lone battle hitting his 9th IPL half-century specially targetting Brett Lee to whom he finally fell in the 19th over after scoring 66 runs on 52 balls with 8 boundaries and a six. He fell as the 8th wicket with 7 more balls remaining for the innings to complete. Finally DD folded on the last ball setting 129 runs for KKR to chase.
For KKR, Brett Lee (40/2) gave a good start, but Mahela and Warner extracted him and Kallis (23/0 in 3 overs) for handful of runs. Narine bowled 6th over and as the mission of breaking partnership was complete, his remaining 3 overs were kept for 16th, 18th and 20th over, and his yield of 13/4 in 4 overs proves he is all prepared to take KKR to another memorable tournament. But it was the bowling of Balaji (20/1 in 4 overs) and Rajat Bhatia (23/2 in 4 overs) that did not let Mahela and his men go loose and the pressure resulted in wickets too.
While Unmukt Chand, Juneja, Naman Ojha and Pathan failed to help the team’s cause the approach was more questionable. While every player with big aspirations works to get better, players like Irfan Pathan were seen trying to just take singles. Even against Balaji he was just trying for single and failed in even that. And when he needed to take singles, on the bowling of Narine he stepped outside as if he will get an easy ball to hit a six. For more than DDs sake he should do himself some good by playing more sensibly, if not for a place in Indian team then at least to demand a better bid when all players go on sale for next IPL.
Experience has no replacement, not even in the IPL. Mahela proved it. But KKR has that experience in Kallis and Gambhir. Unless Nehra, Umesh Yadav, Botha and Nadeem have some magic in store, and Irfan Pathan remembers he can bowl well too to repeat last year’s win in Kolkata, the likes of Bisla, Morgan and Manoj Tiwary would slaughter them in the easy chase at home.