IPL-8Over two days, Kolkata, known in India as the City of Joy, was drenched with cricket, rain and celebrations as the eighth edition of immensely popular Indian Premier League opened with a ceremony, attended by industry big-wigs and Bollywood stars. On the first day April 07, 2015, even the thundershowers and incessant rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of nearly 15,000 spectators at the Salt Lake Stadium. These people waited patiently for two hours before the show could get underway. Then the showmen and women took over to enthrall the viewers with filmy brand of entertainment, which might have disappointed some people. But, by and large, the IPL organizers achieved what they wanted. The show comperes called Team Captains for signing a bat in the traditional MCC Spirit of Cricket pledge. That was the formal start to the IPL 8 and it was followed by the filmy show. In sharp to the past, the hype this time had to be restrained because of a build-up to the elections for Kolkata Municipal Corporation that take place next week. The city skyline has been monopolized by faces of local politicians staring out of their huge cut-outs and cricketers are relegated to the oblivion. But the show at Salt Lake Stadium turned out to be boring and pretty messy. Beginning after rain delay, performances from film stars became dragging with host Saif Ali Khan working hard to completely spoil the proceedings. Next day however, the weather was kind and Eden Garden was full to the brim, when defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders easily defeated Mumbai Indians by seven wickets to begin their campaign on a winning note.

Mumbai Indians lost the toss and had to bat first against KKR on Wednesday night. The KKR bowlers kept MI under a tight leash with Morne Morkel being outstandingly effective. The South African speedster finished his entire bowling spell in just one go and took two of the three wickets that fell in the MI innings. He returned with highly creditable figures of 2/18 and very aptly bagged the Player of the Match award. Morkel was ably supported by Umesh Yadav, Sunil Narine and Shakib-Al-Hasan and MI groped for runs through more than half of their innings. Although Rohit Sharma remained fluent in his unbeaten 98 off 65 balls and added 88 in last six overs with Corey Anderson, the sluggish start counted against Mumbai in the end. Mumbai lost Aaron Finch early as the Australian top-edged Morkel straight to Umesh Yadav in the deep. The fall of Finch put a brake on scoring. Mumbai also lost Aditya Tare and Ambati Rayudu and the team tottered at 37/3 after six overs. With Anderson taking a while in getting to his groove and KKR bowlers applying pressure, MI could only reach 80/3 after 14 overs. But to MI’s credit, Sharma and Anderson stepped on the pedal in the last six overs to take the final score to 168/3.

On an easy playing Eden Garden pitch, the target of 169 was at least 25 runs too soft. The lost opportunities, early on, put MI to play a second fiddle in the match and though the MI bowlers sent out Robin Uthappa early, Manish Pandey looked in ferocious form as he struck Mumbai bowlers with disdain. Gautam Gambhir was subdued in the beginning but he also picked up pace later in the innings. When Pandey finally got out for 40 off 24 balls in the 12th over, KKR had already reached a position of great strength. The two-drop batsman Suryakumar Yadav proved to be a great asset for KKR as he began banging MI bowlers even as he arrived. He struck 5 sixes in his 20-ball 46 and with Gambhir coming into his own at the end, KKR progressed to victory without too much trouble. KKR’s cause was greatly boosted by some sloppy fielding and dropped catches by Mumbai Indians.

While the match ended with KKR beating MI easily, only six wickets fell in the entire match and most batsmen scored runs. Rohit Sharma notched up his 10th 50-plus score in an IPL defeat and it was a record by any batsman. Rival captain Gambhir also went past 50 and two of his batsmen Manish Pandey and Suryakumar Yadav ensured quick achievement of the target. Corey Anderson proved his worth for MI though his unbeaten innings of 55 off 41 balls proved only as helpful as his skipper’s 98 not out. 18 sixes were struck in the match and since KKR shared 11 of them, they reaped the advantage on that count as well.