Archive for March, 2010

I hope there’s not more to it than meets the eye but it’s hard to fathom how can the experienced honchos involved in organizing the IPL can be so flawed to hand over one team an advantage that no other team has the luxury of.

What I’m talking about here is the itinerary of the IPL; not the timing of staging it, but the eye-raising allotment of venues that has rolled the dice unreasonably in favor of Mumbai Indians (MI).

No team other than MI enjoys the advantage of playing seven of their first eight games at home. Why? With due respect to MI’s team composition and world-class players, it’s not surprising a wee bit that the team is reaping rich benefits of playing in front of a home crowd in familiar conditions. They are almost through to the semis and this unfair advantage has a role in that besides the quality cricket MI is playing.

And if you think it evens out with MI playing their last six games away, then you are wrong. They return to Mumbai after three games before moving out again to finish the last two. That’s pretty shady stuff!

Even more surprising is that I hardly see anybody bringing this up despite being a logical point. It’s okay to wriggle the tongue and go gaga over a team’s performance, but the biased nature of the schedule giving MI an unreasonable edge over others should be accentuated.

On the contrary, the resurgent Rajasthan Royals (RR) play their first 10 games away and only three at home in Jaipur. Where on earth is this called justice? All of us are aware of the antipathy between the IPL Chairman and the Rajasthan Cricket Association, which makes the allotment of just three matches to Jaipur more suspicious than justified. Introducing Ahmedabad (4 matches), Dharmsala (2 matches) and Nagpur (3 matches) was a reasonable futuristic approach to spread the tournament to more locales but that doesn’t mean you slice away four home matches of a particular team.

The Telangana issue erased Hyderabad’s name from the list of venues and we were told that Cuttack is the surrogate home of Deccan Chargers (DC) this year. But that’s not true! Cuttack gets only two games, which makes DC play 12 away fixtures. What home are we talking about here?

If matches at neutral venues are away games for both the teams involved, then the organizers once again finds themselves on a sticky wicket by not scheduling MI to play even a single match at either Ahmedabad, Dharmsala or Nagpur. Another undue advantage!

But…all is well with Mr. Modi!

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Indian selectors may soon discover in hindsight that they have missed out on an opportunity to put at least one more youngster to test by shockingly including Piyush Chawla in the Indian T20 World Cup squad.

If we leave out the disappointment of not seeing Ishant Sharma on the team sheet, there are at least three others who have received surprise garlands: Piyush Chawla, Rohit Sharma and Ashish Nehra.

The mistake was made in the first place itself while announcing the list of 30 probables for the T20 World Cup. Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa and Saurabh Tiwary were all missing and Uthappa and Tiwary’s performance is now hitting hard on the knuckles of Srikkanth & Co.

With Ashish Nehra in the party, the team carries with it the risk of welcoming onboard an injured member who, even when fit, is miles away from the international fitness standards. A back-in-form Ishant Sharma, who has more pace and aggression than Nehra, would have been a better choice. Although I still feel the fourth seamer’s booking should have been made in Irfan Pathan’s name who lends more balance to the team with his all-round skills. No fingers, however, can be raised on Vinay Kumar’s name whose current antics got him his maiden national call.

Rohit Sharma is again an eyebrow-raising inclusion with an indifferent form in the IPL. The first choice should be Manish Pandey. If not him, then Virat Kohli, Robin Uthappa and Saurabh Tiwary come to mind. Good luck to Rohit now who needs a whole lot of that, or else he is well on his way to become another Vinod Kambli.

I can hardly see Harbhajan, Jadeja and Piyush Chawla playing together. So where does the point of including another spinner come in? This is the most baffling selection and nothing short of a blunder. If Chawla is back-up, then it’s a very poor one and if he has got a leggie’s place, then it wasn’t required. As I said before, this is like squandering a sitter. This was a window of an opportunity to draft in another youngster and that could have been Manish Pandey who is looting bowlers with loads of runs.

But this is now what we have and it’s time to put a period to our discussions and back Dhoni and his men to erase the nightmarish experience in England last year by bringing the cup back home.

TEAM: MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Dinesh Karthik, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ashish Nehra, Harbhajan Singh, Piyush Chawla, Vinay Kumar, Rohit Sharma.

The Indian squad for the third ICC World T20 Cup is to be named in less than 48 hours from now and some new kids on the block are playing exciting cricket in the IPL corridors. This is the most opportune moment for them to perform with selectors keeping a close eye on top performers.

While the ongoing IPL provides the most relevant cues to the selectors to pick a T20 squad, its proximity to the T20 World Cup is worrying, injury-wise. Having said that, there are no serious injuries to the likes of MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir who are currently recuperating from their respective niggles.

Among the new players, Saurabh Tiwary, Manish Pandey, R. Ashwin, Ambati Rayudu, and R. Sathish are sure to summon discussion among the selection panel but I can’t see more than a couple of them getting the nod. Among those who are knocking for a second chance, Robin Uthappa and Irfan Pathan are in the front row, with some glimmer of hope for Rohit Sharma.

Based on what’s on show in the IPL and the demands of the cricket’s newest avatar, I have zeroed in on the following squad:

BATSMEN/WK: MS Dhoni (c/wk), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Robin Uthappa, Saurabh Tiwary

SEAMERS: Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan

SPINNERS: Harbhajan Singh, Ravinder Jadeja

Reasoning:

Robin Uthappa’s inclusion is purely on grounds of his blitzkrieg in the IPL and that he brings with him the option of another opener in case of an injury to either Sehwag or Gambhir.

Saurabh Tiwary’s consistency and promise, more than his brute force, is sure to catch selectors’ eyes, who may test him in the shortest version before inducting into the ODI squad.

Ravinder Jadeja is the best choice, after Harbhajan Singh, among the present lot of tweakers, other than being  more than a handy batsman.

Ishant Sharma has struck some form for KKR and with Dhoni having loads of faith in the lanky pacer, his selection is very much on the cards.

Irfan Pathan’s inclusion may face many a opposition but his all-round abilities make him best suited for T20 cricket, albeit his performance has been below par, especially bowling.


The IPL has just entered into its second week of gestation and is due to deliver its third champion on April 25th but the form-readers have already picked up their chief operators. Going by the 16 games played thus far, cricket brains are exercising taking the ‘odd two’ out on form and availability of resources.

Rajasthan Royals (RR) failed to impress even with Smith and Mascarenhas playing and now when they are not, the task has just become more demanding for Warne & Co. The little-known Indian players – barring Yusuf Pathan – have not made it any easier for the coach-cum-captain who himself is finding it hard to get back into the groove. Though they won their last match against an erring KKR, the tougher matches are yet to come. Shaun Tait is discovering that pace doesn’t always work in Indian conditions where you need to be clever with your variations. Other foreign recruits – Martyn and Lumb – have not delivered either. On the whole, it won’t be wrong to admit that they need to turn the tables in all departments of the game, which makes them the first of the two most unconvincing outfits.

Surprisingly, PZ’s eleven Punjabi Kings are fast losing their territory, both home and away. Last night’s super-over finish too looked more a Chennai blunder than a Punjab effort. The positive, however, is that unlike RR, Punjab has some real match-winners like Yuvraj, Sangakkara and Jayawardene in their ranks. The problem is none of these is clicking. On the bowling front, Brett Lee is being sorely missed. No other seamer looks even a silhouette of the blonde Aussie and thus oozing runs like a hemorrhage. Their current form doesn’t infuse any confidence in the punters; in fact, along with RR, Kings XI Punjab is the other team whom the bookmakers have almost eliminated.

That brings us down to six and if form is a searchlight, Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Mumbai Indians (MI) and Deccan Chargers (DC) of Hyderabad easily come under its beam as three potential semifinalists.

Bookies’ favorite Delhi Daredevils (DD) began on a promising note but have hit a ditch rather than a speed-breaker, losing their last three and having played the most (5) games. KKR is following in DD’s footsteps and have lost their last two after winning the first two. Chennai Super Kings (CSK) too got a stutter last night, losing to Punjab, and are now level at four points with DD and KKR.

The form guide may suggest the above scenarios but the truth of the matter is that it’s still too early to predict. England, New Zealand and Australia players are yet to arrive and once all of them are here – Englishmen around March 26 and Aussies and Kiwis around April 3 – teams will have more ammo at their disposal.

So believing Punjab and RR would kiss a goodbye to this year’s IPL, I invite your intelligent guesses to take the following poll and predict which two of these six will miss out on a semifinal spot. My ESP tells me that it’s going to be a tossup between DD and CSK for the fourth semifinal birth, with KKR getting out of the race much earlier.

The scamper to enter Delhi’s Ferozeshah Kotla Grounds is nothing less than Lewis Hamilton trying to beat Ralph Schumacher to the pole, or vice versa of late. The queues become an F1 track, with nobody giving any leeway for the one following to race pass. It’s only when the ticketed gate number arrived that I got spared of all the pushing and shoving.

The next task was not as arduous but still quite challenging: to find a seat, and a clean one. While you can get one with a bit of an eagle-eying, securing a seat unsupplied with foot stamps is inconceivable. The stickers of a ‘gold mortgage company’ soon came to my rescue which I pulled out from the back-rest and pasted on the ‘ass-rest’; you can get two in case the ass refuses to ‘mortgage’ itself for one.

Indian crowds – I don’t know why – are impulsive standers on almost every other ball delivered. The cries of English-natured watchers, “baith jao bhai saab” (sit down brother), start reverberating in multi-lingual intonation and dialects.  And then one of those asked will look over his shoulder as if delivered a kiss of death for all his efforts.

Meanwhile, if your stomach’s angry for insufficient food supplies, better get it ASAP or else the short-statured like me have to stand on their toes to beat the taller versions and still get defeated by a mile. Slurping and sipping though is much fun afterwards and if Sachin gets going, like he did yesterday, you feel like the cat that ate the canary.

But life’s not all that beer and skittles. Delhi lost, and badly at that. Not just the Delhi batters, the crowd too started its long walk back. I joined in. The famous Delhi cricketing acumen was at large on the staircases, while a few still hung onto their seats.

My experience with cricket stadia is very limited but from the ones I have been to, Kotla asks more from your lower extremities than they can offer after prolonged sitting. The general parking lot is not in close proximity and in case you don’t have a ride parked, reaching home is nothing less than an adventure.

Only a Usain Bolt can catch the last Metro train that is about 2 km away and just 10 minutes from its scheduled departure. If you think of hopping into an auto-rickshaw, then you need to contest with around 10,000 others who are looking for one. Even if you do get lucky, it’s up to the driver who he wants to take; generally those who ask for a location falling in his scheme of things get the preference.

To hell with everything! A cab is just a call away but what you don’t know is that it’s a lottery if the call centre honcho can locate one that is near where you are. If he can’t, then it becomes even harder to keep a stiff upper lip.

Soon I felt like flogging a dead horse and got hold of my nerves leaning on a nearby concrete wall. An auto-rickshaw goes past me. I was least interested by now. It stopped! The driver came out, “Kahan jaoge?” (where would you go). I felt like saying ‘hell’ but actually told him. “Baitho,” (hop in) he said. I smiled and muttered, “ Yeh Delhi hai meri jaan!”

  • Shane Warne’s sarcastic ‘congratulatory’ tweet on KKR win

Morning followers… just heard that KKR won… wow!! congrats to srk and sourav… amazing atmosphere at the game. I’m off to breakfast.

  • Ganguly fined for slow over rate

Sundar Raman of IPL tweets: Fantastic game. Overran schedule coz of slow over rate. KKR captain has been fined.

  • Brett Lee off to Dubai for injection, not available for 10 days

“In case he doesn’t get the injection shot (for his elbow injury) there (Dubai), Lee will fly to Australia. He will not be present here for the next 10 days. We hope he will be back soon,” said colonel Arvinder Singh, senior vice president Kings XI Punjab.

  • Symonds, Dwayne Smith join Hayden in ‘mongoose’ chase

Other than Matthew Hayden, Andrew Symonds and Dwayne Smith will be amongst those using the Mongoose bat in IPL 2010, according to its creator Marcus Codrington Fernandez, Director, Mongoose Cricket Ltd.

  • Shane Warne tweets on his much-awaited clash with Sachin

Sachin is a very close friend…has been for 20 yrs. He is best player in my time, but today I want him to get 0…haha go royals!!!

Mumbai Indians (MI) vs Rajasthan Royals (RR)

Both MI and RR would be out to set the record straight after a dismal performance last year. While Mumbai would try to convince that they are not only good on paper but on ground as well, Rajasthan may strategize its moves around the lesser-known Indian players and surprise foreign buys.

Though MI has a strong Indian contingent, the worry lies with the availability of the expats.  While Dwayne Bravo and million-dollar-baby Kieron Pollard are on national duty, those available are plagued with injuries. JP Duminy has still not recovered from the split webbing during the one-day series against India and Dilhara Fernando’s  back strain is certain to keep him from playing the first match. That leaves the team with just four options in Sanath Jayasuriya, Lasith Malinga, Ryan McLaren, and Graham Napier.

Rajasthan’s coach-cum-skipper Shane Warne is not confronted with any such injury list. The choice of expatriates has just one spot up on the discussion board, with a tossup between Damien Martyn and Michael Lumb, while Warne, Graeme Smith and Shaun Tait are certain to make the eleven. Yusuf Pathan is an automatic choice to play the role of a batting all-rounder with useful off-spin and the Indian party of Munaf Patel, Siddharth Trivedi and Kamran Khan may be assigned the role of supporting Tait.

Kings XI Punjab (KXI Punjab) vs Delhi Daredevils (DD)

An exclusive North-Indian clash in the heart of Punjab will see a depleted KXI Punjab take on an intimidating DD, with both under new leaders in Sangakkara and Gambhir, respectively.

For Punjab, it’s the loss of their big guns Yuvraj and Lee. While Yuvraj’s availability is still a question mark, Lee has already flown to Dubai to get a shot for his elbow injury. This means that the transfer from RR, Mohammad Kaif, may replace Yuvraj. Injury to Shaun Marsh and yet-to-arrive James Hopes and Adrian Barath keep the expat options limited as well. That may bring Karan Goel into the frame to open with Sangakkara. Lee’s absence will allow Yusuf Abdullah to run in with Sreesanth, with Piyush Chawla and Ramesh Powar playing as the spinning all-rounders.

Delhi has suffered a blow with Nehra out injured. Dirk Nannes, AB de Villiers, David Warner and Tillakaratne Dilshan should most probably play the foreigner’s role without a choice of Wayne Parnell who is yet to join the squad.