Sunday, April 15, 2012

Some thoughts on IPL after the first quarter

Hello friends,

The IPL is going on in full swing and 25% of the matches are now complete. I watched a lot of the games and have been enjoying some good performances. Here are some random thoughts from me at this stage of the IPL -

* Mumbai is looking very good once again. They are the most all-round team with all 3 disciplines - batting, bowling and fielding - being very good. With them, it is all about performing on the day, so let's see how far they go

* Chennai are playing as they do every year, slow starters. They have lost a couple of games they should have won, but won one game that was almost gone for all purposes. Usually their resurgence coincides with the arrival of Michael Hussey, but this year Hussey only arrives late April which may be too late this year. Anyway, this year, Faf du Plessis is more than filling Hussey's position, so they should do better in the early stages as well

* For me, the star of the IPL so far is Ajinkya Rahane. He batted beautifully for his 98 in their first game, and even better in his hundred against Bangalore. It would be great if he can continue his form. This will help his chances to be Rahul Dravid's replacement in the test team. Rahane by nature is a correct batsman with a good technique and the temperament to bat long. All he is doing in this IPL is showing that he can adapt to the shorter format as well without sacrificing his basics

* RCB have been the surprise package so far, in a negative way. They are a better team than what the results show so far. Their problem is clearly in the bowling. They have 3 good reliable bowlers in Zak, Vettori and Murali. Their problem is with the 4th and 5th bowlers. Royals targeted these 2 bowlers very well and scored almost 100 runs of the 8 overs of these 2 bowlers. They should bring in someone like Syed Mohammed who bowled well on occasion in the last IPL

* Pune is playing well this year and so far, have the results to show for that. Ganguly is doing a good job with marshaling his bowlers, but needs to spend more time at the crease. They have a varied bowling attack which is good, because they can do well in all conditions, and whether they bat or bowl first. Rahul Sharma continues to impress and I am enjoying Steve Smith's batting. He should be playing for Australia in all 3 formats pretty soon. Pune's only problem is that they tend to lose wickets at regular intervals, especially at the start of their innings

* The 2 least attractive teams from a viewer perspective this year are Deccan Chargers and Kings XI Punjab. Both teams don't look that strong as well and it would surprise me if either team made it to the knock-outs

* The team that has surprised me this year in a good way is Delhi Daredevils. They are strong on paper, and have translated the strength into performance as well. But while their batting is very strong, with the formidable trio of Sehwag, Mahela and KP forming the core, it is their bowling that looks a little weak. There is a lot of dependence on Morne Morkel and if he strikes regularly, as he has been doing so far, they will do well with the ball, otherwise they could go for a few runs

* KKR is another team that has not achieved the results promised by a strong team. The worry for them is that Yusuf, their star player, has done almost nothing so far. He needs to perform better as he is their game-changer and can turn close games into easy victories

So far, the response by the Indian public has been encouraging. Games at Chennai, Bangalore and the fantastic new stadium at Pune have looked sold out, which is good. Let's hope the public are able to sustain their enthusiasm over the course of this long tournament

I was very happy to see 5 comments for my previous post. It just goes to show that though a lot of u don't seem to care much for the IPL, it is difficult to keep completely away from it :-). Let's keep the comments coming. I will post another update next weekend, please stay tuned.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Preview of IPL and my reasons to watch

Hello friends,
The IPL is almost upon us and while some of us are going ‘uh-oh, another loooooong meaningless series of T20s’, I am not that negative about it. I am not looking forward to it and crossing days off my calendar in anticipation, but I do have some reasons to look forward and watch the IPL which I will share with you all now.
First and foremost, I have always said, is the fact that IPL is tension-free cricket watching. I welcome a tournament where I don’t have to bite my nails in extreme tension, or get overly frustrated when my team loses. I treat the IPL like watching a good masala movie with all the ingredients where I watch with interest, get entertained and forget about it soon after. Also, like I said in my previous post, I am going to follow the performances of certain players while also keeping an eye out for potential talent that will help India in the future. A good fast-bowling allrounder, a nimble wicketkeeper that can bat,  some bowlers who can bowl at 140+, bowlers who can bowl yorkers, spinners who can bowl in pressure situations are some of the skill sets that I will be looking out for. Besides these, as always, there is the interest in watching certain players perform like Manoj Tiwary, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Sharma, Iqbal Abdulla, Irfan and Yusuf Pathan, Manish Pandey, Munaf Patel and some others that I cannot recall at this time. I also watch some overseas players with interest like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Albie Morkel, AB de Villiers, Sunil Narine and a few others.
Looking at the teams, I think the strong teams this year are CSK, MI, RCB and KKR. The others are ok, but these look the strongest and most balanced just like last year. One person I will miss a lot is Yuvraj Singh. I hope he gets back to normal very soon and can come back and perform for India just like he did before his illness. Let me now write about a few random thoughts regarding some of the teams and players.
I read the article that Sachin has handed over the captaincy of MI to Harbhajan. Unlike some media people and fans are thinking, I don’t read too much into the decision in terms of Sachin wanting to lighten his load so that he can ease his way out of cricket or stuff like that. I think it is purely a decision based on the fact that MI have done well with Harbhajan as captain and now that the pressure of the 100th hundred is gone, probably Sachin wants to reduce further stress on himself by not captaining MI. Maybe he is also looking to play fewer games this year so if he is just a player, it would be easier to sit him out of a few games.
One man was responsible for making the 2011 IPL very popular with the crowds – Chris Gayle. I am looking forward to seeing him bat this year as well. When he is at the crease, it is like watching a very good thriller movie, you never know what to expect next. I thoroughly enjoy his hitting and make an effort to not miss any of his innings.
This IPL is a good chance for some of India’s ‘fringe’ cricketers to stake claims for themselves considering there are some slots available in the team. Players like Manoj Tiwary, Robin Uthappa, Rahul Sharma should grab their chances and look to impress with their performances. Consistency is what I look for. I would be happier if a batsman made 40s in 10 of the 16 league games, as opposed of 3 or 4 60s and 70s along with 1 hundred in 16 games. In the bowlers, I will be looking for variety and control more than results. So I would prefer a bowler who bowls good slower balls and yorkers and has control over his line and length, rather than someone who goes for 8+ runs an over but takes 15-20 wickets in total. The core Indian team is pretty much settled at this time, we need some specific skills, especially in the bowling department and that is what I will be looking for from this year’s IPL.
There are some cricketers who are not quite in the national reckoning, but are quite talented and this could be a break-through year for them. I will keep an eye out for such cricketers as well. Some names that come to mind are Shami Ahmed, Suryakumar Yadav, Ali Murtaza, KP Appanna, Harshal Patel, Vijay Zol.
So as you can see, there are some solid reasons for following and watching this year’s IPL. Lets hope for some good entertainment in the next few weeks and that we can spot some good talent that will serve Indian cricket well in the future. I will post on this blog from time to time during the IPL, so stay tuned.