Warne brushes off Royals hiccups
As the pitch crumbled like a digestive biscuit here yesterday, the Indian Premier League desperately needed Shane Warne on the case.
In his latest role, the old master might have made a persuasive argument to excuse a wholly unsatisfactory surface which threatened the fingers of several of the world's most illustrious batsmen. When the floodlights failed in Bangalore on Friday, holding up play in a close finish, he would have convinced us that it was part of the show.
Warne has taken to the IPL with the boundless enthusiasm he brings to life in general. He has swiftly embellished his roles as coach and captain to Rajasthan Royals. Each match here has been graced (or besmirched if you think the game has gone mad) by troupes of cheerleaders, but they have nothing on Warney. He has been the IPL's cheerleader in chief.
It was well after midnight following his side's crushing nine-wicket defeat in Delhi on Saturday but Warne presented himself before the plethora of cameras and notebooks to deliver a rousing knockabout performance on behalf of the IPL. "That's Twenty20, sometimes you get a one-sided game, sometimes a very exciting game," he said. "You've got to take the good with the bad. We all want the game to go down to the wire but sometimes it doesn't happen like that.
"But everybody will be a lot better player for playing in the IPL at the end of the six weeks. It's here to stay, not a nine-day, one-hit wonder, especially here in India. I think the whole competition will be played in the right spirit. That's why we as captains signed the Spirit of Cricket on the opening night and I didn't have my fingers crossed behind my back either."
He also derided the misguidedness of the England and Wales Cricket Board in refusing their players permission to take part ("we should embrace it not fight it") and urged the International Cricket Council to ensure there was no international cricket stopped when the IPL was on. It would have been a stretch for Warne to suggest yesterday that all was hunky-dory. The spirit of cricket does not extend to pitches but if it did the Kolkata one yesterday, which was anything but the Garden of Eden unless you count the presence of a serpent, would have had the book thrown at it.
From the second over, dust was thrown up as though it was being blown off books in a library that had been undisturbed for a thousand years. The bounce was never to be trusted, nor the direction.
That a low-scoring match ensued was inevitable and that as many as 222 runs were made was in itself remarkable. The Deccan Chargers, with Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds in their ranks, made 110 all out before the Knight Riders got home, thanks largely to David Hussey's unbeaten 38.
Brendon McCullum, the star of Friday's opening match with a Twenty20 record of 158, was out for five and Ricky Ponting fell for a duck. Despite the low score the match was about to give the IPL the tense climax it badly needed when one of the lights went out. Play was delayed for 30 minutes until order was restored and Knight Riders won with an over left.