IPL 2: So it isn’t boring after all

May 4, 2009

I must admit that I’m the one who vowed not to watch the IPL 2, who wore my thoughts on my sleeve about how this season can be nothing short of very boring. I’m now very guilty for I’ve watched more IPL matches this year than the last.

Credit must be given to the pitch masters of South Africa. It isn’t for nothing that the T20 World Cup in 2007 was such a hit. It isn’t just about the Bollywood babes, catchy tunes, and scantily clad cheerleaders. If the cricket’s boring (and the tickets expensive or spectators’ conditions poor), the tournament becomes doomed. By getting the pitches right and the ticket prices right (if the commentators and other tournament-folk are to be believed), cricket South Africa have ensured the success of the tournament.

Perhaps this even balance so produced by quality pitches have ensure that insipid sides like Rajasthan and weekend ones like Punjab don’t seem that great this year. Suddenly the Asnodkars and the Mascarenases don’t seem that valuable. You’ve got to get the cricket right here, which is why the good old folk – Dravid, Tendulkar, Boucher, Kumble – and those among the new who are worth their salt – Badrinath, Duminy, RP Singh – and the like are making merry.

The teams and their fortunes

Royal Challengers Bangalore and Deccan Chargers

The shift away from India has benefited two teams that found themselves at the bottom of the table last year: Bangalore and Deccan.

We all knew Deccan had it, it just wasn’t clicking for them. That RP Singh has had a lot of success in South Africa adds a lot to their attack.

Bangalore’s is the miracle recovery. I think it has more to do with team spirit and Kumble’s captaincy than Ray Jennings’ coaching. Besides they are the side with almost an all South African combination with Indian stars. They lucked out that the tournament moved to their real home. Bangalore doesn’t belong in India! 🙂 On yesturday’s thumping victory over Mumbai that involved chasing a score of over 140, while Uthappa’s innings might be a flash in the pan, Kallis I think has indeed found himself in the T20 version. I cannot end a paragraph about the BRCs without mentioning Dravid. He started the tournament with a sparkling 66 of 40-odd. That he is back in the squad will add the much needed backbone to the Bangalore team. Dillion du Pree, the debutant yesturday seemed like an inspired pick. Four overs might be too early to judge, but he may yet become the star of Bangalore attack, surpassing a certain lackluster Dale Steyn.

Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab

For those who just couldn’t understand how the Royals won the tournament last year, myself included, this year, so far has been a vindication. The team has little value in the young mavericks. Veteran Saffer batsman Smith isn’t exactly setting anything on fire; they are missing Sohail Tanvir the most. Watson might have been another flop here – not a huge fan of him.

Kings XI is kind of neither here nor there. Their bowling department has lucked out with the selection of Abdullah. They are missing Sreesanth, Lee and Shaun Marsh. Jayawardena isn’t in cracking form. For me this is a 50-50 team. Could go either way.

Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils

The two most balanced sides – Mumbai and Delhi – have got fairly good results so far, the latter more than the former. Mumbai’s bowling has expectedly been bolstered by Malinga’s form and Zaheer’s presence. Is it just me or does somebody else also think Zaheer seemed more lethal when he was bowling for Bangalore?

Delhi lost Shikar Dhawan this year, but thankfully for them, he isn’t in form. Viru is yet to blast away that 10+ an over rate for the first 6-8 overs, but it might only be a matter of time.

Chennai Super Kings

Last year’s uber geek team is languishing in the table. Why that is the case is beyond me. Dhoni and Albie aren’t contributing too well. But that apart, you’ve got to believe it’s a matter of a few wins to see them in the top four where they belong.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The most woeful of the teams this year. Given the degree of off-field woe which seems to be propagating on-field, they probably deserve to be where they are. The batting isn’t clicking, McCullum’s batting looks stressed; he’s not the free flowing carefree man from last season. Ganguly is smug, Ishant erratic and unsupported by horrible fielding which reminds of Indian team from the early 90s, Agarkar is well, just plain Agarkar. Buchanan and his army needs to be shown the door and Ganguly or somebody else made sole captain.


Cricket Ramblings from the weeks I’ve missed

January 20, 2009

There’s been so much I’ve wanted to write about while I was away- Pietersen quitting, Dravid scoring not the least- so here’s my random rambly attempt to catch up.

Dravid scores
After eight months and not too many runs, Rahul Jammy Dravid scored his second century of 2008, one that came after much media speculation, blogger deriding and what not. I remember that innings rather well and was fortunate to be able to catch that given my schedule at that time. I recall a feeling of painful dread that set in when I watched Dravid take guard that day, knowing at the back of my mind that the umpire’s finger may go up any time. Reconciled to what seemed only to be a matter of time, I was only hoping please, let it not be a duck. Interestingly, that day, it was not be a duck! Dravid build the innings, almost cringingly. I remember the early parts of that innings to be slower than “Dravid slow” and more poking-ly than ever before, but for fans who did not relent, we got to see a fairly good innings. Was this vintage Dravid? No. But after the 60s, it was soothing. Runs seemed to flow painlessly, albeit slowly. We got to see the wristy flicks and late square cuts that we hadn’t see Dravid play since that blistering innings at the Bristol ODI in India’s 2007 tour of England. After several months, this Dravid fan was happy, just plain happy. What was most fitting was Dravid’s press conference after the century. In characteristic fashion he thanked those who supported him thought the tough year for it seemed that they had almost “gone through the journey with” him. That to me is classic Dravid! Join me in wishing Dravs a very Happy Birthday (belated thought this might be).

Pietersen steps down as England captain
If only India held the legal rights for changing captains for every drink of water, it seems we have passed that on for the world to relish! England’s captaincy woes in the past couple of years remind me of India’s Azhar-Sachin-Azhar-Sachin days. It’s a pity what happened with Pietersen, for I thought his daring leadership was England’s best chance to regain the Ashes. Strauss, whose form seems to show signs of return, will be again burdened with captaincy, thus making the England top order a bit more vulnerable than before.

South Africa win Test series 2-1 in Australia
J P Duminy starred in a record 4th innings run chase that would have made all those who wrote off Test cricket to eat crow. What a scintillating innings, what daring batsmanship! One cannot discount captain Smith who set it all up with an almost trademark innings. Australia have a long way to recovery now. While there are chinks in the South African armour – as we saw in the 3rd Test match – they seem to be bigger in the Australian armor. This series will make Australia’s upcoming tour to South Africa a very interesting one to look to.