Posts Tagged ‘IPL’

A World Cup win can bring satisfaction of a lifetime and champion players rummage around for a recliner to relax while the medal sits on the chest perpetually. But winds of change have refashioned perceptions, where the IPL money rules the roost and other issues move to the back-burner.

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The cricket carnival moves from the trumpet celebrations in sticky Chennai to the hip-shakers in the Caribbean. The international camaraderie of the IPL is about to wear the gown of animosity as the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 kicks off in the West Indies in less than an hour from now.

The IPL is no doubt the second biggest T20 tournament after the World Cup and it’s only ironical that the highest run-getter of this year’s IPL – Sachin Tendulkar – will be sitting in his living room watching his comrades vie for top honors. It may be a boon for India’s opponents but is surely not a loss for India, as the team triumphed without Sachin in 2007. That the master opted not to play – despite constant coaxing – and give youngsters a chance only adds to his iconic stature.

The bookmakers rank India as the second favorite after Australia who are desperate to add the elusive trophy to Cricket Australia’s shimmering cabinet. West Indies are dangerous at home but much rests on Gayle alone, which makes them a very risky bet. Sri Lanka looks like having horses for courses, though New Zealand too is not short of pedigree if they can bring consistency to their batting. South Africa always had it in them but it’s the final hurdle that proves a bit too high to jump for the Proteas.

The English side is spruced up with power hitters like Lumb, Pietersen and Morgan which gives them a formidable look. Pakistan is dangerous as ever but it’s hard to tell how they would pan out, both on and off the field. Bangladesh is exciting as always but continues to be more a party-spoiler than anything else.

Must admit that the world is looking forward to see Afghanistan competing at the world level. If I am not wrong, it’s the first team event of this stature for them in any sport. So that does make them the ‘team of the minnows’ that also include Ireland and Zimbabwe.

After the unhappy climax of the IPL, I hope the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 puts up a show to remember.

It’s down to the Round of 16 in the IPL – of course, that’s not the number of teams but the number of games left before the semifinals. All but PZ’s Kings are in with a chance. Some about to lose the grip but still hanging in there and some waiting for that one elusive win to move from waitlist to confirmed status.

Beyond the mathematics of points and run-rates, there are some clear, yet subliminal, strengths and/or weaknesses of teams that may have the final say at the conclusion of league stage. I have analytically tried to eye that for the teams still in fray. Take a look!

Mumbai Indians (MI)

The away ghost: As I pointed out in my last post, MI’s real test starts after Game 8 when they play 5 of their remaining 6 matches away and it turned out as suspected. They lost to Chennai and now have to face Punjab in Mohali and Rajasthan in Jaipur before touching base for their last home game. If MI loses these two as well, then all their hopes will be pinned on the game against Delhi Daredevils at home because after that their last two league encounters are also away games. MI may prove me wrong today itself by beating Punjab but if they don’t, then it remains to be seen if they can bury the ‘away ghost’ or are only ‘Lions at Home’.

Delhi Daredevils (DD)

Bowling quandary: Delhi’s problem lies in stringing together a winning combination that is consistent, more so in bowling than batting. Yes, the injuries to Nannes and Nehra haven’t helped matters but the replacements don’t look promising, as was visible in the runs they bled in the death overs against Kolkata. This may prove fatal for DD who still need to win at least two of their remaining 4 matches.

Rajasthan Royals (RR)

Shane Warne: Wonder what that man does to lift the team’s spirit but whatever that is, it’s nothing less than magic and only within the realms of a mentor like Warnie. The possibility that this may be his last hurrah as a player makes him doubly dangerous.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)

Who to play and who not: Their issue is team selection due to a large number of quality expats (10 in total). This has compounded Kumble and Jennnings’ problems. The ‘who to play and who not’ question needs to be answered quickly or else the team may miss the bus.

Chennai Super Kings (CSK)

Just-in-time arrivals: We have already seen what effect Bollinger has had on CSK’s bowling and with Michael Hussey too in ranks now, watch out for Chennai. The welcome surprise has been Murali Vijay turning into a ‘technically correct butcher’. Vijay and then Hussey, Raina and Dhoni lower down will allow Hayden to play his natural game, which makes it intimidating for bowlers.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR)

Tough assignment: The concluding games for KKR are against RCB, CSK, RR and MI respectively. So it means Kolkata cannot blink with four taxing games in a row. The only solace is that their last two matches are at home where they play well with a huge fan base.

Deccan Chargers (DC)

Living on the edge: Of the seven teams in fray, they have the bleakest of chances to make it. With four games left for them, DC has to win each one of those because of the poorest run-rate. That is the only way they can harbor any hopes of finishing in top four. Looking at their mixed performance in the season, it looks highly unlikely.

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 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!”

The win by KKR in the IPL-3 opener, though patchy, has sent the whole SRK contingent into delirium, reports my khabri. The positives for the Kolkata team were the performances by new signee Angelo Mathews, the DD-drop out Owais Shah and the signs of Ishant Sharma hitting some form. Besides, fears of leadership woes get safely assuaged seeing a vintage Ganguly marshalling his troops.

The game was there to be won for DC until the wicket of Adam Gilchrist that triggered a collapse of their batting mainstay.  Gibbs, Symonds and Rohit Sharma followed soon to nothing shots, leaving their fans bemused. Even if one of those would have stayed for a length of 5 overs, DC would have won. But it’s fair to admit that KKR was in better control of their nerves under an astute captain and an 11-run win can be called a comfortable one in the T20 format.

DC has to look seriously at its middle order or you can say its choice of shots. Gilchrist won’t be able to deliver every time and the other big players have to feature in important wins. Their bowling too, apart from Pragyan Ojha, looks a bit thin until Harris and Roach join the squad. So lots of stuff to address for the skipper Gilly and coach Lehmann.

Most of us expected Shahrukh to be leading the gold-and-purple gang in the stands but he chose to remain absent. It was only this morning that he let us know the reason through this tweet: “No party. They travelling to Kolkata early morning. Me going there too. I attend only our home games…so will be fun.”

The KKR boss did thank the wishes and suggestions of his fans in one of his morning tweets, but also made everybody realize that family, for him, is always first. Son off for a holiday with his school. just dropped him. How fast they grow up! Seems like yesterday he was a throbbing dot in mommy’s tummy,” said Papa Khan.

Nothing other than the ODI and T20 World Cups, not even the Champions Trophy, has maintained the anticipation levels as high as the Modi juggernaut called the Indian Premier League (IPL). And if we may take the liberty, even the ODI World Cup has its interest dwindling since the last couple of editions, albeit ever so slightly.

But it’s not the time to ponder anything else; rather just grab a drink, dig into your couch and get immersed into the IPL. It’s that time in the cricketing calendar when all the soaps take a backseat and the desperate housewives either get remote-controlled or join the gang.

What’s been the most welcome change since the inception of the mega event is that it has encouraged a family day-out that Indian households saw Westerners doing overseas. The grass-banks, tents and inflatable swimming pools may still be missing but the IPL has at least quashed that held-back attitude, which prevented ladies and kids coming to the ground for reasons obvious to us all.

Coming back to what I came here to tell you, I have appointed a khabri (see image) who will keep me and you posted about the latest in the IPL corridors and of course what unfolds on the ground. He will be working like a man on a mission for the length of the IPL, running from pillar to post and bringing you updates from every nook and corner.

So without much ado, I leave you just one-and-a-half hours away from the IPL opening ceremony, followed by the event opener between the defending champion Deccan Chargers and last year’s wooden-spooners Kolkata Knight Riders.

Oh! As I was about to leave, my khabri tells me that Yuvraj Singh had tweeted “looking forward to scoring lots of runs for my Team.” Looks like he is fighting fit back again. Good news for KXI Punjab!