marlon samuels

11 newbies to watch in IPL 2012

It’s IPL time, boss.

The time for colorful razzmatazz, dancing cheerleaders, local celeb spotting and pithy commentary is here –  and yes, you get to watch some high octane cricket too.

The fifth edition of IPL is bound to be more tightly contested than the previous edition, for the simple reason being that the Indian cricketers couldn’t have had a more contrasting build-up to this year’s IPL. Last year, they entered the tournament fatigued and emotionally spent after the World Cup win while this year, they will be itching to prove themselves after a couple of disappointing months on the international stage.  The favorites are the usual suspects: Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders. CSK will be looking for an unprecedented 3rd straight title, while the other three are still searching for their maiden triumphs. The other teams have a lesser shot, but can take hope from the campaigns of Rajasthan Royals in IPL1 and Deccan Chargers in IPL2, which showed that if you grab the opportune moments, glory is not impossible.

This year, there are quite a few international players who will be making their IPL debuts, and most of them are match-winners in their own right. While the likes of Pollard, Gayle, Kohli, Raina, Sehwag etc are proven IPL performers, it will be interesting to see if these players can make a name for themselves in the biggest domestic T20 tournament in the world. I present to you, the  Newbie XI to watch in IPL 2012:

Richard Levi

Country: South Africa

IPL team: Mumbai Indians

Role: Opening batsman

T20 stats: HS – 117, Avg – 30.87, SR – 149.69

As if the Mumbai Indians were not bursting at the seams with batting talent, they have added a new explosive batsman to the team. Levi is one of the most dangerous players in the South African domestic T20s and within 2 games of his international T20 debut, he made the world sit up and notice with a blistering 117 against the Kiwis when the Saffers were chasing 174. A player who is built and strikes like Pollard, is just one more headache for the opposition bowlers. Will he be the new star in IPL 2012?

Tamim Iqbal

Country: Bangladesh

IPL team: Pune Warriors

Role: Opening batsman

T20 stats: HS – 91, Avg – 19.57, SR – 107.15

Its really surprising that a man known for his audacious hitting and rapid fire starts has a modest record in T20s. All that could change, given his recent form and new found consistency. With the likes of Ganguly and Graeme Smith to mentor him, Iqbal would be learning from the best, and will be aiming to make his captain and his countrymen very proud.

Dinesh Chandimal

Country: Sri Lanka

IPL team: Rajasthan Royals

Role: Wicketkeeper-batsman

T20 stats: HS – 88, Avg – 33.89, SR – 126.18

Sri Lanka’s newest batting star is heading north as the Rajasthan Royals search for their second IPL triumph. A stylish batsman who has shown impressive consistency and maturity in his brief international career so far, he could be trusted to double up as a wicket-keeper as well. He has already shown his appetite for Indian bowling, and considering that he will be facing a lot of that in the next two months, it is safe to assume that he will relish the opportunities.

Michael Clarke

Country: Australia

IPL team: Pune Warriors

Role: Middle order batsman

T20 stats: HS – 67, Avg – 22.03, SR – 108.85

The Aussie Test captain is a late addition to IPL 5, thanks mainly due to Ganguly’s admiration over Clarke’s exploits over the summer. Clarke already has an interesting history with IPL despite not having played in it at any time, thanks to Lalit Modi who did not share the Aussie’s estimation that he was worth 2 million dollars. Times have changed; Modi is out and Clarke is in. In the recent ODI series down under, he showcased a new aggressive side to his batting; and with his sharp fielding and ability to bowl some tight overs, he could well end up making Saurav Ganguly a very happy skipper.

Marlon Samuels

Country: West Indies

IPL team: Pune Warriors

Role: Middle order bat/part-time spin

T20 stats: HS – 102, Avg – 32.88, SR – 120.81, BBI – 2/14, ER – 7.08

Samuels belongs to the Gayle school of cricket. Cool and casual on the outside; give him a bat and see him explode. A man with a colorful history which saw him banned for a short while, he could be the X-factor for the Warriors in the absence of Yuvraj Singh. Like Gayle, he can bowl some handy offspin as well.

Luke Wright

Country: England

IPL team: Pune Warriors

Role: All-rounder

T20 stats: HS – 117,  Avg – 25.05, SR – 146.22, BBI – 3/17, ER – 8.27

For a player who doesn’t feature prominently in England’s plans at the moment, Wright happens to be one of the rare Englishmen playing in this year’s IPL. He’s had somewhat of a hot streak in T20s right now, on the back of an impressive time at the BBL, where he was one of two centurions. He might be a poor man’s Shane Watson, but in the current form he is in, he could well turn out to be one of the crucial players for the Warriors.

Doug Bracewell

Country: New Zealand

IPL team: Delhi Daredevils

Role: All-rounder

T20 stats: HS – 37, Avg – 27.60, SR -139.39. BBI – 3/21, ER – 8.29

Bracewell comes from an illustrious cricketing family, and his talent was there for all to see, when he decimated the Australians in their last Test series. A muscular batsman who can also be a tough bowler to face, it will be interesting to see how he performs in front of raucous crowds and soaring temperatures, but given his impressive track record, he could well be one of the surprise stars of the tournament.

Andre Russell

Country: West Indies

IPL team: Delhi Daredevils

Role: Bowler/occasional batsman

T20 stats: HS – 58, Avg – 19.31, SR – 148.58, BBI – 4/35, ER – 8.04

West Indies are currently on a resurgent path, and Andre Russell is one of the players at the forefront of it. A typically athletic Caribbean player, he can be irresistible on his day, with bat or ball. Indian fans will not forget his heroics against them in the recent past, and the Daredevils will he hoping that he can maintain his fondness for Indian opposition for another two months atleast.

Stuart Broad

Country: England

IPL team: Kings XI Punjab

Role: Fast bowler

T20 stats: BBI – 3/13, ER – 6.68

Broad will be making his IPL debut a year after he was signed up by the Kings XI, as he missed IPL 4 due to injury. Being one of the few English players in the tournament, the England T20I captain will be eager to prove his mettle in subcontinental pitches, before the World T20 Championship in September. He might be forever remembered by Indian fans as the hapless bowler who Yuvraj tonked around for six 6s in an over, but Broad still remains as one of the best T20 bowlers in the world. Along with Ryan Harris and Praveen Kumar, he could form a pretty impressive pace attack for the Kings XI.

Sunil Narine

Country: West Indies

IPL team: Kolkata Knight Riders

Role: Off-spinner

T20 stats: BBI – 4/9, ER – 4.73

Sunil Narine has the potential to be the breakout star of IPL 5. He caught the eye of many during the last Champions League, where he befuddled many batsmen and almost single-handedly knocked out CSK from the tournament. Now, he has transferred that form to the international arena, where he has been bamboozling the Aussies recently. As the economy rate shows, he is not too generous with conceding runs and along with Iqbal Abdullah and Shakib al Hasan could form the most dangerous troika of spin in the IPL.

Marchant de Lange

Country: South Africa

IPL team: Kolkata Knight Riders

Role: Fast bowler

T20 stats: BBI – 2/36, ER – 9.75 (in 3 games)

Vernon Philander is the South African pace bowler who is hogging all the headlines right now, and with good reason; but lest it be forgotten, de Lange made an equally impressive entry when he grabbed a 5-fer on Test debut. A young strapping fast bowler built like a bull, he is capable of sending thunderbolts and can hurry up the batsmen with brute pace. Of course, as the IPL has shown, speed alone is not sufficient to impress, and it will be a big test for de Lange to show that he has got the brain to go along with the brawn.

Lessons from the India – West Indies ODI series

The ODI series between India and West Indies concluded recently with a predictable result in favor of the Indian team. It was an auspicious start for Team India’s new coach Duncan Fletcher, and was Suresh Raina’s first series win as skipper. For West Indies, the major positives were the progression of Andre Russell and Anthony Martin to match winners, while Lendl Simmons and Marlon Samuels shone at various times. Still, old problems remain; the batsmen don’t inspire confidence against spinners and the team as a whole freeze at the sight of victory. Meanwhile, India without their senior players, still managed to win the key moments and closed out the series despite the less number of players who enhanced their case in this series. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Amit Mishra were three players who did everything that was expected of them, while the likes of Subramaniam Badrinath, Manoj Tiwary and Yusuf Pathan will rue the missed opportunities. Here’s a look at what I learnt from watching the series:

  • Subcontinental fans might be the most passionate in the game, but no one can celebrate like the Caribbean fans.
  • Chris Gayle might not have played in the series, but he remained the hottest topic of discussion during the series; He did attend some of the games though, where his afro during the final game was a show stealer.

'The 70s are back, maan!'

  • West Indian umpires have proved that they can be even worse than their Indian counterparts.
  • Throughout the series, the only Indian commentator I heard was Sunil Gavaskar. Small mercies.
  • Lendl Simmons can bat. Its just that he has not learned to bat as long as possible. One of two batsmen in the West Indian team who can boast of good consistency.
  • Ramnaresh Sarwan might not be the same batsman he once was, but there is no doubting that he still retains the same fighting spirit.
  • Marlon Samuels is not a batsman most Indian fans would forget in a hurry, after all the thumpings he administered to the Indian team in the early 2000s; He is still slowly getting into his groove, which is not a good sign for opposition bowlers.
  • It has been drummed over our heads that Darren Bravo bats like Brian Lara; in the final game of the series, he added some substance to the style to give the Caribbean something to cheer about.

The Fresh Prince of Trinidad

  • Kieron Pollard still needs to convince many that he can perform against top teams, despite handy contributions towards the end of the series.
  • Like his Indian counterpart, Carlton Baugh is short and handy with the bat; unlike his Indian counterpart, he is reliable behind the stumps, showcasing his skills in the 4th game.
  • Darren Sammy might never be accepted as a deserving member of the team, let alone its captain. Still, he showed a lot of heart with decent performances at the start of the series, even as his team-mates floundered around him.
  • Andre Russell is starting to become the new poster boy of West Indies cricket. With the ball, he is quick and has a precious knack of taking wickets at crucial junctures; with the bat, he is feisty and as he showed in the 4th game, he can give the ball quite a thump. Now all West Indies needs to do is protect him from a few IPL franchise owners.

'Somebody gonna get hurt real bad'

  • I expected a lot from Devendra Bishoo, but it was another leg spinner who rose to prominence in this series; Anthony Martin might be a professional fire fighter, but when it comes to cricket, he is all for creating panic amongst the opposition. If handled properly, West Indies might just end up with two quality leg spinners in their ranks.

'When you mess with fire, you get burnt'

  • Shikhar Dhawan and Manoj Tiwary might be two of the more promising batsmen in Indian cricket, but in this series, they looked out of their depth. Looks like more India A tours might do the trick.
  • Parthiv Patel played all games in the series, depriving W Saha any chance of making an impression in the absence of MS Dhoni. He did his job as a batsman, though his keeping behind the stumps still left a lot to be desired.
  • Virat Kohli has established himself as the best batsman of the younger lot. A place in the Test team beckons, and he might just leapfrog Suresh Raina in the captaincy stakes next time.

The Kohli-nator

  • Rohit Sharma could well turn out to be a typical West Indian cricketer; for all his talent and high praise received from peers and experts, he has rarely done any justice to his skill. This series, he took a step towards correcting that, with a couple of match winning knocks and bagging the Man of the Series award. Only time will tell if this was a break-out series for him, or just another flash in the pan.

The Tease

  • Subramaniam Badrinath is running out of time. The senior-most player among the second rung, he does not have age in his favor and has had to sit back and watch young guns like Sharma and Kohli steal the show. While he guided India to victory in the only T20I, he didn’t make enough use of his chances in the ODI series, thereby signalling a possibly premature end to his ODI career. He still has the Test series to prove himself; whether he gets a chance is another matter.
  • Yusuf Pathan is not quite in the same boat as Badrinath, but he cannot live off two blistering centuries forever. With the ball, he was steady but non-threatening. With the bat, he didn’t quite set any pulses racing. Luckily for him, his competition did not do that either.
  • Suresh Raina had a poor series. On one hand, he captained the team to his maiden series win; on the other, he combusted as a batsman, perishing to the same infuriating slog shot, over and over again. Along with Kohli and Sharma, he is a player for the future; but if he keeps performing like this, the critics will be baying for his blood soon.

Deja vu strikes again...

  • This was a series for the Indian spinners, in particular Amit Mishra. He came into the series with a lot to prove, after his omission from the World Cup squad. At the end of it, he made the selectors look foolish with his returns. R Ashwin impressed in the brief opportunities he got, though he would love to take more wickets and forget his last two overs in the final game.
  • Among the seamers, Praveen Kumar impressed, ultimately earning a call up to the Test squad. Munaf was called a ‘spinner’ by a West Indian pace legend, but he still remains as one of the few quality pace bowlers in the side. Ishant Sharma and Vinay Kumar showed glimpses of their abilities, but still have a way to go before they can be considered as regulars in this format of the game.
  • All in all, the 3-2 margin is a fair call; India’s second string team was marginally better than a West Indies team sans Chris Gayle. If anything, this should increase expectations for a tighter contest in the Test series.

Champions!