The fourth edition of the IPL is up and running. All the 10 teams have played one game each so far and already there are some ideas as to how each team is going to fare in the rest of the tournament.
Personally, I can’t seem to get excited enough about this edition compared to the previous ones; because I want to bask in the World Cup win hangover for some more time, dammit! A few days back, Tendulkar watches Malinga take out Sehwag off the second ball of the Indian innings in the World Cup final before falling victim himself; now, he rejoices with Malinga after running out Sehwag of a direct hit. A few days back, Dhoni negated Randiv in the Final to perfection; now, they celebrate after plotting the dismissal of an Indian batsman. Its not that I don’t enjoy it; its just that it is too soon!
Anyway, I like the IPL. Despite its faults and crassness, I enjoy players from different countries get together to play as a team. Inadvertently, it has improved the ODI performance of the Indian team over the last couple of years and given the likes of Raina, Ashwin, Yusuf Pathan and Pragyan Ojha the opportunities to break into the Indian team. Foreign players have a better understanding of a different culture and most importantly, the ‘club’ culture is slowly taking root in India.
The IPL is not going to please everyone. For those people, I would just say – Don’t watch it then. There are other alternatives. For International cricket, you can tune into the Australian tour of Bangladesh, where ‘Pup’ has transformed into ‘Big Dog’. For the antithesis of IPL T20, there is the County Season which is underway (Go Lancs!). While critics like Peter Roebuck (who is slowly turning into the cricketing version of Glenn Beck!) and others harp on about the IPL’s contribution to the supposed decline of cricket, the recent World Cup is a reminder that cricket has and will survive in the future, no matter the number of changes and innovations which will inevitably grace the sport.
Anyway, here are my first impressions of IPL 4 so far:
Chennai Super Kings
- Despite the loss of Hayden, Oram, Murali and Balaji, CSK are one of the teams to beat in this IPL, with the addition of Southee, Du Plessis, Randiv, Kulasekara and Styris.
- With Bollinger slated to join from CSK’s third game, this team is going to get better.
- As long as Dhoni is involved in a cricket match, the game will be decided in the last over.
- The presence of so many Kiwi and Saffer cricketers in this team makes it a top class fielding side too.
- It’s a long way to go, but I’m confident that CSK will progress to the final easily.
Kolkata Knight Riders
- New captain, new team, same problems.
- Gambhir is trying to be a very unique captain. It didn’t work too well against CSK but it will be an interesting campaign for sure.
- With the likes of Kallis, Y Pathan, Eoin Morgan, Haddin, Tiwary and Ten Doeschate in the squad, the batting looks top class, but the bowling looks weak despite the presence of Lee and Shakib.
- KKR played with only two overseas players in the CSK game. Surely, a first?
- KKR play their first game at home today, and it will be interesting to see the reception in the absence of Dada.
- One keeper captain replaces another. Kumar Sangakarra replaces Gilchrist as captain of the Chargers. Still didn’t break their home jinx though.
- Neither the batting or bowling seem full strength. Steyn and Ojha are top class bowlers but the likes of Christian, Ishant Sharma, Mishra are not consistent enough. A lot depends on if Sangakarra would want two Saffer new ball operators in Rusty Theron and Steyn.
- Kevin Pietersen is injured and Cam White is terribly out of form. That leaves the batting in the hands of Sanga, Dhawan, Duminy and Lumb. As you can see, too much dependence on foreign players.
- It’s hard to see this team doing well, but then again, what do I know?
- Warnie’s team are at it again. Despite the lack of big stars, they have started their campaign on a winning note, with their most expensive signing, Johan Botha leading the way.
- The team actually has a lot of good domestic talent with the presence of Rahane, Asnodkar, Binny, Dravid, Chopra, Menaria and Pinal Shah to bolster the batting and Trivedi, Pankaj Singh, Narwal and Chahar shoring up the bowling.
- They are complemented by the foreign exports in Oram, Taylor, Watson and Tait.
- Safe to say, they can go far in this tournament. They should be disappointed if they don’t make it to the semifinals.
Kochi Tuskers Kerela
- Worst Jersey. Period.
- They have the talented Mr Jayawardene at the helm, which is a huge boost.
- Then again, they have Jadeja, Sreesanth, RP Singh and Steven Smith; and that drastically reduces their chances of winning.
- That puts a lot of pressure on Murali, Powar, Hastings and Vinay Kumar to be at their best always.
- Batting is top class (Laxman, Hodge, McCullum, Jayawardene, Owais Shah and Perera) but local talent is not sufficient to see them through to the semifinals.
Royal Challengers Bangalore
- One intelligent spinning legend replaces another at the helm. Vettori replaces Kumble and the team gets off to a winning start.
- Zaheer, Nannes, Vettori, Langeveldt, Mithun in bowling. De Villiers, Dilshan, Kohli, Tiwary and Pomersbach in batting. Need I say more?
- The trick will be, as with all teams, to get the balance between the local talent and international players right.
- Another team which will be disappointed if they do not get to the semifinals.
- The Daredevils or the ‘Triple D’ as Morrison screams in our ears – have a shambolic team composition. They were duly knocked senseless in their opening game.
- On paper, their strength is the top heavy Sehwag, Warner and Finch. That also happens to be their weakness as these players know only one way to play, and if that does not come off, their performance against Malinga and co are a good template as to how it can pan out.
- Same goes for bowling; Agarkar, Dinda, Umesh Yadav, Morkel, Irfan Pathan. They can be really good or terribly bad. No middle ground what so ever.
- Sehwag remains their main X-Factor as a captain and a batsman. Take him out and half the match is gone.
- If they reach the semis, it can be considered as an achievement.
- Along with CSK, my other pick for reaching the final. They dispatched the Daredevils with ease in their opening game, with the batting and bowling firing on all cylinders. They didn’t even have to play Symonds yet.
- Tendulkar and Davy Jacobs opening. Rohit Sharma, Rayadu, Pollard, Symonds to follow. Easily the most frightening batting line up in the IPL.
- Their bowling has Malinga. Enough said.
- If at all, there is any weakness, it is a paucity of quality domestic talent; but right now, it seems they have the requisite players to see them through to the finish.
Kings XI Punjab
- Along with the Daredevils, I expect them to be at the bottom of the table for most part of the tournament. Another shambolic team composition; do we have to see a distressed Preity Zinta after every match?
- Gilchrist’s powers are on the wane. Shaun Marsh is fighting injuries half the time. That leaves a lot on the plate of David Hussey (who is yet to join the team) and McLaren to shore up the batting. Local talent not good enough to see the team through tough phases.
- Bowling depends on Praveen Kumar and Chawla too much; and we all know how consistent they can be.
- A tough slog awaits the Kings XI in this IPL. If their match against the Pune Warriors are any indication, they are going to get walloped in every game till they figure how to manage with what they got.
- I like this team (smart looking jersey and everything) and I expect them to be in the top four of this IPL.
- Yuvraj Singh seems to be a much improved captain compared to the KXP version of the first two editions. Still, it is a long way to go and it will be interesting to see how he handles himself and the team.
- Top order is one of the better ones: Smith (despite poor form), Ryder, Manhas, Yuvraj, Utthappa and Ferguson (If he gets to play). They can also fall back on T Paine, Jhunjhunwala and Manish Pandey (once he is done with the suspension).
- Bowling looks classy with Parnell, Nehra, Alfonso Thomas, N McCullum and Murali Kartik. If only they had the services of the injured Mathews and Jerome Taylor, they would be even harder to beat.
- The team owner who happens to own the main sponsor of the Indian team as well, sat with a huge horde of young ladies surrounding him and watched the game. For some reason, it reminds me too much of Allen Stanford. On the other hand, they might just have the best cheerleaders in IPL history!
An additional note on the commentators. I had always thought that Modi was to blame for the shameless shilling of the sponsors and overexcited nature of the commentary team. Glad to know that even in his absence, the commentators can continue their atrocious job!