The IPL season 5 is all set to begin tomorrow in Chennai with a grand opening ceremony. Like in 2011, CSK (Chennai Super Kings) will again start as the favorites. They have been the most consistent team across the seasons with 2 wins, 1 finals and 1 semi-final appearance. The success of the CSK team has been their squad. They were able to retain almost all their key players who made their franchise a grand success. Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, Mike Hussey, Badrinath and Dhoni have been pillars of CSK batting since season one. Albie Morkel and Dwayne Bravo have fitted perfectly well as the all-rounders in the middle order with Ashwin and Bollinger being the bowling stars.
Ravindra Jadeja has been the only addition to the already strong CSK side. He will probably play in the place of Jakati or Bravo in the squad. The addition of Ben Hilfenhaus will for sure bolster their weak pace attack this season. So overall like all the other seasons, it will be hard to write of Dhoni’s Chennai super kings. They will for be one of the favorites to at least reach the knock-out rounds.
Mumbai Indians (MI) has been the other strong side across the seasons. They were the losing finalists in 2010 and made the semis last year. With Tendulkar stepping down as the captain, this will be a great opportunity for Harbajan Singh to take MI over the line this time. The Mumbai team also has some great batters but their strength has been their bowling. The biggest drawback for the MI team has been their over reliance on Sachin Tendulkar to hold their innings together. The form of Pollard might give some relief to the Mumbai lower order this season.
RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) is the other team with an opportunity to win this year. The team is extremely talented and has Chris Gayle in their ranks. The in-form Indian sensation Virat Kohli was the only one retained in the squad from the season 1. The batting in spite of having some good hitters has heavily relied on Chris Gayle to provide them with a blistering start. This strategy of RCB cost them dearly in the finals in 2011. The teams realized that they just had to get Gayle early and they couple pressurize their middle order. They CSK bowlers succeeded doing the same in the one-sided finals last year.
KKR (Kolkata Knight Riders) are the fourth team with a shot at the title this year. The team led by Ghambir had a great 2011 IPL and finally looked like a team playing to their potential. The KKR management completely revamped their side and it worked wonders for the franchise and they will be hoping that their team can go all the way this time too.
The other teams have been hardly consistent and will have to play out of their skins to challenge the top four. The IPL begins tomorrow with a clash between the defending champions Chennai versus Mumbai Indians in the MA Chidambaram stadium. It will be a keen contest but both teams for sure will be little rusty. Even though the tournament is exciting the length of the tournament is definitely a dampener. Hopefully we will see some good young talents coming out at the end of this season.
Ashoke Dinda was one of the few Indian pacers to impress in IPL III
The Indian team for the World T20 was announced couple of weeks back and there was hardly any surprises in the squad. Vinay Kumar got his maiden call up to the national team, a reward for his excellent performances in the domestic arena. Piyush Chawla too gets a call up ahead of Ojha and Mishra as the second specialist spinner in the squad. The rest of the team picked themselves.
The fact that Ashish Nehra makes it to the squad right after a prolonged injury break with hardly any practice proves how much the selectors are deprived of options. Praveen Kumar the other pace bowler in the squad has been pretty ordinary in the IPL after few good games at the start. Mithun and Tyagi have been pretty disappointing in the IPL and don’t look like T20 bowlers, similar to Ishant. Ishant himself has been pretty ordinary for the past couple of years.
So we are going into the world cup with two world class bowlers in Zaheer Khan and Harbajan Singh, one debutant, one bowler coming back from injury and one bowler making a comeback into the team. The selection pretty much emphasizes the problem we have with the bowling. So basically the selectors have done the best they can with the limited resources at their disposal.
But heartening thing is that after a pretty bad beginning by the Indian bowlers in the IPL III the second leg has showcased some good young bowlers. Ashoke Dinda of KKR, Sid Trivedi of Rajasthan Royals, Harmeet Singh of Deccan Chargers and Umesh Yadav of Delhi Daredevils have all impressed with their bowling at crucial junctures for their respective teams. The spinners also have been on song like Ravichandran Aswin, Pragyan Ojha and Jakati have been fantastic throughout the tournament.
So it seems we have some gas left in the tank after all. The problem is tapping the talent and giving them breaks at the right time. Bowlers like Mithun and Tyagi should not be ignored either. More than having talents at your disposal, knowing when and how to give them chances are important. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the bowlers and using them appropriately is something the selectors have to look into.
Even though the bowling looks thin for India in the World T20, I am happy that the selectors at least tried something different by giving a break to Vinay Kumar.
Deccan chargers with the IPL trophy
Who would have thought at the start of IPL 2 that DC and BLR will be in the finals? It was just a scriptwriter’s dream as to how these two teams made it to the finals against all odds. The IPL 2 was a big success considering that it was staged outside India. The grounds were full all the time and the support from the South African public was phenomenal. First of all thanks to the people of SA for the excellent support and hope they were entertained.
When the IPL started the favorites were the RR, DD, CSK and Kings X1 to make it to the last four. KKR was the most hyped team and I never thought they had a chance to make it to the semis. When the tournament reached the final stages only DD and CSK fulfilled their potential. The final four was a surprise to everyone when BRC and DC joined DD and CSk.
BRC’s biggest signing of the year KP was the biggest flop for them in terms of both captaincy and a player. The franchise owners should realize that getting expensive international players isn’t going to help their cause. As Dhoni rightly pointed out, teams with good domestic players will have the edge. KKR does not have a good pool of young Indian players and their over reliance on foreign batters cost them heavily. The fact that they had to play 4 foreign players in the top order forced them not to play Langaveldt and Mortaza till the final two games.
The fairy tale ride for BRC began when KP went back to England to face WI and Anil Kumble was made the captain of the team. Anil led by example and bowled beautifully throughout the series and claimed most wickets for his team with a brilliant economy rate. BRC recovered exceedingly well from an early slump to claim a semi-final birth alongside CSK, DD and DC. They unearthed a little gem in Manish Pandey who scored a brilliant hundred and the first by an Indian in the IPL. He is just 19 years old and I hope that he has a great future.
DC though had a different route to the finals. They started off in a brilliant fashion winning their first four games but had a bumpy ride after that. They needed Chennai to beat Kings X1 to assure them a Semi-Finals spot. Their biggest assets were their youngsters like Suman, Rohit (Who even got a hattrick this season) and RP Singh. Adam Gilchrist made the captain this season also helped Deccan a lot as he led them brilliantly and also was their highest run getter.
DD and CSK though will be very disappointed with their Semi-Finals effort and both the teams lost pretty easily in their respective games. Batting deserted both DD and CSK when they needed the most and the tags of favorites also probably put lots of pressure on the youngsters. DD relied heavily on foreign recruits for their batting as Sehwag and Ghambir were not in great form. CSK though had Matthew Hayden in brilliant form at the top, followed by Raina, Badri and Dhoni who were a great supporting act. All in all it was a brilliant season for the tournament favorites but they will be really disappointed with their efforts in the Semi’s.
The final though was played between probably the worst two teams of 2008 edition of the IPL. It was a brilliant game and both the teams fought tooth and nail for the trophy and finally Deccan Chargers emerged victorious by a whisker. Chasing 144 to win in the finals on that pitch should have been achieved by the BRC batters but the constant pressure applied by the DC bowlers caused them to lose wickets at regular intervals.
All in all it was a brilliant tournament and in terms of cricketing standards, it was better than IPL 1. The games were closer and so was the tournament. 7 teams had a chance to get in to the semis till the last week. Bowlers had more of a say this time. Totals over 200 was achieved only once this year and totals under 120 was defended successfully twice.
Congrats again to Deccan for the brilliant win and also to Adam Gilchrist who led by example and sparked a great turnaround for the franchise.
How things can change in couple of weeks in cricket. I wrote an article couple of weeks back about DD and DC dominating the IPL2, but while DD are still at the top of the rankings, DC is fighting with the rest of the teams for the Semi-Finals spot. CSK have been the biggest movers in the last few weeks. They have now won 5 games in a row to move to the second place behind DD.
CSK have got the right combination going with Jakati and Tyagi being great additions to the team. Batting at the top has been firing for them and the bowlers are doing their job. CSK have almost got themselves at the door for the semi-finals spot. They have 4 games to go and 1 or 2 wins will ensure them a spot in the semi-finals. The only concern for the CSK is their fielding. They have dropped awful lot of catches in the tournament and almost lost the game against Kings X1 due to their bad fielding.
Dhoni was quick to acknowledge the same. They gave an improved performance against the Rajasthan Royals over the weekend but they have a long way to go in that respect. Batting has been phenomenal with Hayden at the top doing wonders for them with great support from Raina, Badri and Dhoni. Bowling has been adequate with Murali doing well with Balaji, Tyagi, Jakati and Morkel doing the support act. All in all it has been a brilliant week for the Dhoni’s men. I hope that they lift the trophy this year.
Delhi has continued their brilliant run in the competition with couple of wins over the past week and has done well without Sehwag. Ghambir has captained the team well and David Warner has done the job for them in the absence of Sehwag. Their bowling also has been consistent with Nannes and Nehra doing a brilliant job at the top and Mishra doing a good supporting act. I would like to see McGrath getting a game in the competition. Probably they can rest Nannes for a game and give McGrath a go as Delhi are almost a certainty for the semi-finals spot.
The Rajasthan Royals though have had a good week too. As I am writing this article they are playing Deccan Chargers in an important game. RR have won 3 and lost 1 over the past week and are currently sitting at number 3 in the rankings. Batting has been the biggest worry for the RR’s and Shane Watson pulling out due to injury would have been a big setback for them. RR though has found a good opening partner for Smith in Naman Ojha. He has been consistent and has looked good. RR though is still to find a consistent playing X1. They are also well placed for a semi-finals spot at this moment.
DC though has had a bad week. After four wins on the trot, they have just won 1 out of the next 5 games. They are barely hanging on to the top four at this moment with Kings X1, Mumbai Indians and BRC breathing down their neck. With KKR totally out of contention, it’s between, Punjab, Mumbai and Bangalore to compete to get to the top four this week.
Bangalore play KKR tomorrow and a win would place them in top 5 and a shot to push for the semi-finals spot this week. All in all it has been another fantastic week in IPL2 with constant changes in the ranking with every game. The top spot has changed at least 3-4 times over the last week which shows how close all the teams are this year. I am happy as my team has finally captured the form which got them to the finals last year and I hope that this year they go one step further.
As I write this article, CSK have just thumped DC to register their 3rd consecutive victory in IPL2 to move to top position in the table. The last one week has been brilliant for BRC and CSK as they have shrugged of the indifferent form to get back into the tournament. This IPL is much closer than last year and it seems like any of the 7 teams (KKR excluded) can make it to the Semi-Finals.
This was a disappointing week for the Deccan Chargers as they have had 3 poor games in a row now. Their batting has failed and their fielding also has let them down. Dropped catches and misfields have cost them dearly in the last few games. Delhi Daredevils have also had couple of losses in a row now. Their batting let them down on both the occasions.
Sehwag and Ghambir haven’t fired yet for them and that is costing DD a lot in IPL 2. DD though would be really happy with the debut of Australian David Warner as he made a brilliant 50 against the CSK over the weekend.
The other team on the rise is BRC. BRC were the worst team in the first edition but this time they seem to have found the right combination. They thrashed Mumbai Indians by 9 wickets yesterday to register their 3rd consecutive win and fourth overall to reach the top 4. Kallis seems to be in great form and with Dravid back in the side and Boucher firing in the middle order they seem to be serious contenders for the semi-finals spot. Uthappa also came back to form with a brilliant 60 odd against the Mumbai Indians.
Mumbai Indians and RR though have had mixed results over the last one week and are also in the running for the semi-finals spot with 3 wins and 3 losses. MI had their batting to blame against the BRC yesterday and it seems like they rely too much on Sachin and Jayasuriya to give them a good start. Kings X1 Punjab have also had a good tournament so far after losing their first 2 games. They have won 4 out of the next 5 games which puts them at 2 spot currently on the table behind CSK.
KKR are languishing at the bottom of the table and have had another poor week. They haven’t won any games in the past week and look like the only team who don’t have any chance of making it to the Semis. Their biggest problem has been their batting. Ganguly and Mccullum have been the biggest offenders. Brad Hodge has been consistent and with Chris Gayle going back to resume his National duties, it’s going to get tougher for them. The good news though for them is that David Hussey might be back for them this week as Aussies have wrapped up the ODI series against the Pakistanis.
There will be few Aussies who will return to join their franchises this week. Brett Lee will join Kings X1 and Shane Watson will join the RR. These two will be the biggest in terms of the effect they can have on their respective teams. Shane Watson is in brilliant batting form and is a good bowler and his return will give Shane Warne a big relief.
All in all it’s been another brilliant week of cricket with lots of close games. I am happy as my team CSK is doing great.