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. 😦

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.


Squad for Bangladesh tri-series, Asia cup sans Ganguly, Dravid, Tendulkar

June 1, 2008

Yes, for the first time without either of the Big Three (if memory serves me right). The squad is primarily the one that won the ODI series in Australia earlier this year with a few new faces.

Here they are: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt), Yuvraj Singh (Vice-capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Irfan Pathan, Robin Uthappa, Suresh Raina, S Sreesanth, Yusuf Pathan, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, R P Singh, Piyush Chawla and Pragyan Ojha.

My issues? Not including either one of Ganguly or Dravid (honestly, I would have like to see Dravid in). Neither are out of form, definitely not Dravid. He has scored over 300 runs in the IPL- that is mind you, only 16 short of Dhoni’s run count – with an average around 30. The young team, preparing for the 2011 World Cup and that is fine, but I think India will do well to use some of the services of the war horses for they still have a year (if not two) of cricket left in them. Sad? Yes. Expected? Perhaps Yes. I still had a glimmer of hope. But I think I see the harsh truth only now. Dravid and Ganguly might have played the last ODIs of their career. Fellow blogger Soulberry, saw this coming much and bade goodbye to them (in ODIs) back in January. I could dwell on this for a while, but I will save that for another post.

Moving on to the rest of the squad. Going by his recent IPL outings and the last couple of ODIs Uthappa doesn’t deserve a place. RP has been a bit shaky of late. As for the new inclusions Ohja and Yusuf, I haven’t watched much of Ohja, so can’t comment on him. I’m not sure Yusuf Pathan is as deserving as some of the Southern folk, esp, Chennai Super Kings’ Badrinath (as Ottayan duly supports). Meanwhile couldn’t help but feel sorry for Manoj Tiwary: one jet-lagged T20 innings goes poof and so does his India cap eh? Wonder what is the deal with Joginder Sharma? Why hasn’t Dhoni be able to get him? He seems to have a lot of trust on the guy.

Anyway, I’m not very excited about this series. Call me old-fashioned, obstinate, or whatever else, but without Tendulkar, Ganguly or Dravid, the India spirt is missing, at least for me. I might take a break from Indian cricket and watch the Aus vs. WI or Eng vs. NZ. Damn my cable operator, I don’t get Star cricket. Hope to find one soon that carries it.


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!


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! 🙂