IPL 2019 – Weekend 1 Review

Rishabh-Pant

Rishabh Pant’s brilliant 78 of 27 balls downed MI by 37 runs at the Wankhede Stadium.

pic courtesy The Cricket Times

The season 12 of IPL began last Saturday with it’s usual glitz and glamour. The defending champions Chennai Super Kings took on Royal Challengers Bangalore in the opener at MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai. Let us take a look at all 3 games which took place over the weekend.

Chennai Super Kings (CSK) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) (MAC Stadium Chennai)

Chennai was the venue for the IPL 2019 opener and even though the game was played between two strong teams, the game itself ended up as a snooze fest. The wicket at MAC was slow and low with lots of turn and the batting was incredibly difficult for both the teams. RCB won the toss and batted first and lost their captain Virat Kohli soon for 6. The rest of the batting struggled on a sluggish pitch to end up with a sub-par total of 71 in 17.2 overs. Imran Tahir 3/9 and Harbhajan Singh 3/20 were the chief wreckers for the hosts. The pitch wasn’t ideal for a T20 game and was criticised after the game by CSK captain MS Dhoni. Chennai Super Kings crawled their way to the target in 17.4 overs with the loss of 3 wickets. Overall an underwhelming game for the fans but for the hosts though, this was a perfect start to the tournament.

CSK 71/3 in 17.4 overs (A Rayudu 28, Y Chahal 1/6) beat RCB 71 (P Patel 29, I Tahir 3/9) by 7 wickets.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) (Eden Gardens, Kolkata)

KKR opened their campaign of IPL 2019 with a game against last years finalist SRH at Eden Gardens. KKR won the toss and elected to field first on a very good batting track. SRH did not waste the opportunity with the bat though with David Warner making a brilliant comeback to IPL. He scored 85 of 53 balls and strung a 118 run first wicket partnership with Jhonny Bairstow (39) for the first wicket. SRH due to some late push from Vijay Shankar (40 of 24) reached 181/3 in 20 overs. KKR lost Chris Lynn early in the chase but Robin Uthappa and Nitish Rana added 80 runs for the second wickets to keep them in the hunt. With 64 runs needed of 27 balls, Andre Russell with his brilliant 49 (19) took the game away from the visitors and KKR won the game by 6 wickets with 2 balls to spare.

KKR 183/4 in 19.4 overs (N Rana 68, R Khan 1/26) beat SRH 181/3 (D Warner 85, A Russell 2/32) by 6 wickets.

Delhi Capitals (DC) vs Mumbai Indians (MI) (Wankhede Stadium,Mumbai)

Mumbai Indians won the toss and elected to field first on a very good batting track. DC through Shikhar Dhawan and Colin Ingram kept their run-rate steady after losing Shreyas Iyer and Phritvi Shaw with just 29 runs on the board. The entry of Rishabh Pant though changed the mood completely. Pant who looked in brilliant form completely exploded with the bat and MI bowlers did not realise what hit them. Pant finished on 78 of just 27 balls propelling DC total to 213/6 in 20 overs. For MI though the target proved too stiff in the end as they got bowled out for 176, losing the game by 37 runs. The bowling performance of Kagiso Rabada (2/23) will be a big boost for DC as he will be their trump card at the start of the season. This was a brilliant win for Delhi Capitals as their new look squad this season looks more balanced and they will be looking to build on this win to reach the play-offs this season.

DC 213/6 (R Pant 78*, M McClenaghan 3/40) beat MI 176 (Y Singh 53, K Rabada 2/23) by 37 runs.

Review:

The weekend and the start of IPL season 12 wasn’t the best with a poor pitch at MAC playing the spoilsport. Royal Challengers though have themselves to blame with some daft team selection and some poor shots from the top order. CSK did not have to do much in the chase as they took their time to knock off the runs. CSK read the pitch better than RCB and picked the right team for the conditions. The RCB batters played into their hands by playing some atrocious strokes to lose their wickets as well. Both captain’s were unhappy with the pitch and Dhoni especially was critical of CSK’s home conditions.

SRH who were without their captain will be extremely happy with their batting performance and particularly will be ecstatic with David Warner’s form in the tournament opener. Vijay Shankar who has been a regular in the Indian ODI team recently also did well with the bat. The biggest concern for them will be their bowling. After keeping the runs in check for 15 overs, the last 4 overs saw them completely imploding. Their star bowler Rashid Khan was once again the best with 1/26 in 4 overs. The rest of the attack though have lot to work on in the upcoming games.

The game at Wankhede was a run fest and Rishabh Pant just tore into MI’s bowling attack with a mind blowing innings. MI who were hoping to chase something in the vicinity of 180, suddenly found themselves chasing more than 200 runs. Rishabh Pant’s brilliance meant that MI’s batting struggled to keep up with the rate and ended up on the losing side. Yuvraj Singh scoring some runs will be a good thing for MI as they had hoped for him to provide some stability to the middle order. For DC though, Rishabh Pant’s form at the start of the season will be a boost and they will be hoping to get more out of Prithvi Shaw and Shreyas Iyer in the upcoming games.

Overall a good weekend of cricket and with teams just starting to get their feet wet, we will see them evolve and improve as the tournament goes on.

Some Quotes after the games:

“The wicket definitely needs to be much better, even with dew it was spinning big,” Dhoni said at the post-match presentation ceremony here last night.

“(On Pant) He is a really destructive batsman, that’s the only thing I can say about him. He has matured over the years. Today, he played four dot balls early on and then just took them apart.” Shreyas Iyer in the post match presentation ceremony.

“We made a lot of mistakes today and that was the reason we lost the match. We were in the game in the first 10 overs while bowling but the way Rishabh batted, we have to give the credit to him.” Said Rohit Sharma after their loss to DC.

 

Mid-Table scrum makes IPL V interesting

The IPL V is nearing the Play-offs and we are yet to determine the 4 semi-finalists. The competition this year has been extremely close and we are still unsure of the two teams who will join Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Delhi Daredevils (DD). KKR and DD are without doubt the two strongest teams in the competition. They have won most of their games and have qualified for the play-offs. Both the teams have been excellently led by their respective captains and have a very good bowling attack. The rest of the teams though have been involved in an absolute fight for the final two spots. Let us look at the teams with a chance to make it to the play-offs.

Mumbai Indians – Mumbai Indians are the other strong team who has had a mixed IPL. They have managed to win 3 of their last 4 games and are probably closest to the play-offs with 5 games in hand. Mumbai Indians have struggled with their batting. They have heavily relied on Rohit Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar to get them over the line on most of the occasions which has been their undoing. Probably the induction of Dwayne Smith in the middle order might give them the required spark.

Rajasthan Royals – Rajasthan Royals are the other team who have risen above their underdog status and have posted a serious challenge to the play-offs spot. Shane Watson and Shaun Tait in the playing X1 have given them the required balance and are currently looking like a strong squad.

Royal Challengers Bangalore – The major issue for RCB this season has been their bowling attack. In spite of having Murali in their squad they have been unable to play him due to the squad composition. They have often conceded 170+ totals this season which has greatly affected their batting performance. Their batting too has been highly inconsistent. The heavy reliance on Chris Gayle and AB De Villiers has been striking this season but with Dilshan stepping up to the plate in the recent games things might finally look up for the 2011 finalists. It will be interesting to see if they manage to play Murali in the squad who in spite of taking 8 wickets in 4 games finds himself in the sidelines.

Chennai Super Kings – The defending champions probably have had their worst season by a distance. The team has struggled to find the right combination throughout. Their batting has failed to find consistency and their inability to finish off close games has been the bane for the team from the south. They still have 4 games in hand and are currently looking at winning all the games if at all they want to make it to the play-offs. Things aren’t looking that rosy for the two time champions.

Kings X1 Punjab – They are yet another team who started as an underdog but have far surpassed the pre-tournament expectations. They are currently place 5th on the table with a very good chance of qualifying for the play-offs. In the absence of their captain Adam Gilchrist, David Hussey has led the team admirably well and with the addition of Azhar Mahmood they look a good squad capable of defeating anyone on their day. They have a good bowling attack and are looking good to challenge the top teams this season. It will be interesting to see what their combination would be when Gilchrist returns.

This has probably been the first season where the competition has been so close. There are just few games to go and we are still not sure of the semi-final line up. All the teams mentioned above have a great chance of making it to the play-offs. The teams cannot afford a slip up anymore and the captains would be aware of that. The next few days will be extremely interesting and could decide the fate of most of the teams.

Chennai the champions and an incredible Davis Cup triumph

Champions Trophy (Cricket) and Davis Cup (Tennis), the two major events which took place last month had one thing in common. The common factor was Chennai, my hometown. The Champions Trophy cricket was won by Chennai Super Kings and the Davis Cup tie between India and Brazil was held in Chennai. I was in India while both these events took place and was fortunate enough to witness them at a convenient time zone.

The Davis Cup was held in Chennai’s Nungambakkam stadium where the yearly Chennai open takes place. The venue was chosen by India’s number 1 player Somdev Devvarman as hard court is his favorite surface and he felt that the city’s heat and humidity will work against the visitors. But when Bopanna took on Thomaz Bellucci who happens to be ranked 27th in the world, the weather in Chennai was uncharacteristically pleasant. The game which was supposed be an easy one for the Brazilian turned out to be a 5 set marathon.

Bopanna played a brilliant game and should have won it but mistakes at crucial times in the final set cost him the match. With Brazil leading 1-0, Somdev stepped on the court to face Brazil’s second best player Ricardo Mello. This game was supposed to go India’s way and after the first set it did not seem otherwise. Somdev breezed through the first set and it seemed like the first day will end with the honors even between the two teams. After the first set Ricardo Mello upped his game quite a bit and Somdev started wilting under the pressure exerted by the Brazilian. It was another 5 set epic and another victory to Brazil and India got off to the worst possible start. Brazil would have been thrilled to be 2-0 up after the first day. The decision to play on the hard court seemed to have back fired and it seemed like the Brazilians were not minding the Chennai weather either.

After the disappointing first day the onus was completely on the champion doubles team of Leander and Mahesh to keep the Indian team in the hunt. Leander and Mahesh played a brilliant game defeating the Brazilian pair of Marcelo Mello and Bruno Soares in straight sets to get the first victory for India. The third day began with India needing to win both the reverse singles game and boy did they play well. Both Somdev and Bopanna played brilliant tennis to win their respective games to had India one of the most famous Davis cup victories and an entry into the world group.

The other major event which concluded just a week ago was the Champions trophy. The event this year was held in South Africa and three IPL teams participated in the same. Chennai Super Kings who were the IPL Champions began their campaign in style when they demolished Central Districts by 57 runs in the opening game. Chennai seemed to have the best team suited to the conditions in South Africa. Their batting was strong and had one of the most balanced bowling attacks for the pitches in South Africa. Chennai just lost a single game in the round robin stage to Victoria and that too in the super over.

Things weren’t that rosy for the other IPL teams in the championship. Mumbai struggled for consistency in both batting and bowling and Bangalore had issues with their bowling attack. The Royal Challengers though made it to the semis with the help of couple of big wins as Mumbai Indians made a sorry exit from the event. The Royal Challengers faced the Super Kings in a one sided semifinals where Suresh Raina hammered an unbeaten 90 odd to steer his team to the finals. Bangalore though struggled throughout the game after their strike bowler Steyn injured himself taking a difficult catch to dismiss Hussey. Their bowling and fielding completely fell apart and they allowed Chennai to pile up 170+ in 17 overs. In the end the target proved too much for the Royal Challengers team who succumbed without a fight.

Chennai’s opponents in the finals were the home team Warriors who had been brilliant till then in the competition. The finals though again was a one sided affair as Chennai demolished the Warriors batting to dismiss them to a modest 128. Chennai knocked of the required runs without much fuss in 19 overs with 8 wickets still in hand. It was a brilliant win for the team from Chennai and they once again proved that they are one of the most consistent teams in the IPL pack. This was also an emotional moment for the franchise and the players as this was a last game for them as a team before the players will be shuffled again in a fresh auction later this year. In a way this was a nice farewell for a bunch of players who had worked extremely hard and have emerged victorious in the IPL 3 as well as in the champion’s league becoming the first team from IPL to achieve the double.

All in all a brilliant win for Dhoni and Chennai Super Kings. Hopefully we will see the franchise carrying this legacy forward, no matter what team they put forward next year. All in all a good month for Indian sports and I had a blast watching all of it during my vacation without the worries of losing my sleep in doing so.

Chennai Super Kings the deserving champions

Chennai Super Kings win the IPL III defeating Mumbai Indians

Two semi-finals and one final appearance later Chennai Super Kings lead by Dhoni won the IPL title defeating Mumbai at D Y Patil stadium in Mumbai. It was a brilliant win by CSK as they were almost down and out half way through the tournament. Credit has to be given to the captain and the support staff along with the players who showed tremendous mental fortitude to script this turnaround.

For Mumbai though this was a day of mistakes as dropped catches and poor decisions with batting order punctuated their performance in the finals. Sachin Tendulkar will be really disappointed as Mumbai Indians were the best side in this IPL. Even though I was happy to see Chennai Super Kings win, I was really sad to see Sachin in the losing side. But in the end Dhoni’s captaincy and Chennai’s superior fielding was the difference between the two sides.

When Dhoni won the toss and elected to bat everyone knew that Chennai had the upper hand as teams chasing at the D Y Patil stadium had struggled in the past. The Chennai batsmen started cautiously with Hayden’s continued struggle at the top of the order and with Vijay having to do the bulk of the scoring. But the real push for the Chennai innings came when Dhoni joined Raina at the middle as they both hammered the Mumbai bowlers to set up a competitive total. Mumbai Indians did not help themselves as they fluffed two chances both of Suresh Raina and the Chennai batsman made them pay with an unbeaten 57 of 35 balls.
When Mumbai began their chase in the pursuit of 169 to win the IPL III crown Doug Bollinger and Ravichandran Ashwin choked them for runs. Bollinger sent Dhawan early and Sachin along with Nayyar forged a decent partnership but the run rate was well within control for the CSK. Murali, Ashwin and Jakati were difficult to get away and the Chennai fielders put lots of pressure on the Mumbai batsmen. Even though Keiron Pollard’s late flourish gave some hopes to MI chances, Chennai Super Kings won the game comfortably by 22 runs in the end.

It was a brilliant display by the Chennai team which was brilliantly led by their cool captain Dhoni. Stephen Fleming the coach of Chennai Super Kings also deserves a special mention along with the other support staff. Chennai was helped by the arrival of the Aussie Doug Bollinger as his presence in the team provided the much needed potency to the bowling attack. Dhoni’s decision to open the bowling with Ashwin turned out to be the masterstroke as the youngster responded brilliantly to finish as the most economical bowler of the IPL III. Suresh Raina as usual was brilliant and the turnaround of Vijay from a correct player to a swashbuckling opener was amazing. Badri was consistent and Anirudha Srikkanth played couple of crucial knocks in the end. Murali and Morkel should not be forgotten as they both contributed handsomely towards the CSK progress throughout the tournament.

Dhoni was brilliant with the bat and was very shrewd with his captaincy. Even though Chennai was not the best team in IPL III but they were the most consistent team across the three IPL’s. They were for sure the most deserving champions in IPL.

World T20 update – Sehwag’s injury a definite blow to the Indians

Virendar Sehwag ruled out of World T20

With just a week left for the start of World T20, India received a body blow when Virendar Sehwag was declared unfit due to a shoulder injury. This is indeed a huge setback for the Indians as Sehwag is a key member at the top of the order along with Ghambir. Sehwag had missed the 2009 version of the tournament too under similar circumstances.

Sehwag absence means that Murali Vijay gets a chance at the top of the order. Vijay has been in brilliant form for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL III but I am not sure whether he would be able to replicate the same at the international level. Sehwag played all the games for the Dare Devils in the IPL III, so his shoulder injury is kind of a surprise to me. He couldn’t have suddenly picked up the injury, so he should have been having it for a while. This raises the question as to whether the franchises should be more careful with the Indian recruits when they have a major tournament coming up right after the IPL.

IPL is a long tournament and I would be happy if the Franchises kind of rotate the Indian team players over the course of the series. I don’t think it is necessary for the players to play the entire tournament. Especially when the Indian team is going to participate in a major tournament right after the IPL, the team management needs to be little bit careful. I know that an injury can be picked anytime as we have seen players getting injured on the morning of the match while training but with a hectic tournament like IPL the possibilities are more.

With number of games increased for the next year’s edition, the teams have to be more careful about player fatigue. Resting major players in the team for few games in between shouldn’t hurt I feel. Indian Players representing CSK (Chennai Super Kings) and Mumbai Indians hardly get any rest before they fly to WI and will have to immediately get going. India does not even have breaks between matches as both their games are back to back in the World T20.

There is just couple of games left for the conclusion of the IPL and I hope that none of our bowlers get injured in the process as Vinay Kumar, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer and Bajji will be playing over the next two days. Sehwag’s injury should be lesson to the team management and the Franchises as representing India is more important.

Sehwag’s absence was felt in last year’s world cup when the youngsters struggled against short pitched bowling. Whether Vijay will be able to step into the shoes of Sehwag is something we have to wait and see. Ghambir will have the added responsibility of guiding the youngster through in a major event like the World T20. Hope that the rest of the team can pull their weight and guide the Indian team to their second title.

IPL 2 – Chennai Super Kings Profile

I am from Chennai and there is no doubt in which team I will be supporting in this year’s edition of IPL. Chennai Super Kings were in the finals last year and I hope that this year they can go one step further. Chennai Super kings have an interesting squad. This year they have added Andrew Flintoff to their ranks. I don’t rate Flintoff too high for his batting but he is a fantastic bowler.

The Chennai Super Kings this year have a balanced squad. Hayden will be available for the entire season which will be a big boost for the team. Stephen Fleming will be the coach and the player for the Super Kings. The bowling looks much stronger this year with the addition of Andrew Flintoff. So Makhaya Ntini, Jacob Oram, Balaji, Gony, Flintoff, Albie Morkel and Muthaih Muralitharan form the bowling for the Chennai super Kings.

The batting last year was the strong point for the team. Viydut and Parthiv formed a good opening partnership with Raina, Badrinath and Dhoni forming the middle order followed by the all rounder Albie Morkel. With Hayden available for the entire season, this year the selection is going to be a head ache for the Super Kings captain and the coach. Hayden might get into the side and they have to juggle the bowlers a little bit this season. Since the Kings have three all-rounders at their disposal, it’s going to be interesting as to who they are going to pick in the eleven. The four international players rule will make sure that there is going to be just one international batsman who will make the eleven. So that spot will be taken by Hayden.

Morkel might be one of the All-rounder’s in the squad along with Andrew Flintoff. They might juggle between Morkel and Oram for the initial part of the season till Flintoff leaves to play for England. Balaji and Gony might play in the team as the bowlers with Murali and Ntini forming the rest of the order. So my starting eleven at least for the first few games will be as follows,

Team: Hayden, Parthiv (Or Viydut), Suresh Raina, Badrinath, M S Dhoni (Captain), Andrew Flintoff, Albie Morkel, L Balaji, Gony, Murali and Ntini.

That makes it very balanced squad. They might have few changes here and there during the course of the competition as they have young talents like, Murali Vijay and also Srilankan Thilan Thushara. Jacob Oram might get into the squad once Flintoff leaves. So there is an embarrassment of riches for the Chennai super kings this year.

The biggest advantage for the team is having Dhoni as their captain as he was fantastic last year leading both the Indian team and the Chennai super kings. He had limited resources last year and did a fantastic job with the team and with two South Africans in the team he will have a great chance of making it to the final four this year too.

Good luck to the super kings and it will be a fantastic learning experience for the Indian youngsters as they will be playing in SA and will be surrounded by greats of the game. They can learn a lot by speaking to the international players and see how they prepare for a game and also learn about the right areas to bowl on wickets which have some pace and bounce for the bowlers. I was looking at the cricinfo round table about the IPL, where the experts said that the Indians will struggle in SA, which is absolute nonsense as we just won the world cup couple of years back with inexperienced players.

I guess the Indian players will just do fine there and will surely come back as better and confident players after the IPL is over. Let’s hope that this edition of IPL is as good as the previous year in terms of quality of the cricket games. I know that the atmosphere cannot be matched as the games are not in India but I am sure that the SACB will try their level best to generate interest among the general public in SA.

IPL 2 in SA – A Bad Precedent

IPL 2 is going to begin in a week’s time and it being held in South Africa has already been well documented in the media. There has been lots of stuff written about the positive and the negative effects of the shift. As for me the only positive thing about conducting IPL in SA is that the tournament will happen and the foreign players will not have any issues with the security. As far as the image of India goes it’s a huge set back.

We have big events like the Commonwealth games and the World Cup coming to the subcontinent in the next couple of years and the IPL shift has put both those events in jeopardy. I am not saying that these events cannot happen in India but people will raise concerns citing IPL as the example. In my previous article I had praised BCCI and Lalit Modi for getting the tournament underway albeit in a different location in a very short notice. Lalit Modi did what was best for the tournament to happen. You can’t blame him or the BCCI for wanting the tournament to go through without interruption.

Yeah they could have done some modifications to the tournament by cutting down the games and by juggling the venues here and there to suit the elections but still they needed support from the government. The Indian government is equally to be blamed on this move. I am sure it was a political decision to make sure that the event doesn’t happen during the general elections. The only way IPL could have happened in India was to postpone it to a later date and cutting the number of games to half as it has to end before the ICC World Twenty20 which starts in June. That would have been tough on the BCCI and most of the players have National commitments coming up in May before the world cup.

England will be playing WI in May, which would have made sure that they will not be able to participate in the IPL.

Having said that it would have been okay if few players did not make it this time around but would the BCCI have got the necessary support from the Indian Government? That’s a question only Government of India can answer. I guess it was the responsibility of both the parties to make sure that the tournament happened in India. I guess both the BCCI and the Indian government had to sit down and could have chalked out a plan which worked for both of them. Conducting a tournament of IPL’s magnitude would have gone a long way in clearing the security concerns in India.

Now with India unable to conduct and provide security for an Indian domestic tournament has left the WC 2011 in a big danger. Already there have been talks of the WC being taken away from the subcontinent after the recent attacks on the Srilankan players in Pakistan. International players do not want to go there and the ICC might have to shift the tournament elsewhere if the situation continues. India needs to be careful as they might isolate themselves from the rest of the world if they aren’t careful.

By moving IPL to SA the BCCI have set a wrong precedent and they cannot be blamed totally for that. There will be blame games with each of them pointing fingers at the other but the ultimate sufferers are the Indian fans. IPL not being held in India will be hard on us. Instead of watching Chennai SuperKings in MA Chidambaram stadium, I have to watch it on TV with them playing in Durban or Johannesburg and it will not be the same.