If it was supposed to be all about Kumble vs Ganguly at the Eden the other day, Thursday night’s fixture at the Chinnaswamy Stadium can well be billed as Kumble vs Warne, two of the greatest leg spinners the world has ever seen and two really astute leaders, something which the world is just about realising.
The two actually shared the dais on Wednesday evening, at a function to release Kumble’s book of photographs, where both made it clear that while they are great mates off the field, neither of them will be giving each other any leeway once they get on the field.
Within that battle though there will be at least one more intriguing one, the result of which may well have a bearing on which way the match goes. Of course, as of Wednesday night, Yusuf Pathan was not on the definite starters’ list but as far as the Rajasthan Royals are concerned at least he wasn’t on the ‘certainly not playing’ one like is the case with Graeme Smith and Dimitri Mascarenhas, both of whom have returned home with injuries. Should the big-hitting Pathan make it for his side’s third game, he can bet that Royal Challengers Bangalore will be keeping back a certain Dale Steyn to bowl at him.
Pathan is not the most comfortable of batsmen against the short ball, the ones that are bowled at genuine pace that is (of course it is not as if too many batsmen are comfortable) and if there is one that Steyn can do really well, it is bowl fast.
But the issue is that while Pathan has already delivered once, Steyn, to put it mildly, has been nowhere near his best. He still has been quick and that is what both Kumble and wicketkeeper-batsman Mark Boucher is banking on.
"I don’t think Dale bowled too well in the first game," said Boucher. "But last night I did think he bowled well though he bowled a couple of wides. If you have to look at two fast bowlers to run in and just bowl at 135 kph then they are not doing the job. They are there to take wickets and they need to be aggressive. Dale was aggressive last (Tuesday) night but he was a bit unlucky. He definitely created something. If you have someone bowling at 145-150 kph it’s a nice thing to have as a captain and as a bowling unit," he added.
Point taken but there’s no reflection of the same in the wickets column and that is something that the world’s No. 1 bowler in Tests has to sort out quickly. Kumble is not too patient a man and he is never been one to depend on reputation alone. As far as reputations go, by chasing down a target of over 200, the home team will now have to deal with the raised expectations of fans.
Here RCB may be helped by the fact that Warne hasn’t just lost two of his main men, his side has lost two matches as well and will be somewhat down on morale. But as Warne put it: "Yes, we have not had a great start but that’s how we have started every IPL."
Well, neither Kumble nor Warne has ever been short on confidence either.