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.


Ganguly sidelined….Again!

March 25, 2009

Deja vu strikes. At the risk of sounding like an irrational fan, why does this keep happening to Sourav? How many public insults does the man deserve? I’m sure the Dada-haters will be unfurling the scroll again, but seriously, I ask why? Is that streak of arrogance, or the Princely power hunger, or perhaps the defiance of authority that has epitomized the Sourav that we know?

To me, an IPL free spirit – who doesn’t give too much about the fact that’s it’s moved to South Africa, or that it’s even happening this year – Ganguly’s sidelining as captain makes it the IPL all the more insignificant. I’m sure I’m not alone for there were many of us Ganguly fans who were not too long ago haunting Reebok stores in the cities scouting for KKR T-shirts. Maybe we don’t need that KKR T-shirt anymore for now we do not have a team to support!

The KKR team derives it’s spirit from Ganguly. From the point of view of the team management, that the sidelining happened this year, when there wouldn’t be a match played in Kolkata is smart. But Kolkata does not forget or forgive.

“…let’s wait and see..” was what Ganguly had to say on the issue. Yes, we shall definitely wait and see how Kolkata reacts.


More IPL Drama: of support, captaincy, thrashings and ban-reductions

May 17, 2008

The IPL has become the new source of endless drama, probably the best reality TV ever. There has been more off-the-field action than even a tour of Australia. 

 

Where shall I begin. Yes, the Shoaib story. Media sources now reveal that BCCI’s knee-jerk cousin PCB might soften down Shoaib’s five-year ban. Considering that it might be based solely on his show for the Kolkata Knight Riders, is that justified? Not really. Neither was the five-year ban that was slapped on him only weeks ago.

 

On the Bangalore front, some buffoonery is now being offered for free. Apparently, BRC’s Praveen Kumar ended up in a police station for involvement in a drunken brawl with a doctor in his hometown of Meerut. While fellow blogger Ottayan asks two questions on this. I have only one question, which is Ottayan’s second: Praveen, was it Kingfisher or Royal Challenge?  J

 

Furthermore, after VVS Laxman’s show of support for Dravid, his Royal Challengers’ team mate, Kumble minces nothing while adding to the support in his Hindustan times column, saying that those who matter must understand what sport is about. Mallya in response, has half-heartedly declared faith in his team, after reiterating concerns on team performance and selection. Dr. Mallya, it is about the people, the faces who wear the team T-shirt. If you aren’t supporting the people in the team, what is the Royal Challengers team? Just a red-and-yellow T-shirt.

 

Meanwhile, Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh on being asked of the corporate culture and sacking creeping into cricket, gushes over having Ganguly as captain till he turns 106. Ganguly, on the other hand, had only diplomatic answers when asked of Dravid’s position.

 

“..Rahul Dravid is a great friend of yours. What if Vijay Mallya were to tell Rahul, ‘I don’t want you as a captain.’ Would you like that as a cricketer?

Sourav Ganguly: I’ve been in the situation of not being wanted as a captain (laughs). I haven’t liked it so I am sure Rahul won’t like it either.”

Perhaps, Ganguly is just thinking “nalla vennum, da unakku” (Tamil for now it’s your turn). I only hope that we don’t loose Dravid through this crisis.

 Back to cricket, Mumbai routed Kolkata today for an embarassing 67 from 15-odd overs. I almost wrote a post before the match with some hype for Ganguly, Shoaib, and Kolkatta’s odds, but my pre-match-hype-jinxed stopped me. But not posting didn’t help Kolkata, though Sachin flopped royally with a duck. Something told me that today, Tendulkar will get his first IPL duck, and for the first time, I wasn’t too upset about it.


Assorted IPL Ramblings: of the Fab Four of Indian cricket

May 15, 2008

Tendulkar flops and Jayasuriya rocks. Sachin’s most awaited IPL debut came and went without much noise. On a day that was supposed to be Tendulkar’s, it was the Sri Lankan opener’s fireworks that enlivened the Mumbai crowd. I did not watch most of the Chennai Super Kings’s innings, so I cannot comment on that. But Jayasuriya turned it on big time so much to make Sachin look like a high-school boy, except for one four. Sachin looked a bit out of place, to say the least – it might be too early to say this, but for now he looks no better than Laxman or Dravid in the batting department. In fact the latter might end up with more runs (after factoring in the number of matches played).  From the CSK’s end, for a change it was nice to see Dhoni – and no, he is not part of my fab four, for whatever it is worth – on the receiving end of batting heroics. Even lucky-charm Joginder Sharma couldn’t stop Jayasuriya. It was just Sanath all the way.

While Royal Challengers’ Dravid is being lambasted from several sides, support has come from a like minded team India colleague and Deccan Chargers’ captain VVS Laxman, and this coming from someone in relatively similar position. Laxman has come be known for good gestures, this must be added to the top half of his list. In the match against Kings XI Punjab, Dravs seemed more stressed that ever seen before. When asked about Mallya’s salvo, he refused to comment citing reasons for want of a proper forum. I’m wondering what Dravid will do now – quit IPL or wait to be traded? Judging by the anti-auction mindedness of him, I guessing he will probably resign; might be just a matter of time. While that would seem fitting to many, I think he might do a little better in someone else’s team, batting at 5 or 7, playing the role of the innings finisher – a role he successfully played for India in some ODIs during his reign as India captain.

Ganguly seems to be on cloud nine after Shoaib’s dream IPL debut. Way to make a statement, Shoaib! And it was nice to see the latter on Ganguly side, rather than on the opposing. I had my doubts about Akthar – he is like a wild pendulum – might swing either way. Perhaps with the fitness problems that Akthar has had of later, T20 might be the game for him – all it takes is four overs of concentration.


Ganguly turns on the charm – Kolkata Knight Riders vs. Deccan Chargers

May 11, 2008

Ganguly turns it on in his own characteristic way in the games against the Deccan Chargers today. His blisteringly 91, with a good number of biggies off Chaminda Vaas, reminded me of the World Cup ’99 match at Taunton when he and Dravid feasted off Vaas and others. But that was another day, in another era.

After a string of there-but-not-quite knocks, Saurav pulled it off this time with bat and brought forthhis form with the ball from the previous match in which he foxed the likes of Dravid. His captaincy was as one would expect: intense, effective and 100% Ganguly.

The Knight Riders came together well today in all departments. Ganguly and Hussey set the stage with the bat. Dinda and Laxmi Shukla bowled excellently for their part. Surely, they should be looked into during ODI selection. India’s bench strength seems much better than it seemed. And that is perhaps the most heartening thing from the cash-cow experiment that is the IPL.

While the Knight Riders performed as a unit, the Deccan Chargers, seemed to have lost it after the 5th over. They got the early wicket of an belligerent looking Salman Butt, but failed to capitalize on that with average bowling and sloppy fielding. After all, the Deccan Chargers were touted as among the stronger teams, but they seem to be doing just as good as the “Test XI” Bangalore Royal Challengers. What surprizes me even more is that they are getting less flak for their performance than the BRC. From here on, it looks like only herculian effort and a good number of miracles can see the DCs to the semi-finals.

Meanwhile, go Knight Riders! Ride ’em!