yusuf pathan

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!

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Lessons from the India-South Africa ODI series

South Africa were the well deserved winners of the tightly contested ODI series with India. This is because in Steyn, Morkel and Tsotsobe, they had three bowlers who were on top of their game and dominated the Indian batsmen barring the likes of Kohli and Pathan. In the batting department, Amla and Duminy got the runs when it mattered, and the fielding was better than the opposition’s (as expected). On the other hand, India relied on Kohli to put runs on the board, and if it wasn’t for two scorching Pathan knocks, the scoreline could have looked even worse. The bowling ranged from disciplined to non-threatening, and ultimately the home team managed to put the touring side away, destroying any Indian hopes of a historic series win.

  • Murali Vijay and Rohit Sharma justified their non-selections for the World Cup with their continued non performances, despite umpteen opportunities. They are a select band of cricketers, who seem to do well only in the IPL and will be pleased that the 4th edition is coming on the heels of the World Cup.
  • On the other hand, Parthiv Patel continues to impress in the limited opportunities that he gets, despite not making any substantial scores. He deserves to be India’s 2nd choice keeper.
  • Sachin Tendulkar figured in all of two ODIs and looked stable without threatening to make a big score. Calm before the storm, perhaps?

  • Along with Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli will be expected to form the backbone of the Indian middle order in the years to come, given his proclivity for standing tall amidst the ruins of batting collapses. Before the series, it was a question of whether Kohli can be accommodated in a line-up of big hitters during the World Cup; now, the question is as to which batting position he should hold.
  • Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni were big disappointments, failing to muster even hundred runs in the series. India can only imagine the state of the series, if they had fired. If they maintain this kind of form over the next two months, India can kiss their chances of winning a World Cup at home, goodbye.
  • While Kohli played himself into the WC playing XI, Suresh Raina has played himself out of it. Once, he was considered the trump card for the tournament, but with the emergence of Pathan and a dip in form and confidence, it is hard to see him being picked ahead of the other contenders.

  • Yusuf Pathan was India’s biggest positive of the series. Despite scoring a thrilling century against New Zealand in the last ODI series, it remained to be seen whether he could reprise these kind of performances against tougher oppositions and in foreign conditions. In a series where he scored two violent innings taking India to victory once and nearly there in the other one, he cleared all doubts and looks set for a big tournament at home.
  • As is the case most often these days, Harbhajan Singh didn’t end the series with a bucket-load of wickets; but he did exert a modicum of control over the batsmen, who seemed hesitant to attack him. If he can transfer this aggressive bowling to the World Cup, India’s chances are much brighter. Finest moment in the series, was helping India to a win at Cape Town – with the bat.
  • Once again, Zaheer Khan was India’s finest bowler in the series. He led the attack well and his mental hold over Grame Smith is as amusing as it is predictable. Along with Pathan, he gave India hope at Centurion. Might have a handy role with the bat at the WC, as well.
  • India’s leading wicket taker was, surprisingly Munaf Patel. With 11 wickets at an average of 18.72, he might just have booked his slot in the playing XI at the WC. Discipline, accuracy and a knack of picking wickets at crucial moments are all valuable assets in pressure situations; and he might yet star in the next two months.
  • After a stellar 2010, Ashish Nehra has been off-color in ODIs since the NZ series. Like Harbhajan, his finest moment came with the bat in Cape Town, but it is his bowling which is under scrutiny. With the good performance of Munaf and Dhoni’s reliance on Praveen Kumar as an ODI specialist, Nehra faces a stiff contest to figure in the playing XI in the WC.
  • An interesting choice for the 15th spot in the WC squad, Piyush Chawla did nothing to justify or rubbish his selection.
  • What is it about Zaheer Khan that Graeme Smith cannot understand? Whatever it is, South Africa will hope that he sorts it out before their clash against India in the World Cup. Otherwise, he had a middling series with just one fifty and will hope to sign off as captain, in glory at the WC.
  • He might be of Indian origin, but Hashim Amla has no qualms about scoring plenty against them as he rounded off another ODI series as the leading run-getter. Going into the World Cup, he will be one of South Africa’s main weapons and it will be a delight to follow him over the next two months.
  • Colin Ingram and David Miller were two players I was looking forward to following more closely, but they couldn’t even last till the end after disappointing in the first half of the series. In Miller’s case, he was not even selected for the World Cup, while Ingram might have just lost his slot in the playing XI to Du Plessis. Still, I believe that Ingram will be one of the players for the future.
  • Morne van Wyk had just two games to make a name for himself, and he grabbed his opportunity with a valuable fifty in the decider, which might see him slot in to the playing XI next month. He is what Ravi Shastri would call a ‘busy’ cricketer with aggressive strokes while batting and lots of bustling on the field. He could become a critical component of South Africa’s World Cup campaign.
  • AB de Villiers capped off a disappointing summer against the Indians with an average of just over 22 in the ODIs. I still maintain that he is going to be one of the players to watch in the World Cup, but he sure does have to regain his mojo fast.
  • Faf du Plessis made a bright entry in international cricket with a fine looking fifty, but after that didn’t really bother the scorers much. With the ball, he looked decent enough without being threatening; but it is a safe bet that he will figure in the starting XI next month.
  • He might have lost his spot in the Test XI but JP Duminy is still going strong in the ODIs. Apart from Amla, he has been the most consistent bat for the Saffers, and his off-spin is a valuable asset to have in subcontinental conditions.
  • The almost-million dollar man for the Rajasthan Royals and the ODI skipper in waiting for South Africa, Johan Botha batted at one position too high for him (at no. 7) and still managed to get some crucial runs particularly at Port Elizabeth. With the ball, he was not extraordinary; then again, it is not expected from him. His finest moment – getting Tendulkar out bowled; forgettable moments – getting the violent treatment from his IPL team-mate Pathan, at Cape Town and Centurion.
  • Wayne Parnell and Robin Peterson didn’t impact in any major way, though Parnell definitely made the series memorable by choking at Jo’burg.

  • It is an amazing transformation by Morne Morkel to become a fearsome operator in the shorter formats, which he sucked at for a long time. With a bowling average of just over 11 and economy rate of less than 4, it is safe to say that he dominated the Indian batsmen so much so that they never really got off to a flyer in any of the five games. Only Pathan seemed to know how to handle him, and even he treated Morkel with more respect than he did with other bowlers. It will be interesting, though to see how he will fare in the subcontinent.

  • Like Munaf Patel, L Tsotsobe (aka Lopsy) was the surprise leading wicket taker for his side, and for the whole series with 13 scalps at 13.53. Over the course of this summer, he has earned a lot of respect from his opposition and a lot of love from the home supporters. He could turn out to be a game changer at the WC if he can adjust to the subcontinental pitches quickly.
  • Dale Steyn was outshone by Morkel and Tsotsobe in this series, but by no means was he inferior to them. His economy rate of under 4 shows a man who is in control of his skill, and it was clear that he had a mental hold over the Indian batsmen. He will still remain as the speedster to watch, at World Cup 2011 and how he fares could determine how far South Africa will progress in the tourney.

As you can see, this series was all about how the two teams were shaping up for the big one – World Cup 2011. India might have lost the series, but as Dhoni said, the emergence of Pathan as a reliable allrounder and the disciplined bowling at the death were the two major positives, keeping the World Cup in mind. I wouldn’t be too worried about the batting – the return of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir will inspire confidence in the middle order, who in any case will regain their form upon setting their sights on familiar pitches. As for South Africa, I’m not too convinced about their middle and lower order. Botha is batting way too high and du Plessis/van Wyk will have tougher tests against better bowling attacks. The inconsistent form of Smith and de Villiers will also be a worry. What will give them a lot of confidence is the way the bowlers and Amla/Duminy are shaping up. All in all, I still consider them to be one of the favorites for the Cup. After all, they did win two deciding ODIs against Pakistan and India and might have just laid the dreaded C word to rest!

My thoughts on the IPL auctions

It’s been a while now, since the IPL auctions got over. I needed some time for the dust to settle, and understand who went where, and how the teams stack up now. Luckily, some sites have done a good job in breaking it down, and following is my personal take on the 2-day television spectacle which gripped cricket-watching people all over the world, whether they loved or hated the IPL.

First of all, when I started following the auction on day 1, I never expected it to be so gripping. It was 12:30 am here, when it started and I expected to go to bed after a couple of hours. Instead, watching the whole drama unfold live, including discussions about it in real time over Twitter and Paddlesweep, kept me awake till 7 am! Throughout those six and a half hours, my emotions varied from excitement to amusement to shock to disgust and finally a sense of resignation. One of the main reasons I stayed up for was to find out where the likes of Swann and Lara would end up, and you can imagine the anger/disappointment, when they were not snapped by any team. Eventually, there were tons of players who were not picked by any team — Ganguly, Gayle, Tamim Iqbal, Ntini, Jaysuriya among several others; and there have been several theories trying to explain them away. So, I am not going to bother trying to understand them. All I can say is, the team owners seemed to have learned their lessons from the first time around, and were building teams which stood a winning chance, instead of giving opportunities to old-timers for one last hurrah or picking players who would miss a sizable portion of the tournament. The Modi-less factor was evident, with teams looking serious and professional, and the auctioneer himself did a commendable job of hurrying the auction along and making sure everything went smoothly. All in all, it was an interesting auction on day 1 which lost a bit of steam on the 2nd day, but nevertheless it was an eyeball-grabbing extravaganza, which will please the BCCI and the Modi-less IPL. Here is the breakdown of the teams:

CHENNAI SUPER KINGS

Batsmen: Suresh Raina (retained), M Vijay (retained), Michael Hussey ($425,000), S Badrinath ($850,000), George Bailey ($50,000)
Bowlers: Doug Bollinger ($700,000), R Ashwin ($850,000), Ben Hilfenhaus ($100,000), Joginder Sharma ($150,000), Nuwan Kulasekara ($100,000), Sudeep Tyagi ($240,000), Suraj Randiv ($80,000), Faf du Plessis ($120,000)
Allrounders: Albie Morkel (retained), Dwayne Bravo ($200,000), Scott Styris ($200,000)
Wicketkeepers: MS Dhoni (retained), Wriddhiman Saha ($100,000)

My thoughts: CSK have been my favorite team, ever since I found out that Hussey, Murali and Ntini figure in the same team in IPL-1. Since then, the team has undergone minor personnel changes, with the loss of Murali and Ntini this year; but they still remain my favorite team. They were the only side, which stayed loyal to the team it has been building for the last few years. You could sense the genuine disappointment, when they couldn’t get back the likes of Murali and Balaji. Having said that, they look one of the better and balanced sides in the tournament, with the inclusions of Styris, Bravo and Randiv. The selections of Hilfenhaus, Joginder and Tyagi are a bit baffling to me, but more surprising is the lack of an alternative opening option for Vijay and Hussey. Hopefully, they will get a good opener from the uncapped player list (I’m hoping for Mukund). All in all, Fleming and Dhoni will be happy to have got the core of the band back together, and will be one of the favorites for IPL-4.

DECCAN CHARGERS

Batsmen: Kevin Pietersen ($650,000), Cameron White ($1.1m), JP Duminy ($300,000), Shikhar Dhawan ($300,000), Michael Lumb ($85,000)
Bowlers: Ishant Sharma ($450,000), Dale Steyn ($1.2m), Pragyan Ojha ($500,000), Amit Mishra ($300,000), Manpreet Gony ($290,000), Chris Lynn ($20,000), Rusty Theron ($85,000)
Allrounders: Dan Christian ($900,000)
Wicketkeepers: Kumar Sangakkara ($700,000)

My thoughts: One of several teams, which have undergone a total revamp. There is no Gilchrist or Symonds this time; neither are Rohit Sharma, Ryan Harris or Scott Styris. Instead, they have gone for ex-RCB big players Pietersen, White, Steyn and have made a couple of smart buys in Sangakarra (who might double as their next keeper-captain), Duminy and Lumb. The Indian contingent so far, doesn’t impress me too much with the likes of Ishant, Mishra and Gony; but Ojha and Dhawan have had success at previous IPLs which will stand them in good stead. They also have a lot of money left, which might yet get them some good domestic uncapped players.

DELHI DAREDEVILS

Batsmen: Virender Sehwag (retained), David Warner ($750,000), Aaron Finch ($300,000), Venugopal Rao ($700,000), Travis Birt ($20,000), Colin Ingram ($100,000)
Bowlers: Morne Morkel ($475,000), Ajit Agarkar ($210,000), Ashok Dinda ($375,000), Umesh Yadav ($750,000), Robert Frylinck ($20,000)
Allrounders: Irfan Pathan ($1.9m), James Hopes ($350,000), Roelof van der Merwe ($50,000), Andrew McDonald ($80,000)
Wicketkeepers: Naman Ojha ($270,000), Matthew Wade ($100,000)

My thoughts: I am not too sold on this team. True, they have the likes of Sehwag, Warner, Finch and Ingram who make up a devastating batting order, but their bowling lineup is too weak. They will miss the control of Vettori and the guile of Nannes. Morkel, Agarkar, Dinda will go for runs on most of the days, and Irfan Pathan is not the smartest of buys either, considering his fitness and form concerns. They better hope that they get some good uncapped players, otherwise they don’t stand much of a chance this time.

KINGS XI PUNJAB

Batsmen: Shaun Marsh ($400,000), David Hussey ($140,000)
Bowlers: Stuart Broad ($400,000), Praveen Kumar ($800,000), Ryan Harris ($325,000), Piyush Chawla ($900,000), Nathan Rimmington ($20,000)
Allrounders: Abhishek Nayar ($800,000), Dimitri Mascarenhas ($100,000)
Wicketkeepers: Adam Gilchrist ($900,000), Dinesh Karthik ($900,000)

My thoughts: Looks like Gilly has to go from captaining an average team, to captaining ANOTHER average team. Despite having lots of money left in their budget, KXP didn’t seem to know what they want, and consequently didn’t pursue any player with particular intent. Their weird spending is highlighted by the equal pay to both the wicketkeepers, and the exorbitant amount spent to purchase Chawla when they could have easily got Swann for less than half that price (I know, I’m ranting again!). They have a couple of good T20 players in Hussey and Broad, but not enough to win matches consistently. Preity has to pray extra hard that she can get some top notch domestic players to fill the gaps before the tournament starts.

KOCHI

Batsmen: Mahela Jayawardene ($1.5m), VVS Laxman ($400,000), Brad Hodge ($425,000), Owais Shah ($200,000), Michael Klinger ($75,000)
Bowlers: Sreesanth ($900,000), RP Singh ($500,000), Muttiah Muralitharan ($1.1m), Ramesh Powar ($180,000), Vinay Kumar ($475,000), Steve O’Keefe ($20,000)
Allrounders: Ravindra Jadeja ($950,000), Steven Smith ($200,000), Thisara Perera ($80,000), John Hastings ($20,000)
Wicketkeepers: Brendon McCullum ($475,000), Parthiv Patel ($290,000)

My thoughts: Someone at Kochi didn’t think this through. Seriously, how could you value a Laxman over Ganguly in this format? They have also supplanted some expensive bowlers in RP Singh and Sreesanth (though this choice is understandable) and chosen possibly the two most maligned spinning allrounders in Smith and Jadeja. They have packed their side with foreign bowlers and allrounders, which means that they will have to rely on their Indian batsmen to get good scores; their options—Laxman, Parthiv and Jadeja. I will give them points for picking Owais Shah, Hodge, Jayawardene, McCullum and (*sob*) Murali.

KOLKATA KNIGHT RIDERS

Batsmen: Gautam Gambhir ($2.4m), Manoj Tiwary ($475,000), Eoin Morgan ($350,000)
Bowlers: L Balaji ($500,000), Brett Lee ($400,000), Jaidev Unadkat ($250,000), James Pattinson ($100,000)
Allrounders: Yusuf Pathan ($2.1m), Jacques Kallis ($1.1m), Shakib Al Hasan ($425,000), Ryan ten Doeschate ($150,000)
Wicketkeeper: Brad Haddin ($325,000)

My thoughts: King Khan can be pleased with the squad he has got so far. First off, they made a ballsy move by not retaining Ganguly, despite the enormous fan base he has in Bengal. Then, they made some good picks in Gambhir (possible skipper), Yusuf Pathan (born for IPL), Kallis, Shakib and Ryan Ten (three of the most valuable allrounders there is). Their bowling attack looks lite considering Balaji’s inconsistency, Unadkat’s inexperience and Lee’s fitness concerns but this should be made up for by their strong allrounders. Ofcourse, they did start the initial IPL with a similarly good team and high hopes; so they will want no repeat of their performances in the first three seasons. Under Gambhir and coach Whatmore, they have possibly the best combination to ensure that. Apart from CSK, they will be favorite team for including the likes of Morgan, Lee, Shakib and Ryan Ten.

MUMBAI INDIANS

Batsmen: Sachin Tendulkar (retained), Rohit Sharma ($2m), Aiden Blizzard ($20,000)
Bowlers: Harbhajan Singh (retained), Lasith Malinga (retained), Munaf Patel ($700,000), Clint McKay ($110,000)
Allrounders: Kieron Pollard (retained), Andrew Symonds ($850,000), James Franklin ($100,000), Moises Henriques ($50,000)
Wicketkeeper: Davy Jacobs ($190,000)

My thoughts: Imagine that you are the opposition captain when the Mumbai Indians are batting. First up, you have Sachin and Davy Jacobs opening. Then you take a look at their team compostion, and see that still to come, are Rohit Sharma, Pollard and Symonds. That is the plight which most captains will find themselves in during the course of IPL-4. They also have a good bowling attack suited for this format in Harbhajan, Malinga, McKay and Munaf. Once, they fill up their squad with uncapped players, they should be having one of the best teams in the tournament. As an aside, I do hope that Harbhajan takes out some time from playing, to teach Symonds Hindi and explain the real meaning of ‘Teri maa ki…’

PUNE WARRIORS

Batsmen: Robin Uthappa ($2.1m), Yuvraj Singh ($1.8m), Graeme Smith ($500,000), Callum Ferguson ($300,000)
Bowlers: Ashish Nehra ($850,000), Murali Kartik ($400,000), Wayne Parnell ($160,000), Jerome Taylor ($100,000)
Allrounders: Angelo Mathews ($950,000), Mitchell Marsh ($290,000), Jesse Ryder ($150,000), Nathan McCullum ($100,000), Alfonso Thomas ($100,000)
Wicketkeeper: Time Paine ($270,000)

My thoughts: A so-so team really. They have good T20 batsmen in Utthappa, Yuvraj and Graeme Smith but I don’t expect them to fire consistently. They have a canny spinner in Murali Kartik (who went shockingly unpicked intially) but injury-prone bowlers in Nehra, Parnell and Taylor. Their allrounders and wicketkeeper consist of foreign players, who are decent, but not awe-inspiring. So, they have a lot of work ahead if they want to compete with the big boys.

RAJASTHAN ROYALS

Batsmen: Ross Taylor ($1m), Rahul Dravid ($500,000)
Bowlers: Shane Warne (retained), Johan Botha ($950,000), Shaun Tait ($300,000), Pankaj Singh ($95,000)
Allrounders: Shane Watson (retained), Paul Collingwood ($250,000)

My thoughts: Possibly, the unluckiest team in the fray. Their purse was cut due to some wrangling with the BCCI, which meant that they had to be smart with their buys. Instead, they spent a whopping amount on Botha alone. Maybe, they are preparing for Warne’s departure by grooming another foreign spinner/captain. Apart from that, the two Indians in the squad – Dravid and Pankaj Singh – are not going to set the world alight. Their remaining picks consist of, an inconsistent but dangerous batsman, a specialist T20 speedster prone to breakdowns, an allrounder who has had reasonable success with the team and an allrounder who has been in poor nick. Apart from CSK, they might be the only team hoping praying for a repeat of the first season!

ROYAL CHALLENGERS BANGALORE

Batsmen: Virat Kohli (retained), Saurabh Tiwary ($1.6m), Cheteshwar Pujara ($700,000), Tillakaratne Dilshan ($650,000), Mohammad Kaif ($130,000), Luke Pomersbach ($50,000), Rilee Rossouw ($20,000), Jonathan Vandiar ($20,000)
Bowlers: Zaheer Khan ($900,000), Dirk Nannes ($650,000), Abhimanyu Mithun ($260,000), Charl Langeveldt ($140,000), Nuwan Pradeep ($20,000)
Allrounders: Daniel Vettori ($550,000), Johan van der Wath ($50,000)
Wicketkeepers: AB de Villiers ($1.1m)

My thoughts: A team, whose batting will revolve around the promising trio of Kohli, Pujara and Tiwary. They also have a couple of good left arm pacers in Zaheer and Nannes, complimented by the spin of Vettori. Other notable foreign imports include de Villiers and Dilshan. Still, I feel that something is missing. I think that they had a better team last year and will have to rely a lot on their uncapped players, to progress far in the tournament. Also, it will be interesting to see their choice of captain – Dictator Dan, young Kohli or a left field pick in Zaheer Khan?

So, my picks for the semifinalists in this season’s IPL include Chennai Super Kings, Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians and Deccan Chargers. The bottom four will possibly be Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Team Kochi, and the middling teams – Royal Challengers Bangalore and Pune Warriors. Feel free to share your thoughts!

NO ‘FRANCHISES’ FOR OLD MEN – THE LATEST IPL NEWS

Finally, there are some interesting developments in the IPL. The latest headlines are regarding the player retentions, and there are a few interesting decisions made by the franchises:

Chennai Super Kings: MS Dhoni, Albie Morkel and Suresh Raina were shoo-ins; but I am surprised with the choice of the other  player. Murali Vijay is a great striker of the ball, and was instrumental in CSK’s good performances in IPL 3 and the Champions League; but they would have been better served if they had retained Ashwin, as CSK is already light in the bowling department, and he was one bowler the team could always rely on, to take wickets or bring down the run rate.

Mumbai Indians: Sachin Tendulkar was a predictable retention; and it must have a close call between Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. What confuses me, is the retention of two foreign players. If I’m not mistaken, only one foreign player could be retained. Anyway, MI went with the right picks, choosing their most destructive foreign imports: Pollard and Malinga.

Rajasthan Royals: Putting aside their legal troubles, RR has retained their two foreign star players, the two Shanes: Watson and Warne. They owe a lot to Warne, and have rightly retained him; and Watson is a very handy player in T20s. What is surprising, is the non-retention of Yusuf Pathan. After all, Warne was so enamored with his batting, calling Pathan’s century in the IPL as the best innings he had ever witnessed (poor long term memory, for sure!). Anyway, given his destructive performace in the recent ODI against NZ, Rajasthan’s loss will be another team’s gain.

Delhi Daredevils: While Virender Sehwag was a certain pick, the exclusions of Gambhir, De Villiers, Warner, Dilshan and Vettori are interesting. They had perhaps the most destructive batting line-up in the IPL, and they could have at least afforded to pick one foreign player. It does look like they are aiming for a fresh start, centering around Sehwag.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: It is hard to believe that in a team which boasted the likes of Kumble, Dravid, Pietersen, Kallis, Steyn, White and Morgan, RCB has decided to retain just one player: the young Virat Kohli. Granted, he has been in tremendous nick, but if at all, you wanted to retain just one player, wouldn’t you have preferred a tried and tested player? Kumble and Kallis were two very instrumental figures in the recent emergence of RCB as a force to contend with in both the IPL and the Champions League, and their non retention could only mean that the RCB is looking for long-term options. It is an interesting decision, and only time will tell if they made the right choice.

Kolkata Knight Riders: One of three teams, which has decided not to retain any players; not a major surprise, considering their poor performances in all three IPLs so far. What is interesting though, is the non retention of Ganguly. A few days back, he had stated his desire to play for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy to prepare for the IPL; so for KKR to drop him, is a bold move. After all, he is their most identifiable player. I wonder how Kolkata itself, will rally around a team which would not include their Dada.

Kings XI Punjab: A team which is not even sure of its participation in the next tournament, they have decided to do away with the whole rabble. Players like Yuvraj, Sangakarra, Irfan Pathan were not really worth investing in.

Deccan Chargers: A team which plays well due to the sum of its parts, more than relying on individual performances; there is no Gilchrist or Symonds to prop them up this time. It will be interesting to see their strategy during the auctions. Will they go the MI way, and pick up big players, or will they go the RR way and pick one big player, and lesser cricketers revolving around that one person? Brian Lara, anyone?