Saturday, April 16, 2011

Random Thoughts on IPL 2011

Hello friends,

After enjoying the World Cup win of India for the past few days, I am enjoying the next cricket event, IPL. I found out during the first game that Dish Network is covering this year's IPL for a fee and I purchased the package immediately. I have been watching most of the games and am having a good time watching some pressure-free cricket and closely following and observing some teams and cricketers in particular.

I thought about what I should write and whether I should write about some topic or just post some thoughts. After some deliberation, I decided to just post some random thoughts regarding the IPL teams and some players. So here they are after 1 week of IPL action.

* Sachin continues to bat like in recent times, with the manner of a guy in complete control and knowledge of his game. He has added one more feather to his overflowing cap - a T20 century. This guy is amazing. You can see that he is enjoying every moment of his batting these days and if he continues with this mindset, he will definitely rack up a few more centuries before he retires and opponents should be very afraid of this Sachin.

* Dhoni's instinctive captaincy and luck continues to be with him, as can be seen from the close win over KKR in the opening IPL game. For the sake of Indian cricket, I hope he continues to back his instincts and hunches and follow that mode of captaincy rather than adopting the safe method of captaincy that Azhar was famous for and that Ganguly adopted in his later years as captain, where he lost his oomph as captain.

* Mumbai is looking like the best team in this year's IPL, just like last year. Their batting is very strong, almost reminds me of the Indian line-up, where they have about 6-7 batsmen who are each capable of winning a game single-handedly with their bat. However, this year, their bowling is not as strong as last year. They appear to be relying too much on Malinga and if he fails, like he did in their previous game against Kochi, they will struggle to contain good batting line-ups and also to get wickets.

* Of the 2 new teams, I think Pune is better than Kochi. Both have good batting and slightly weak bowling, but of the two, I think Pune is looking better because they have some good T20 specialists like Thomas, Parnell, Murali Kartik, Uthappa and the father of IPL cricket, Yuvraj. We should consider Yuvi as the father of IPL because it was his 6 sixes and 30-ball 70 in the 2007 T20 World Cup that gave BCCI the confidence to start a tournament in parallel with ICL.

* Of the other teams, I like KKR and of course, Chennai. KKR has made some good buys this time and have a good, solid batting line-up with some anchors and some big hitters. Their bowling also looks decent with some fire-power in Brett Lee and some good bowlers like Shakib, Iqbal Abdulla and Balaji.

* The team that looks a lot weaker than previous years in Delhi. They are top-heavy in Sehwag and Warner, but the rest of the batting and the bowling is not that great.

* Rajasthan is also not that strong, though Watson's return will significantly increase their firepower. Once again the onus is on Shane Warne regarding whether he can extract optimum performances from his motley crew of average players and lead by example, like he did in the first IPL year 2008.

* I have made a note of a few players that are doing well and that I would like to see do well this year in the interest of Indian cricket. From the first week of IPL, the shining star is definitely Paul Valthaty. He appears to have a good technique, I have noticed that his bat appears to be coming down straight for most of his shots even if they are hit to the off side. That is a good sign. It shows that his basics are strong. But there does appear to be a little desperate feel to his batting where he seems to want to go hard at every 3rd or 4th ball he faces. That is one trait he will have to work on, patience. If and when he makes it to the Indian team, he cannot expect to hit every 3rd or 4th ball to the boundary. He will have to develop the art of waiting for the right ball to hit and concentrate on strike rotation in the mean time.

*  A few other players I want to see do well in this IPL are - Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, R P Singh, Ambati Rayudu, Rohit Sharma, Deepak Chahar, Varun Aaron, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Ashok Menaria. I will be watching the performances of these players in particular and keeping an eye out for new talent as well

* On the whole, my wish from this year's IPL is to find some good bench strength for India, especially in the bowling. With Zak probably leaving in about 2-3 years and Harbhajan also looking to be in his twilight instead of prime, we need to find a few good bowlers to carry the attack in the future and I hope this IPL will show us some players in that regard.

Lets hear it from you guys now. IPL is a long tournament, but pressure-free cricket because there is no country involved. So lets continue our discussion about cricket and lets share thoughts on the games and players in this year's IPL.

I will continue to post regularly through the course of the IPL, so stay tuned.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thoughts on World Cup final

Hello friends,

India are the World Cup champions !!! What a great feeling for all Indians !! It was a fantastic match, worthy of a final, and India won pretty comfortably in the end. Lets look at some aspects of this game in detail.

Indian bowling

It was hinted in the press yesterday that Sreesanth may come in instead of Nehra and would be preferred over Ashwin for the final. Dhoni backed his instincts as usual and chose him. But it was one move that backfired today. I dont know how much more effective Ashwin may have been considering that SL are good players of spin and the track did not take much turn in the first session, but he would probably not have given as many runs as Sreesanth.

Anyway, at the start, SL were the team that looked nervous and the openers did not play the way that in-form players should have. India took advantage of that and took the upper hand in the initial 10-15 overs. It was nice to see the Indian fielders throw themselves in the field and add to the pressure that the openers were already feeling. I was impressed particularly by Yuvraj. Over the course of this tournament, he has gone from a tentative player trying to make a comeback, back to being one of the main players for India in the ODI version and looks like the player he was in his peak around the years 2005-2007. He looks assured with the bat, ball and in the field. This comeback has been on the strength of hard work and dedication, so I hope this time, he will not give it away because he will continue to be one of the main players to take this team forward in the next few years.

Back to the game, what an innings Mahela played ! It was one of the finest knocks I have seen, and it came in the biggest stage. Unfortunately, today the knock did not translate to a victory, which it would have on most other days. There was no violence or desperation in his batting, he was just timing the ball and took SL to a very good total. We need more players like him in cricket because they remind us that cricket is essentially a simple game and such a pleasure to watch.

Once again, Indian bowlers picked wickets at regular intervals and did not big partnerships to develop, thereby preventing SL from running away with the game. Kulasekara and Perera played good supporting knocks and SL used the batting powerplay very well to get to a very competitive score considering this was the World Cup final. But I was not desperate at the end of the SL innings because I had seen that this was a good track for batting, unlike Ahmedabad and Mohali. The ball was coming on to the bat nicely and not doing too much in the air and off the wicket.

Indian batting

All Indian fans got a scare when Sehwag and Sachin left early in the chase. Sachin was looking good, when he had an adrenaline rush and went after a widish ball that he should have left alone. But the situation was tailor-made for the 2 anchor men in the strong line-up - Gambhir and Kohli. It was nice to see them have a good, long partnership and also make sure that the run rate did not dip below the asking rate. The good thing about this Indian batting line-up is that all the batsmen are capable of scoring big and also fairly quickly without resorting to desperate hitting. And we have 7 such batsmen in the line-up ! What more can an Indian fan ask for ?

I was expecting Virat to make a big score today, as I had predicted in my preview. But he got out once again to a soft dismissal. I thought today Dhoni made the correct decision by promoting himself ahead of Yuvi and Raina. One, it kept the right-left combination going, and allowed Dhoni to soak up some pressure and also keep Gambhir in check. We have seen in the past few games that Gambhir can get over-excited and do foolish things like playing a rash shot or silly running. Today, Dhoni was constantly talking to him and telling him to stay there and finish the job. I thought initially if Dhoni made about 20-30 runs, but whittled the target to about 100 or so, he would have done his job and Yuvi and Raina could finish it. But Dhoni chose this moment to come back to form and silence his critics (myself included). Once again, this situation was perfect for him to play the percentage cricket he plays these days and chip away at the target with risk-free batting.

For India, it was the partnerships that did it for them again, like in the semi-final and quarter-final. Ironically, for a team with so many superstars, especially in batting, when it was expected that a one-man show would be the way for them to win, they played like a SA or NZ team and got there with many not-too-huge contributions, not just one big one.

If we forget that this was a World Cup final, this was a victory that we have seen many many times in the last few years, especially at home. Chasing about 270-280 with ease, and getting there through a few partnerships, and Yuvi and Dhoni finishing the job in the end. I am glad that the Indian team played this in that fashion and took the confidence from having done this several times recently, instead of playing the occasion and letting the pressure get to them.

I have heard and read a few times recently that Muralitharan's scripts are written perfectly. He took a wicket with his last ball in test cricket to get to 800 wickets, he also took a wicket with his last ball in SL and got his team to the World Cup final. But today's script was the most perfect of them all. Just consider this. If someone had told me at the start of the World Cup about 7 weeks ago, that India would chase down 275 in the final under lights and the winning hit would be a vintage huge six from their captain, who would be out of form and under severe pressure, I would have laughed at the thought and asked the person to wake up as such perfection is only achieved in dreams, not in real life. But it happened today and India have won the World Cup !!

One last comment I have to add regarding the celebrations. Virat made what I thought was the most appropriate comment that summed up India's entire World Cup campaign in one sentence. He was asked how it felt to bear the weight of Sachin on his shoulders when he was taken around the stadium in a victory lap. Virat said Sachin has borne the weight of the Indian team and gazillions of fans for 22 years, so it was an honor to bear his weight after winning the World Cup for him. Talk about making the perfect statement at the perfect time, this was as good as you can see and hear.

So there we are. India have won the World Cup and in hindsight, it has to be said, deservedly so. They have looked like the one team that had the talent and translated that into performance. They beat Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh (not to forget Ireland and Netherlands). They tied against England after being very close to defeat. The only big team they lost to is South Africa, that too in the last over with 1-2 balls to spare. Lets bask in the glory and enjoy the victory.

Lets hear it from you guys. The World Cup may be over, but my love for cricket will continue unabated.


P.S. This blog was started because of my love for cricket the game, even though it was started around the time of the World Cup. So I plan to continue writing here and will make posts when there are cricket matches, especially involving India. I want to watch the IPL this year, but I dont know if Dish network will telecast it in California. If they do, I will watch most of the games and will write here from time to time. So please continue to check here for new entries and let us continue to discuss about cricket and share our experiences.

It has been a pleasure writing about all Indian games in the World Cup and I hope you all enjoyed reading and discussing about the games.