Must treat it like sudden death

WIDE ANGLE

Our first aim at Royal Challengers Bangalore when IPL IV began was to secure a place in the play-offs. When that was realised with two matches to play, the focus shifted to topping the league table for the first time in our history.

It was, therefore, extremely gratifying to achieve that feat too, and qualify for the Champions League, on Sunday. We had a near perfect game against Chennai, and it was a fitting end to our campaign at home this season.

After losing our first home match to Mumbai Indians, we have gone unbeaten at the Chinnaswamy stadium, and strung together five successive wins. We couldn’t have found a better way of thanking our passionate fans.

The support for the team was overwhelming and it was quite a sight to see a sea of red at the Chinnaswamy stadium for Sunday’s game. The team’s lap around the ground at the conclusion of the game was our way of saying ‘Thank You’ to our fantastic supporters.

It was great to see Chris Gayle leading the batting charge again but to me, it was the bowlers who set up the victory.

Zaheer led from the front, which was brilliant because in crunch games, you want the senior group to show the way and the younger lot to seek inspiration from the more experienced players.

That was the case in the last game, and it’s precisely the tack we would like to adopt in the play-offs too. Zaheer’s effort was particularly commendable because we are at the fag end of a long season, with the beginning of a new season just a few days away.
Maybe we should just stop talking about cricket seasons in future!

The focus will now be to finish the IPL as strongly. We will be playing in Mumbai on Tuesday, and that it will be against the Super Kings is in many ways good for us because Sunday’s victory has come as a big morale-booster.

It will be the same teams, possibly the same combinations – then again, possibly not! – but on a different surface. The challenge will be to adjust to the changed conditions quickly.

We need to produce another good bowling performance, and back it up with our fielding. In the last few games, the fielding has been stand-out, and that’s no more than what we expect from the team.

I have been asked if there is the possibility of the team relaxing in the first play-off because even if we lose, there is a second chance to make the final.

Yes, it is a possibility, but therein lies the challenge. We have to approach the play-off like a knockout semifinal, lift ourselves and ensure that we get the job done on Tuesday itself because otherwise, you will end up playing an extra game and that is not ideal, especially when the matches are in Mumbai and Chennai.

Before Sunday’s game, we spoke about how, including the final, we want to play just three more matches. To avoid an additional game will be an extra motivation.

We must approach Tuesday like a sudden-death semifinal, and forget that there is a second chance. Should we be forced into taking that second chance, it should be viewed as a bonus.
It will be interesting to play at a neutral venue for the first time this season, and it will be interesting to see how the crowd lines up.

Knowing the knowledgeable Mumbai crowd, I am sure there will be good support for both the teams, though understandably, there will be additional support for Dhoni the Indian captain, not the Chennai Super Kings captain!

After all, it was at the Wankhede that, a month and a half back, Dhoni held aloft the World Cup!!

Hawyeke Communications

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