Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mid IPL Review - 2

Here is the 2nd edition of the Mid IPL Reviews
The IPL is on full swing. And the situation is becoming clearer but it still is a long way to go. Here are the highlights as I see them.
  • The injury spate continues. Wayne Parnell is the new victim this time. Dhoni has recovered though.
  • Momentum seems to be the key word. KKR won the first 2 games and since then have lost 3 on the trot. RCB won 4 in a row. Rajasthan are suddenly on 3 game winning streak after having been almost counted out of the tournament after the initial losses. So little time between matches makes it worse for the teams. So winning & losing seem to become a habit.
  • Yusuf Pathan, when in mood can murder the attack. Teams have to get him early.
  • Shane Warne is back in form & is again beginning to inspire the team.
  • Sachin Tendulkar & Jacques Kallis showed that T20 is not about hitting big sixes only.
  • Never trust a Sri Lankan bowler to deliver in the Super Over.
  • VVS Laxman looks a total misfit in T20.
  • Bangalore is the best crowd. Has a pretty good pitch. And the team is in form.
  • Indian batsmen have problems with the shorter ball.
  • The mongoose power came on display. But couldn't stand any ground against Harbhajan & Kumble.
  • AB de Villiers catching Praveen Kumar.
  • Yuvraj reverse sweeping Murali for 4 during super over.
  • Danny Morrison calling DD as Double Ds.
  • Manish Pandeeee seems to be the most mispronounced name.
Team Reviews
  • RCB: Seem the most settled. Foreigners & Indians all playing well.
  • MI: A well balanced team and also performing well.
  • RR: Suddenly have got the momnetum going while having lost quite a few players. Their performance defies logic.
  • KKR: Back to 2009 form. Dada has to lead by example, and not the current one he is setting.
  • DC: The one team defying momentum. But team not really performing that well.
  • DD: Gambhir missing. Last year's heroes Dilshan & de Villiers not performing at all. Collingwood should get a chance.
  • Kings XI: Havent really got on to the field at all. Players seem to be playing in different zones.
  • CSK: The bowling lineup is really weak

Now for the semi-finals lineup predictions after 2nd week: RCB, MI, DC. The last spot is becoming more and more difficult to predict with a 3 way battle between RR, DD, CSK. KKR continue to languish & this time they have got Kings XI for company. But it still is a long way to go.

Coming up next week
The Brits, Kiwis & Aussies will join the party.  

Friday, March 26, 2010

The T20 World Cup Squad

Today morning, I had made predictions for the composition of the Indian team for the T20 World Cup. Well, the composition of the squad is the same as I had predicted, though there were a couple of changes in the personnel concerned. The national selectors picked Piyush Chawla over Amit Mishra (a real surprise) and decided to continue with the unfulfilled promise of Rohit Sharma over the unexplored potential of Manish Pandey (I had expected Virat Kohli). So 13 out of 15, not too great, not too bad either.

Team does have a few injured players (Nehra & Gambhir, Dhoni has just recovered from injury). This might cause serious problems in West Indies. Maybe a couple of backups shpould also be sent along with the first XV.
Dhoni, Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Raina, Rohit Sharma, Yusuf Pathan, Karthik, Jadeja, Harbhajan, Chawla, Zaheer, Praveen, Vinay Kumar & Nehra.

Best Tweet on Chawla's selection: "obviously selectors were fed up of playing musical chair game with just two spinners so they added chawla to make it more interesting... "

The T20 World Cup - My Picks

Today the selectors are going to announce the Indian team for the T20 World Cup to be held in West Indies. If I was the selectors this would be my XV.
Dhoni, Sehwag, Gambhir, Yuvraj, Raina, Yusuf, Karthik, Pandey, Jadeja, Harbhajan, Mishra, Zaheer, Praveen, Vinay Kumar, Nehra.
8 batsmen (including 2 wicket-keepers), 3 spinners & 4 seamers. Given the current slow nature of the West Indies pitches (as evident from the recent West Indies-Zimbabwe series), I believe this is the ideal combination. Although there is uncertainity over Nehra due to injury. In that case, probably Ishant should get a look in.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Slipstream Century

Ian Bell has finally done it. It took him ten attempts but he finally got there.
Against Bangladesh in the 2nd Test at Mirpur, Bell scored his 10th Test century. And unlike his previous 9, this time around none of the other batsmen in the English lineup had already reached a century. It may have been a mere coincidence but this unique statistics was always highlighted by Bell haters (and there are a lot of them). He has been accused of scoring easy runs (the 9 slipstream centuries, an average of over nearly 250 against Bangladesh). In fact it was suggested that Bell was the best batsman to come in and score runs after the team has reached a total of 400. And there was this tendency to play little elegant innings and get out.
But things may finally be looking up. He did play a fighting innings, generally the kind played by Collingwood, to help save the 3rd test against South Africa. And in the current test also, England werent exactly in a comfortable position when Bell batted them through.
Hopefully this innings would be the start of a new batting era for Ian Bell, cause when he is playing well, he is definetely amongst the better to watch batsman in the present times.

P.S. This blog post was waiting to be written for quite some time. After all, a comment about Bell's batting published on cricinfo was the push I needed to get this blog started.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mid IPL Review - 1

The 3rd season of IPL has completed one week now. And its time for a quick review of the things going on.So far 10 league game s have been held with all teams having played at least 2 each. Its still early days into the tournament and quite a lot is going to change.

First some random observations
  • Spate of injuries. Dhoni, Gambhir, Nehra, Smith, Mascrenhas, Lee, Harbhajan are all missing varying number of matches due to injuries. And quite a few of these were picked during the games. Many others are also not fully fit either. World Twenty20 would become more complex to predict if this continues.
  • Sachin is God. Wherever he plays its a home ground for him.
  • Indian domestic players cannot handle the short ball. Badly exposed by RCB bowlers against Royals
  • The Ads are becoming more and more pathetic. The Idea oongli cricket is terrible; Micromax ones are worse; Even the Zoozoos seem to be suffering from seconde season blues.
  • The coverage is more and more commercialised. Stadium ads are being telecast on TV. Commentators are still going on about DLF Maximums & Cit- Moments of Success. Karbonn Kamaal Catch is  new entry. GOK where they will go on to.
  • The Bugle is being used on the crowds like Pavlov used the bell on his dogs.
And now for the team performances
  • Mumbai Indians lineup is looking in ominous form. Good mix of players, young & old, Indian & foreign, are providing a strong lineup. They also became the first team to field less than 4 foreigners in a game in all editions of IPL. The young Indian brigade of Saurabh Tiwary, Rayudu, Sathish are performing well so far.
  • Knight Riders started really well, winning the first 2 games before losing the 3rd. Good thing for them is that they have more overseas players joining in the coming weeks. Gayle, McCullum, Hussey are yet to join. The Indians arent performing that well though.
  • Bangalore has an awesome match atmosphere when playing at home. The chants of R-C-B must be really inspiring for the players. And they seem to have the most solid playing XI on current form. Though their batting didnt failed to perform against KKR. But the way 203 was chased down against Kings XI should be a warning to everyone. And Ross taylor is still to join. Dravid, Morgan & Boucher havent been required at all.
  • Rajasthan Royals are severely depleted. Injuries to Smith, Mascrenhas havent helped. Watson is yet to join, though he also is injured currently. Jadeja has been banned. And the Warne magic isnt working. Yusuf Pathan did score a century. But seems that teams may have found a way to control him.
  • The batting lineup of Delhi Daredeveils is not firing at all. Though the bowling has covered it in the first 2 games. But given the firepower that the team possess they should be back on top. Vettori & Collingwood are yet to join.
  • Kings XI look like becoming the KKR of last time around. Yet to win any game.
  • Chennai will miss Dhoni. And their bowling is the weak link. The mongoose hasnt been unleashed so far.
  • Chargers are charging on with Gilchrist as the inspiring figure.
End of Week 1 predictions for the semi-finalists: RCB, MI, DD, & DC.

Next Week:
  • 2 new captains - Raina & Karthik (both temporary)
  • Hopefully we will get a chance to see the "mongoose" in action.
  • Lets see if the other teams follow what RCB did. Pepper the Indian batsman with the short ones.
  • Hoping also to see slightly less batsman dominated games.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Game

The IPL is here. And so is the cricinfo fantasy league. And this time around I have got my own league within this fantasy league. Its simply called "The Game" for the lack of any better description. So, anyone reading this, with some spare time, some craziness about the game of cricket and access to an internet connection can join in. 
If you have a team registered and want to join in the league the LPIN code is: 98975-3021637c4ae8225e

May the luckiest team win :)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Art of Chasing Impossible Targets - by Yusuf Pathan

Yusuf Pathan has taken it upon himself to prove that any target in cricket can be chased. However hopeless maybe the situation. There is always something to fight for. Since February he has played the lead role in 3 sensational chases, all in domestic cricket and across the 3 formats. Though he ended up on the winning side in only one of these.
An unbeaten 210 in the Duleep Trophy Final helped West Zone to chase a target of 536 set by South Zone (the highest successful chase in the history of first class cricket)
80 off 39 balls, in the Deodhar Trophy final against North Zone. Sitauation was hopelss at 108/6 before Yusuf almost took them home.
100 off 37 balls for Rajasthan Royals against Mumbai Indians in the IPL. Rajasthan needed 144 off the last 10 overs when he started hitting it around. Yusuf almost saw them through but Rajasthan lost by 4 runs in the end.

He has always been a big hitter, but never seemed to be fulfilling his true potential, specially when playing for the country. He seemed to be becoming the Indian Cricketing equivalent of Football's Thierry Henry. Great performances for the club but always under-delivering for the country. This recent run of big scores should be a big confidence booster though. Hope the big hitting continues.

The IPL begins

The third edition of the Indian Premier League has begun. Key Highlights from Day 1.
  • Navjot Singh Sidhu is back with with his Sidhuisms.
  • The Vodafone Zoozoos are also here again.
  • The tournament is being held in India.
  • The opening ceremony was boring. International names dont work in India. A Himesh Reshammiya would any day be better than Lionel Ritchie to cheer up the Indian crowds.
  • The bugle is also here.
  • They have found an innovative way to show ads between balls now. Ads are telecast on the on-field screen.
  • Interview of Sir Garfield Sobers.
  • The commentator is not going around the stands now.
  • Strategy Breaks are being forced upon the teams.
  • Rudi Koertzen announcing the game to begin.
And now for the match itself. Just to remind everyone the opening game was played between the two teams who finished bottom of the pile in the first 2 editions. 
  • Deccan Chargers had the perfect start to the game. Vaas showed he still has some cricket left in him.
  • In both the innings Chargers were ahead after the first 10 overs but lost the plot in the last 10.
  • And the Knight Riders really fought back well.
  • The foreign contingent from both sides performed much better than the Indian players. Matthews, Shah, Langveldt, Gilchrist, Vaas were the better performers.
  • Deccan Chragers should stop playing "Home" games. They are yet to win an IPL home game. 
Overall, fun game to watch. Plenty of twists and turns kept the game alive, unlike the West Indies-Zimbabwe ODI going on simultaneously. For me, the cricket filled evenings are back. Let the fun continue.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My IPL Team

The 3rd edition of the Indian Premeir League is here. And from tomorrow the cricket filled evenings will be back. All the cricket fans have decided to back their IPL teams. e.g. my flatmate is in love with the Rajasthan Royals. I have to confess I dont really support any of the franchisees, though during games I do have a preferred team depending on who is playing & whats been going on during the league. Here are the teams I could support though.

Mumbai Indians - Well, the owners are the ones who I work for. So can see the buzz for this team in and around the office itself. And Sachin plays for them.
Kolkata Knight Riders - My hometown falls in their catchment area. Although only one player (Varun Aaron) from my Ranji team (Jharkhand) is in their roster. But nothing much really likeable about them. Though they did provide the most off-field entertainment with the fake IPL player.
Chennai Super Kings - Dhoni plays for them. No more to say. (Jai Jharkhand :D)
Royal Challengers Bangalore - The cricketers I admire the most Rahul Dravid & Anil Kumble are there. Plus at least on paper they seem to be having the most balanced line-up.
Delhi Daredevils - Probably the most explosive batting line-up Sehwag, Dilshan, Warner, de Villiers & Gambhir.
Rajasthan Royals - The underdog winners of  the 1st edition. They seem to be hell bent on testing how much they can reduce their resources though.
Deccan Chargers -  No reason to support them. Though they did have a TV quiz show. And Adam Gilchrist.
Kings XI Punjab - Nopes again.

So these are the teams & why I'll watch their games.
And waiting eagerly for the fun to begin.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Tragedy of Pakistan

With due apologies to the soul of Shakespeare "Something is rotten in the State of Pakistani Cricket"
Some absurdly shocking (even by Pakistani standards) developments have taken place. Almost all the senior players have been punished in some way or the other for the "activities" in the disastrous tour of Australia.
Younis Khan & Mohammed Yousuf: Banned from playing international cricket indefinetely
Shoaib Malik & Rana Naved-ul-Hasan: Banned for 1 year
Shahid Afridi, Akmal Brothers (Kamran & Umar): On 6 month probation + fines.
I cant recall such drastic action being taken against so many players at one go since the match-fixing scandal. Match-fixing was a very serious issue and the players definetely had to be punished. But this time around action seems to have been taken for the sake of taking action. The reasons have not been been spelt out clearly. Indiscipline, match-fixing, ball tampering, feigning injury, lowering team morale are all rumoured to be behind all this. The PCB & its chairman are under fire with most people wanting the removal of Ijaz Butt for his lousy running of the board. 
Pakistan cricket certainly did not need this. They seem to have got a knack of being in the headlines for the wrong reasons. And, every time they find ways to sink to new lows. However all may not be over yet. There would certainly be appeals and courts would also come into picture. 
But one thing is for sure. The maverick cricketers that they are, I wont rule out Pakistan bouncing back from this fiasco.

Monday, March 8, 2010

World Cricket Day

Since morning have been reading up this news/rumour. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is believed to have decided to name Schin Tendulkar's birthday as "World Cricket Day". However all reports are still in rumored to be stage. And as such havent senn any credible reports on this.
Well, this certainly is a great honour. And without doubt Sachin is the greatest player in my lifetime at least. 

More on this topic later...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Cricket Break

Well, the international season is over, for India anyway. In other parts of the world Zimbabwe are beating up West Indies in a spin dominated series; New Zealand is in a dogfight with Australia for the Chappel-Hadlee series; and Bangladesh are still searching for their first international win over England (the only major team they havent yet beaten) in their home series. Meanwhile India has suddenly re-discovered the love for the national sport, hockey. India beating Pakistan got me fully hooked onto the world cup but consecutive 2-5 losses to Australia & Spain unhooked me a bit. I switched towards Davis Cup but India lost both the opening singles. So back to cricket for now.
The domestic season is over, save for the almost pointless Deodhar Trophy (a tournament BCCI had originally dropped but had to re-instate fearing a backlash by Shiv Sena, which had perceived it as an insult to the Marathi Manoos). Sachin Tendulkar's double hundred has been widely applauded and calls for him being given the Bharat Ratna have now become shriller.
So basically a two week break before the IPL starts. IPL has been hogging the headlines for everythning except cricketing reasons so far. Hopefully all the drama will be ove once the games start on Friday the 12th.
Well for the truly Indian cricket crazy fans, there is a benefit match for Salil Ankola going on today. Tendulkar XI taking on Ganguly XI with almost all the big names playing in it.

Today's viewing line-up
Davis Cup Doubles: Paes- Bhupathi should extend their unbetean spree
Hockey World Cup: India vs England
As @cricketwallah posted on twitter - "Make or Break day for India in World Cup Hockey & Davis Cup: the situation in both is hopeless but not difficult"

Till next time...