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! ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.


India win 2nd Test – A tounge in check look – Ind vs Aus 2008-09: Day 5

October 22, 2008

India triumph over Australia to go 1-0 up in the Border Gavaskar Trophy 2008-09 with a historic win in the second Test at Mohali. Team effort and proactive captaincy made this possible. Australia have been bringing the best out of India for the past 5 years now, with each victory arguably better than the other in quality.

Congratulations, India! A well earned victory! Cheers!

But the series isn’t over yet and there is still some good work to do.

Where now from here for India? India need to keep the intensity just where it is, if not turn it up another notch. The bowling attack with Ishant, Bhajji and Zaheer is rocking.ย  Mishra had a compelling debut. Delhi will be key and the selectors will have one hell of a task picking a playing XI. I shall save that for another discussion, but I must add that for once, I’m glad that this selection isn’t my job!

India’s batting is still a bit of a concern. Ganguly has been the best performer so far – he’s looked solid in defence, characteristic in attack and has played his natural game. Viru and Gambhir closely follow. There are still a few question marks around the others in the batting order with respect to solidity, based on current form.

As for the Aussie, I would give anything to hear from Greg Chappell. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll save my comments on him till the end of the series. Ponting has some sorting out to do. Clarke is good only in patches. I don’t understand how Shane Watson and Cameron White made it to the side. The only reason I can think of is thier familiarity to the conditions from IPL. Watson, course played for the Rajasthan Royals and White, rather unimpressively for Bangalore Royal Challengers. I find it hard to believe that the Aussies don’t have anything better in the closet. Haddin has a long way to go – an average keeper and below-average Test batsman. Siddle was hyped beyond proportions, might be (along with Johnson) the better ones from the newer lot. Lee is obviously out of form/rusty. Two players hold the key – Hayden and Hussey. While lashing out at the apparent lack-of-quality/experience in the Aussie line up, in the back of my mind, there is this dark thought that India might face this very situation (maybe even worse with the batting) when the Fab four disappear from the scene. But that is not for this day.

This day, we celebrate for going one step ahead to re-gaining the Border Gavaskar Trophy! Cheers!


Rajasthan Royals are the IPL Champs!

June 2, 2008

Well played, Royals, yestuday and through out the tournament. A very deserving win indeed. The Chennai Super Kings deserve some cheer for their nerve-less batting.

Cheers!


Looking ahead to IPL Season 2: Iconless IPL?

June 1, 2008

Allright, the IPL is almost over. I don’t really feel the intensity for either of the semis. Maybe that is because Rajasthan Royals have clearly been the best T20 side in the IPL. Or maybe because neither of the teams that I was supporting – Bangalore and Kolkata – are in the contest. There was a bit of feeling for Delhi, I would have liked to see them in the finals, but that wasn’t to be. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Much has been said of the performances of the icons, specially the senior ones: Dravid, VVS Laxman, Ganguly and Tendulkar. I will not venture into that discussion just yet. Instead, I will ask this. What will an icon-less IPL be like? Considering some of the owners’ heavy-handed manner and the way things are going for the icons, I would speculate that not all of these folks will feature in the next installment.

Let us assume, for arguments sake, that neither of the above mentioned icons make it to the second season in any form. What would be the reaction of the masses? Especially the partisan ones – Mumbai and Kolkata. The Mumbai folks (or at least most of them) throng the IPL to watch Tendulkar and Kolkata to see their Maharaj. What happens to the other folk who go to these matches to see a Ganguly or a Dravid bat? Will these foks not turn up? Going by the attendance in the Ranji Trophy, an icon-less IPL will be a only a few grades more interesting to the masses. Yes, there will be Gilchrist fans and the McGrath fans, and they will bring some people to the stands, but these folk are the more educated cricket watchers, not the average Indian guy on the street who goes to watch a cricket match.

Even as I type this, I see the counter argument coming. One being that Indian cricket is in a state of flux where the seniors will slowly make way for deserving youngsters; that we need to be practical and one day or the other get used to an Indian team sans Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid; that the fans of the new recruits will take the place of today’s masses. True, all valid arguments. However the issue is that all this takes time. You need several match-winning performances to get a fan following. Good looks will help too :). Consider Rohit Sharma, who gave us some very valuable runs in that T20 world cup match against South Africa. On the other hand you have Ishant Sharma – the find of the Aussie tour, the kid who troubled titan-esque Aussie captain Ponting. I would think Ishant has a bigger fan following than Rohit Sharma. On the other hand, Gautham Gambhir, who has figured in more matches than the Sharmas may have a smaller fan base. All this is of course speculation. The point that I’m trying to make is that, for the icon-less IPL season to succeed, it must be timed right. If not, it will shake the very foundation of the IPL. Lack of crowds will affect TV ratings, ad money, sponsorship, etc, and pinch the owner’s pocket.

The owners may consider the icons as dead weight, but they bring the crowds at least for now. And they might need the icons more than they think, for this is India; we are mostly a crazy lot and cricket is a religion here. The owners, at least for the time being, better not mess with the Gods.


Mumbai Indians the official IPL chokers: Mumbai vs. Rajasthan

May 27, 2008

It’s now official: Mumbai Indians are the official chokers. Fellow blogger SP says quite straightly that they pulled a South Africa.

It was an incredibly entertaining match, going down to the wire – really down to the last ball. I was hoping for a bowl-out, actually, thought I think even if that had happened, Rajasthan would have won it.

How could have Mumbai lost this? Lost their head in the last 2 overs. Fernando messed up in the final over, Sachin blew it big time. With his cautious ODI-opening-overs-style batting and by pressurizing his team. He seemed to have slowed Jayasuriya down too. Yes, the pitch was slow, understood, but there was a sense that Sachin was waiting for something. And that something never came.

I was rather surprised to see that not much has changed in Sachin’s captaincy, after all the years. I also found it baffling that for the last ball, when the Rajasthan Royals needed 2 to win and 1 to tie, Sachin was signalling to spread out the field! Not bringing ’em in. Panic, I guess. Nothing else can explain that. I was also rather shocked to the hear the comments from him the post-match presentation: ‘lacked common sense’, etc, etc, dissing the team. That wasn’t the forum for that!

Meanwhile, thanks to the Rajasthan Royals, the Delhi Daredevils have a place in the semis now. Mumbai will now have to beat Bangalore in tomorrow’s match and hope Chennai lose. The Royal Challengers on the other hand have nothing to lose. After having moved up the table enough so as to not end up last, they might go for the kill. Something tells that Dravid might sign off the BRCs with this match and that despite conflicting media reports on his unhappiness with Mallya’s ways and his own denying rumors of quitting. Thus the extra motivation for the consolation victory.

I’m not cheering though, for my cheering seems to be jinxed. So I’ll shut up, watch, and then write.


IPL Saturday: Rajasthan vs. Chennai, Mumbai vs. Delhi

May 25, 2008

Two darn good games made my Saturday! It felt really good to watch two matches without exactly supporting one side. That both went down to the wire added to the pleasure. Competitive cricket (albeit the T20 variety) was played and entertained well.

The first came with a lot of hype, and lived up to it for the most part. While the first half was all Rajasthan, the second half was the more exciting one to watch. Chasing 200-odd in T20 is not an easy task and I though the Chennai team game the Rajasthan a run for their money. Credit to the Chennai Super Kings for that. While Dhoni reminded us once again never to depend on him too much, Parthiv played a good cricketing innings: almost no crap shots and a fairly cool head on those shoulders. I was also impressed with India-reject Raina. The other part that was really commendable was the Chennai crowds – who not only braved the sweltering heat, but also seemed great sports. When it comes to crowd sportsman spirit – we Chennai-ites kick partisan Mumbai’s butt!

I almost didn’t watch the Mumbai Indians and the Delhi Daredevils fight it out, but somehow they kept my attention. Sachin flopped yet again, as I had expected. Uthappa came good with the bat but made up the sloppiness while fielding. Sehwag ramped up by attacking Pollock like very few batsmen can. You cannot help but ebb with pride when sehwag bats like this. Was disappointed to see him fall shortly after, but that was to be expected. Gambhir turned it on, though cautiously. Dhawan and Tiwary batted T20 style – irritatingly T20, but entertaining nonetheless. Karthik, was the pick of the batsmen – played classly, pulling it off well, especially when it was required of him and almost not expected of him. Way to go Karthik!

It will now be interesting to see Mumbai fight it out. They will most probably lose to the Rajasthan Royals and though it may seem absurd to wish, I would like to see Bangalore trounce them once again. ๐Ÿ™‚


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 ofย  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!