New Delhi: From being absolute no-hopers to giant-killers, the journey of the Kochi Tuskers Kerala has riveted the small but fanatical cricket loving public in Kerala.
Many of us shook our heads in despair when, from a seemingly unassailable position, the Tuskers contrived to lose their first match against RCB at home. There was a sense of inevitability that Mahela was fighting a losing battle when they stumbled against co-debutants Pune Warriors at the DY Patil stadium at Navi Mumbai.
So when the Orange-and-Purple went out to play the mighty Blue Mumbai Indians at the Wankhede, people wondered if the Tuskers were about be hunted to extinction by a team playing at home and in flawless form. Would the elephant soon be another pelt on the belt of the likes of Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, Malinga and Pollard?
It didn't help Kochi's cause much when Sachin blasted his maiden ton in the T20 format that day. At the end of the first innings, a decidedly big-looking 182 stared Kochi in the face. All looked lost and some of us watched the match only hoping to see Malinga fling his toe crushers at the hapless Kochi batsmen.
What transpired next was pure magic? Brendon McCullum, playing fearless cricket in the company of his captain and batsman-extraordinaire Mahela Jayewardene, made mockery of the stiff target that the Mumbai Indians had put up.
Brad Hodge and Ravindra Jadeja knocked off the balance in style. Flash in the pan, was my first thought.
Come Monday, April 18 and another battle at home loomed. Chennai Super Kings, the reigning IPL and ICC champions in this format of the game, were visiting. The memory of the first home match loss against RCB was yet to fade.
In a rain-curtailed match, Mahela's team polished off a below par score of CSK with an over to spare and 7 wickets standing. There was some whirlwind hitting by Brendon, Jadeja and Hodge again and a silken though short innings of substance by Mahela at the top.
Suddenly, Kochi, the team and the town, was buzzing with excitement. Fans exuded cautious optimism of being part of a winning team.
This cautious optimism turned into a sense of disbelief and then downright joy when defending a modest 130-odd runs, Kochi upstaged a red-hot Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens. Eden was silent when Vinay Kumar trundled up from a short run up to bowl and close off the match. Laxmipathy Balaji played the ball to long off for two runs and KTK had beaten KKR by 6 runs!
Amid all the euphoria and excitement of winning the third match in a row, Mahela sounded a word of caution when he said that Kochi had a long way to go and needed to be more consistent. This actually set me thinking about the main players in the Kochi cast and it did make some interesting reading.
Brendon McCullum holds the record for the highest score in IPL history.
Mahela, the Captain with the Midas touch.
Brad Hodge is the highest run-getter in T20 history.
Ravindra Jadeja is all beefed up and is biffing the cricket ball farther and higher than ever before.
RP Singh is the highest wicket taker in IPL history.
Murali is the highest wicket taker in any form of cricket
The Very Very Special Laxman, ah well.
And as I am writing this it is rumored that Souravda one of my favourite cricketers is all ready and signed up to join KTK if archaic rules would permit.
I appreciate and understand that translating figures on paper to form on the field will take character, perseverance and a whole lot of luck. But the turn of events over the past two weeks I daresay augurs well for the Tuskers. I have a sneaky feeling that consistent, KTK will be.
Mahela is scheduled to prematurely leave the Tuskers to don national colours for the Sri Lankan tour of England and will surely be missed by them. His calm and composed demeanor, form with the bat and his amazing luck with the toss will have to be replicated by the captain who takes over from him.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that one of India's finest captains will fill his boots and continue to take us, the fans, on the back of the powerful yet graceful animal that is the Tusker, to savor many more moments of happiness and delight that Team Kochi is capable of giving us. Any wagers on Kochi doing the distance?