IPL murmurs: Mumbai smartest thus far?

January 28, 2009

News of IPL swaps have been doing the rounds for a few weeks now. With the Pakistani players doubtful for IPL’s season 2, the franchises seem to be in tizzy to replace them.

Bangalore’s Royal Challengers has Misbah on the roster but seems to have found a replacement in Robin Uthappa, who it was tactlessly swapped for Zaheer Khan. Apparently, sport is something Mallya has trouble understanding, for Zaheer was among the better performers for BRC last year and is in the form of his life at the moment. If that isn’t tactless enough, Mallya apparently is looking to make a captain out of Karnataka boy Uthappa. While that might be a moderately successful marketing ploy to get the local crowds crooning “Uthappa, six bekappa“, it would be a bit strange to have the likes of Kallis and Boucher reporting to the kid who doesn’t feature in India’s ODI line up. Granted, it is not out of the ordinary to expect that Mallya wants current skipper Dravid  replaced, Uthappa might not be the right choice either.

Mumbai have gained Zaheer at the cost of Nehra. They have also “gotten rid of” (if I may use the term) Uthappa, for whom they have a better replacement in the traded Delhi Daredevil batsmen Shikar Dhawan. There is still more to see before one toss the “smart” crown around, but Mumbai seem to be singing the smartest song thus far.

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Bangalore Royal Challengers raise hopes, but disappoint: Bangalore vs. Delhi

May 20, 2008

Back at home after a mentally gruelling (viewers included) tour of a couple of cities, Bangalore returned to face the Delhi Daredevils. What started off well, thanks mostly to some big hitting from Kallis, didn’t go too well, as the other opener, Chipli, fell soon. Dravid disappointed; I thought he was up for another blinder. Among the positives were Shreevats Goswami, who came good on debut, Misbah delivering after being long due, and Chipli’s fielding. It was nice to see the young Goswami hit cleanly and fearlessly; he was fairly good behind the stumps too. My heart goes out to the young wicket keeper batsmen of today. With Dhoni as the ODI captain, these kids might just end up playing Ranji for the rest of their career. Apart from the Misbah and Goswami, the other batsmen were just the same with run outs being atrocious. Even run-out-master Misbah seemd to be mouthing ‘are yaar’ on seeing his partners running amock. On the bowling front, other than Steyn and Kumble’s performance, there isn’t much to write about.

Either way, it would have been a tough one to win, given that at a point Delhi needed only 5 per over. They should have gotten Gambhir/Sehwag earlier or bowled really tight and got wickets. On the bowling front, Zaheer and Praveen did them in, big time and Kallis seems to be really out of sorts. One more wicket or better bowling might have seen them edge past. But at the end of the day, the better team won.

It was good to see the BRC’s fight back and some team spirit in their ranks, for whatever it is worth. Like Dravid said, I hope they spoil somebody’s party and end up with at least one more win.


Dravid sizzles in vain: Bangalore vs. Jaipur

May 18, 2008

The Royal Challengers’ cup of woes is now brimming. After a dismal showing by the Bangalore bowlers and some starkly indifferent fielding, the visitors set themselves a target of 197 runs. The already challenged team, was depleted further by the absence of Boucher and Steyn. The run chase started inauspiciously as opener Arun Kumar fell for a 3-ball duck and #3 bat Misbah ul Haq departed with a golden duck. Kohli, the other opener fell a few balls later. The other batsmen came and went without much ado, all other than dear beleaguered Dravid.

Walking in at #6, Dravid sizzled to score an unbeaten 75 off just 36 balls comprised of  half-a-dozen fours and sixes, with an un-charecteristic strike rate of 208 . His frustration, which he later admitted to, was apparent in the savage way in which he lofted Yousuf Pathan for consecutive 6s. Truly an innings of master class, reminiscent of his blistering 92 off 40-odd in Bristol in the India’s tour of England, last summer. “The lone constant, offering defiance that was as entertaining as it was soothing…”, for he was “brutal and brilliant, determined and dynamic, and ironically, the hunter as well as the hunted”, writes Varun Gupta for Hindustan times.

For the final wicket partnership, he refused to take singles to expose Abdur Razzak to the strike, almost silently saying: I won’t unnecessarily let you do something that isn’t expected of you.

There was a bit of drama when Dravid asked the question on a catch taken off Razzak and that being declared not out. He continued on and clobbered another six. It’s probably not very often that the side with the last ball six loses a game, but such was the case, and never were they going to win with such woeful performance from most of the other members.

By claiming the DLF IPL maximum sixes award, Dravid silently made a statement, in his own way, as if in answer to those who repeatedly and tauntingly questioned the relevance of his batting skills in the T20 game. Perhaps there was a message for the team in the angry innings that he played.

One feels so sad for dear haunted Dravid, that one wants to pray!


IPL Bangalore vs. Chennai: aka Dravid vs. Dhoni

April 28, 2008

Dravid’s Bangalore Royal Challengers are up for a stiff one today against Dhoni’s Super Kings with the likes of Hayden, Hussey and Muralitharan in their ranks. Judging by Bangalore’s previous effort, they need to raise the level of their game by several levels.

First and foremost, they need to function as a team. In the match against Rajasthan Royals, captain Dravid looked rather forlorn and his team seemed to have given up even before the second over of Rajasthan’s innings. Even if one were to give the quiet Dravid the benefit of the doubt on not acting perky (seriously, not all perky people are worth their salt), there was no real reason for not including Misbah ul-Haq or for persisting with the largely useless Sunil Joshi.

Secondly, Bangalore need to pace their innings well, keep wickets in hand for the first 5 overs and then think things through from there. Dravid needs to focus on what he does best: the elegant drives. Though that is easier said that done, the average well-wisher’s words of wisdom would be thus: “Captain Dravid, don’t slog! It ain’t working for you!”

As for me, I see this as a senior vs. junior clash and would like to see Dravid get the better of it. A couple of morale boosting victories are bound to help his form-crisis.

Good luck Bangalore and Dravid!


IPL Saturday: Chennai vs. Kolkata, Bangalore vs. Jaipur

April 26, 2008

A double-humdinger is about to play out today with a two pairs of evenly matched teams ready to challenge each other. The Chennai Super Kings vs. Kolkata Knight Riders, touted mainly as the Ganguly vs. Dhoni match will feature a few interesting duels including Ishant vs. Dhoni. I will be interested in the field that Ganguly sets for Dhoni, Parthiv Patel, and Kaif – all three being cricketers brought to limelight under Ganguly’s captaincy.

I expect the Bangalore Royal Challegers vs. Rajasthan Royals to be a cracker of a match with two deep strategists Dravid and Warne facing off. Bangalore will be boosted by the inclusion of Pakistan’s Misbah ul-haq but continue to be plagued by Sunil Joshi in the absense of Kumble. The most interesting contests here will be  Warne the bowler vs. Dravid the batsman. For once, I will be hoping that Misbah doesn’t land himself in trouble with the (largely unforgivable) scoop shot.

Cheers Kolkata and Bangalore! 🙂


Cricket Ramblings of the week

December 4, 2007

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged and I’ve had withdrawal symptoms so I back for a quickie. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks: been doing some things I like and some things I hate and finding out other things that I have yet to do. Anyway, on to cricket.

India-Pakistan 2nd Test- Kolkatta

The 2nd Test at Eden Gardens between Kumble’s India and Younis Khan’s Pakistan was rather boring. The first two and half days threatened an innings victory for India. I personally liked Jaffer, Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly’s innings, although I must say this innings of Ganguly’s was distinctly different from some of his others from the recent past. It was bejewelled with patience, which he seemed to have almost run out of after his captaincy stint. He seemed stubborn almost adamant on getting a century on his home ground. My goose-bump moment for the match was the crowd’s reaction to Dada’s big one here! That must feel really awesome! Go Dada! Way to get a few more tons!

Eden is paradise to Sourav

 

Sourav celebrates his ton.
Pic source: Cricinfo

 

As for the Pakistani batsmen, other than Misbah no one looked to attach too much value for their wicket. It’s primarily temperment/attitude that was required of the more experienced batsmen. Akmal finally came good and Younis and Yousuf notched up a match saving knock to save their pride and keep the series alive, although I think they all survived a couple of definite and vociferous lbw appeals; perhaps Koertzen was having a hangover from what would have been Sangakkara’s match saving innings. And Billy Doctrove owes one to Dravid for that horribly wrong decision he gave in the first innings.

 

Personally, going by statistics and past India-Pak experiences, I would think that Bangalore Test will see the tourists leveling the series with a victory. I would give this 75% chance. But going with their current trend of mediocre bowling, fielding and horrific batting, I am forced to reduce that chance maybe to 30%. The part that will play a major part in Pak’s fortune (apart from the pitch, of course) is the Pak batsmen’s attitude. If Younis, Yousuf and Misbah carry on their positive attitude, the bowlers might perk up and come with a better performance. Averaging those two numbers we arrive at 52.5% chance of Pak winning the Bangalore test. I don’t have much else to say on this except ‘wait and watch’.

Vengsarkar vs. The BCCI

What the fuss about? I say good bye and good riddance. But I doubt if it will be so simple. This issue has seen the see-saw typical of an India-Pak match. Perhaps they want to make up for the lack of on-field see-saw. One day the BCCI says that he is free to leave and the next day they seem to be singing a different tune. There will be more to this drama. What say you?

Murali exceeds Warne! Jayasuriya calls it a day.

Go Murali! Now someone from the subcontinent tops the highest wicket taker list. Yay! Jayasuriya’s retirement announcement seemed a little bit of a surprise. Even though he is 37, he seemed to be in very good knick. Sorry to see him go. Maybe we will see him in the ICL!

Meanwhile, the ICL kicks off with a Brian Lara duck! I’m quite excited about this and would rather watch an ICL match that the boring Aussie county cricket that Star Cricket airs. Btw, a question for Star Cricket: why would you air Aussie county cricket on a channel dedicated to the subcontinent?
Ciao for now!


India-Pak ODI series leveled at Mohali

November 9, 2007

As an India-Pak series fan, if you were wondering what happened to the see-saw effect, well, you just got a dose of that at Mohali. I had written earlier that the two teams are more evenly matched this time than ever before; yesterday’s match, I think, proved what was not obvious on paper.

India entered the Mohali ODI as favorites to win the match, but complacency saw them lose a match that was until the last 10 overs very much in their bag. After scoring 300+ batting first, India let Pakistan cut loose with Afridi doing his boom-boom in the last few overs.

Although things don’t look too bad for India, there is plenty to think about. Looking at the Indian batting there are still plenty of holes to be plugged. Sachin and Gambhir did very well, the overly hyped Yuvraj and Dhoni flopped big-time, and Uthappa went cheaply and is becoming a favorite lbw candidate (much like Andrew Strauss) for many bowlers. Indian fielding, while a smidgen better than Pakistan, has still a long way to go to near the high standards set by South Africa and Australia. I can recall at least 4 catches that should have been taken. Speaking of temperment, while much is being said of Sreesanth’s ‘making-faces-and-staring-aggro’, Yuvraj needs to keep his temper too. Yuvraj’s on-field behavior yesterday made one think that there might be more than one reason why he was not made captain and isn’t much of a serious favorite.

Pakistan on other other hand didn’t really win the match, as much as India lost it. Credit must be given to them for pulling it off, but in my opinion, for the first 25 overs, they didn’t look to be even trying to win. It was shocking to see the Pak run rate plummet to 4-odd when Shoiab Malik was at crease; you would expect the captain of a side to show and tell, or at least try. What was more shocking was to see Misbah, now touted as India’s best friend, fall to the same paddle shot (although in slightly different manner) as in the T20 World Cup final. What Pakistan did yesterday in their batting was what most commentators say chasing sides should do while chasing big totals: bat through the entire 50 overs; and the run certainly came, with India’s mediocre bowling and shoddy fielding in the middle overs contributing considerably.

With Rahul Dravid’s continued absence in the ODI side, it remains to be seen if the selectors will see the need for his presence. While the outcome of the Mohali ODI has brought some life back into the series, India still have a small edge in this series, lest they don’t let it slip!