Daniel Vettori, RCB’s current Head Coach, was one of the team’s best bowlers when he played. (image from www.burrp.com)
After watching RCB triumph over the Sunrisers Hyderabad last week, I will not deny that I thought they would be an invincible side in this tournament. Then, when I saw Kedhar Jadhav scratch around so hard to score runs, and Quinton de Kock literally playing the same shot over and over again en route to his century, doubts began to form in my head. After the Mumbai mishap yesterday night, my fears have been realized: RCB’s bowling is still poor. All in all they weren’t horrible, but they simply lacked the ability to keep the pressure on MI. There was not a single time where the required run rate reached the 10 rpo mark, something that liberated the likes of Pollard and Buttler to play their natural games without any pressure.
This issue stems from one simple fact: RCB lack a bowler who can bowl economically in all circumstances. This reminds me of the days of Daniel Vettori. One game during which I saw this illustrated best was the game between RCB and the South Australian Redbacks, during the 2011 edition of the Champions League T20. Daniel Harris, the Redbacks opener, took a special liking to Sreenath Aravind, and wasted no time in piling up 49 in the first 4 overs. Then, in came DLV. He bowled 4 tidy overs, conceding only 24, in a match where the Redbacks would eventually go on to score 214. However, that was a time when the RCB bowlers didn’t have enough teeth to do any damage, apart from DLV himself.
Now, what I have noticed about RCB’s bowling attack this year is that it is smart enough to crush a side under pressure. This is something that was clearly demonstrated against the Sunrisers, as they were able to land the KO blow pretty easily once David Warner was out of the way. And it’s not a bad tactic at that, given the sheer magnitude of their batting line up. However, what they seem to lack is the ability to squeeze their opposition enough to create that pressure. Against SRH, Adam Milne fired a wide down leg side that went for five wides the very first ball. Sreenath Aravind followed suit vs. DD (albeit off the 2nd ball). This is something that is really hurting them, and is why they are having trouble keeping the opposition batsmen down. This is where they need someone who can come in, even against the tide of the innings, and get away four tidy overs at 6 an over or so. If that can happen, this combined with the high standards created by the batsmen will no doubt place a significant stress on the opposition, and will create optimum environment for wickets. They need a Daniel Vettori.
Carlos Brathwaite will be fresh off a magnificent finish to the WT20 (image creds: www.india.com)
Playing T20 cricket is like binge drinking: it’s fast and reckless; and leaves you surprised at what it can get you to do (not speaking from experience). IPL – with it’s lucrative cash deals and massive popularity – only raises that bar even higher. As fans, watching IPL often leaves us surprised at the performances some people end up pulling off: be it Paul Valthaty’s blitzing 120 in 63 to stun Chennai in 2011, or Chris Gayle’s bizarre 24-ball 10 while chasing 209 vs. MI in 2015. My point is this: players surprise a lot in T20 cricket, especially in IPL. Here are 5 players who I think can surprise us with some scintillating shows in IPL 2016. This list includes people who could prove us wrong, people who could perform well above our expectations for them, and plain exciting prospects, who I tout to do great things for their teams.
The difference between this article and my last one is that these are players who are less of a certainty to do well, and more of “potential stars.”
#5 – Marcus Stoinis (KXIP)
Marcus Stoinis is a top-order batsman and medium pace bowler. He’s yet to find his feet in the international arena, but he made some significant contributions for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League that took place earlier this year. Reliable up at the top, and handy with the ball, Stoinis will be an excellent man to turn to in the event that Glenn Maxwell fails, a liability that KXIP lacked last year.
#4 – Carlos Brathwaite (DD)
Brathwaite is a more balanced all-rounder, made in a similar model to Kieron Pollard or Dwayne Bravo. He is best known off late for his four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes to win the World T20 for the West Indies. He presents the frame of someone who can bring balance and stability to a Delhi Daredevils side that has been found wanting for quite some time now, something that Angelo Matthews failed to do last year. Hopefully, he can shine for them.
#3 – Adam Zampa (RPS)
This Ozzie leggie showed in the World T20 that he is a force to be reckoned with, as he took 5 wickets at a tidy economy of 6.27 at an average of 13.80. For the slow surface that is the track in Pune, I think Zampa will provide quite an edge for his franchise. I look forward to seeing him bowl with R. Ashwin.
#2 – Akshay Karnewar (RCB)
In the past 2 years, spin has been a resource woefully underused by the Royal Challengers. True, Yuzvendra Chahal has been brilliant enough that this didn’t matter as much, but their lack of spin resources is still something that has been somewhat worrying (at one stage Chris Gayle was their number one capped spinner). Hence, it is quite nice to see RCB investing in someone like Akshay Karnewar. His ambidextrous ability will really be fun to watch, and will also help RCN put an extra bit of uncertainty in the minds of their opponents.
#1 – Krunal Pandya (MI)
Many an eyebrow was raised when Krunal Pandya was purchased by Mumbai Indians for 2 crore rupees at the auction. From my statistical analysis of him, he appears to be an all rounder of the Ravindra Jadeja-esque build: a low-order batsman, and a front line spinner. If he is given a chance, he could definitely make an impact for MI by providing another spin option for Rohit Sharma to use as well as an extra line of defence with the bat. He would especially be useful to shore up the bowling in the absence of Lasith Malinga.
"What? No MSD in CSK?" :3 (image creds: www.india.com)
Welcome to my series of Post Auction & Pre-Season Reviews! How I will do this is that I will discuss my proposed Playing XI for each team, and in the process review my thoughts on the players and the team. Enjoy!
The Rising Pune Supergiants have one of the more glamorous and star-studded sides in this IPL. It was interesting to see their approach as they approached an auction where most other teams were looking to strengthen their sides with a whole team to purchase. They were not able to spend exorbidantly, like some of their counterparts could, but still managed to scrap together what I think is a very strong side. They played to a good plan, picking up bowlers to complement their strong batting pics from the draft. My only issue with their auction picks is that they undervalued the importance of those “in between” reserve Indian batsmen. Their lineup is strong up top, but the fact that they lack a couple of Indian batsmen who they can squish into their middle order while they use their overseas slots to experiment with bowlers/bowling all rounders. Saurabh Tiwari is the only guy they have right now who can do this, so his form will be vital.
Here’s the playing XI I think they should use. I’ve also done some player-specific player analysis there, which is why it’s so long:
Rahane’s biggest role at the top of the order for RPS will be that of an anchor. His solidity at the top should allow other players, such as Kevin Pietersen, Steve Smith and MS Dhoni, to play a more free-flowing, aggressive variant. Many complained that his innings in the T20 World Cup semifinal vs. the West Indies was too slow given the pitch they were playing on, but I personally feel that Rahane did his job well. He gave the strike to the more aggressive Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as much as possible, and although he could have tried for a few more boundaries here and there, he fulfilled the role that was given to him. If he can do the same for Pune, they will be quite happy.
The mainstream path would be making Faf open the batting, as he has a significant amount of experience with the role in IPL cricket. However, I would go with KP. The main reason for this is that he contrasts Rahane better. Faf’s conventional style of play is that of an anchor, not unlike Rahane himself. While that is handy to have, I feel KP would be better utilized at the position. Rahane’s stabilizing effect will allow the Englishmen to do what he does best, and attack from ball one, all without the worry of trying to rebuild after the fall of a wicket. It will be an unorthodox ploy, but will definitely be one that can bring the Warriors Supergiants great success. Also, with the track in Pune known for being notoriously slow, don’t be surprised if he is called on to roll his arm over once in a while.
Faf du Plessis & Steve Smith
Faf and Smith. Nuff said, to be honest. Anyways, I find it so hard to decide which one of them should play at 3 and which one at 4. Both have similar variants of gameplay, and both are equally capable of batting at both positions. However, if I were forced to chose, I would say that I would send Smith at 3 if KP got out early, as Smith has a better reputation for being aggressive in the IPL. If Rahane got out, I’d send Faf, as he can consolidate better. Again, these are just speculations. Only the actual tournament will tell which one is in better form to take that number 3 spot. Both batsmen will also be looking to re-cuperate themselves in the T20 format after rather dismal campaigns in the recently concluded World T20, so expect them to come hard.
Tiwari’s role – should Pune play him – will be of utmost importance. Pune, as it seems, have contracted what I call “RCB Syndrome,” where they have a super strong top 4 or 5, but after that you kind of see that there’s on one else who really makes that much of an impact (so named because of RCB’s issues with this between 2012-2014). Hence, Tiwari’s form will be critical to determining the flavor of Pune’s squad composition this year. If he does well, they will be free to experiment with options like Adam Zampa, Scott Boland, Thisara Perera and Albie Morkel, without much fear of losing batting stability. If he fails, however, they will pretty much be stuck with Mitchell Marsh, who has been a bit off-color lately.
Irfan Pathan joins Dhoni for a second time. He did not get much of a chance in CSK due to the resurgence of Ashish Nehra, as well as the arrival of Pawan Negi. However, Pune’s squad composure will allow for his talents to really be put to the test. More than being a 5th bowling option, he provides some extra insurance with the bat at that number 7 position. Also, should Saurabh Tiwari fail and Adam Zampa prove to be worthy of cementing himself in the playing XI, he will need to take the further responsibility of shoring up the batting at number 6. All this said, Irfan cannot afford to be complacent with his role, as Rajat Bhatia is also knocking on the door.
Ashwin is probably India’s best bowler out there right now. Especially on a slower wicket in Pune, Dhoni will be licking his lips at how he can deploy his number one spinner to max effect. Also, Ashwin’s moderately effective batting ability will come in handy for those few extra runs that – in T20s – can really make the difference. Honestly, there is not much else to say for Ash.
Pandey was one of CSK’s best finds over the last 2 years. His excellent tandem with Ashish Nehra allowed CSK to go with their traditional structure of 3 overseas batsmen and Dwayne Bravo, something that was crucial to their success in the tournament. He represented the Pune Warriors India in 2013, so he should have some prior knowledge of the wicket.
This slot is basically one that will be contested for between RP Singh, Ashok Dinda, and Ishant Sharma. I picked RP because he offers a unique angle of left arm seam, has the best IPL stats of the three, and frankly because Ishant and Dinda have been pretty terrible off late. However, the competition is still healthy to have, as it will keep all three bowlers on their toes. Also, this will be RP’s first IPL appearance in 3 years, so hopefully he can use it to springboard himself back into the limelight.
Zampa is probably Pune’s most underrated foreign player. I would understand if they eventually decided to go with Mitchell Marsh ahead of him, but I still feel that he is one of their true trump cards. He was one of Australia’s most successful bowlers in their recently concluded WT20 campaign, and also bowled some superb spells for his Big Bash franchise, the Melbourne Stars. Especially on what has historically been a turning track, I think Zampa will really make a difference. It will help that he has MS Dhoni, Steve Smith (his Int’l cricket captain), and R Ashwin in his team, players that can help him reach his full potential with the Supergiants.
Shane Watson could be RCB’s formula to success (image from sports.ndtv.com).
The T20 World Cup is nearing its end, meaning that the IPL is just around the corner. Now, I have spent a fair bit of time preparing for a set of pre-season/post auction reviews I plan to do in the near future, and as I have perused the player lists, I have found some players who can definitely cause ripples in this season for their respective franchises, and possibly even bring them the trophy (i.e. “Make it Happen):
Note: I have attempted to be as diverse as possible in terms of franchises without discounting player worth.
#5: Samuel Badree (RCB)
Badree has been one of WI’s standout bowlers this WT20. Although his 7 wickets in 5 games are impressive on their own, his economy rate of 5.68 is what really stands out. Considering that he played 2 of those 5 games on the run-rich track of Mumbai. His ability to bowl those tight overs upfront with the new ball will be invaluable for RCB, especially in light of Mitchell Starc’s uncertainty due to injury.
#4: Ashish Nehra (SRH)
In the last few months, Ashish Nehra has scripted quite a turnaround in his T20 career. He had a mighty fine T20 World Cup, taking a wicket in each of his 5 games while conceding under 30 runs. Even more impressive is that he has accomplished this feat across 5 different grounds, which is a great indicator that he isn’t just someone who is constantly reaping the rewards of a pitch he knows well. In addition, it will be a chance for him to step up and lead a relatively young Sunrisers bowling lineup, and fill the void left by the departure of Dale Steyn and Ishant Sharma.
#3: Kevin Pietersen (RPS)
Last time Kevin Pietersen played an IPL, he had to lead the Delhi Daredevils, and struggle with a contingent of out of form players who were not quite settled with their roles in the team. Now, however, he is playing under MS Dhoni, arguably the Otto von Bismarck of cricket (in terms of genius, that is, not inciting wars with countries). He is also in a batting lineup that consists of men like Ajinkya Rahane and Faf du Plessis, who are known to be good at anchor roles. Hence, this season, KP will truly be liberated and free to do what he does best: attack the bowlers from ball one.
#2: Quinton de Kock (DD)
QDK has really enjoyed his time in India during the T20 World Cup. He registered scores of 52, 45. 47, and 9 in four games to put up a performance so strong it effectively shunned AB de Villiers from his traditional T20I opening slot, giving the Proteas one star in an otherwise dark night of a tournament. He will also be partnering with the illustrious Shreyas Iyer at the top of the order, which will finally give Zaheer Khan’s Daredevils hope of batting stability that they have sought so desparately since the era of Sehwag, Mahela and Warner.
#1: Shane Watson (RCB)
Shane Watson is probably the most accomplished all-rounder to don the RCB jersey since the legendary Jacques Kallis himself. For the franchise that has struggled so much with side balance in the last several years, there are so many options he opens up. He covers the role of a seasoned fast-bowler, allowing RCB to invest one of their overseas slots in a Samuel Badree, who could tantalize batsmen on the newly laid slower Chinnaswami track. His flexibility in the batting order allows RCB to give their young batting contingent a chance to find the positions and roles that suit them best. Lastly, his years of experience and success in both international and IPL cricket will allow him to bring something to the table for both the batsmen and the bowlers, and will also be someone Virat Kohli can turn to for a word of wisdom. In addition, Watto delivered consistently with both bat and ball for Australia in the T20 World Cup, and although some team lapses meant that trophy will still remain elusive to the otherwise trophy-rich Australian team, Watto sure did exit International Cricket in style.
Dale Steyn was picked up for quite a bargain price. ( Image from indiatoday.in )
The 2016 IPL Auction was arguably the most interesting of all time, not just because of the influx of players from the now-suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals franchises, but also because of the fact that two teams – Rising Pune Supergiants and Gujarat Lions – had to build their teams pretty much from scratch in what we consider as one of those “team strengthening” auctions. While I saw many buys that just had me scratching my head, I also saw a couple of excellent bargain buys, five of which I shall highlight in this article.
#5 – Stuart Binny (Rs. 2.00 crores – roughly $295,000) – Royal Challengers Bangalore
I realize that many may not think Binny as a marvelous bargain made in this auction, and they are not wrong to do so. However, we must consider the team that he has been brought into. RCB has been in search of a proper Indian all-rounder since…well, forever. Yuvraj was a good shot, but 14 crores was a weight too big for the RCB purse to bear, and he was let go. Acquiring Binny may have finally solved that problem. Although he hasn’t been in prime form over the last year, if he can roll his arm over for 2-3 overs at 8 or less, and swing a couple of sixes at the end of the innings, he will be quite and asset for the franchise. Of course, the question of whether or not he will actually perform remains, but I feel that for the risk, 2.00 crore is not a bad price to pay.
#4- Kevin Pietersen (Rs. 3.50 crores – roughly $515,000) – Rising Pune Supergiants
Even though his standing with the English Cricket Board is flaky at best, it is undeniable that Kevin Pietersen is a true mascot of the sport of cricket, and a worldwide entertainer. He has not donned the English jersey since England’s unceremonious loss of the 2013-14 Ashes Down Under, yet he continues to ply his trade in various T20 Leagues around the world – such as the Big Bash League, the Carribian Premier League, and the recently started Pakistan Super League. Wherever he has gone, he has given fans a marvelous display of T20 skill and power. He captained the Delhi Daredevils to their disastrous 8th place finish in 2014, and had to opt out of his Sunrisers contract last year to ply his trade at county cricket in a bid to return to the international squad. This year, he will be at Pune, alongside the likes of MS Dhoni, Steve Smith, and Faf du Plessis. While 3.50 crores is a significant amount of money, for someone in the form that KP is in, it is quite a steal.
When we think of India’s devastating Bangladesh ODI series in June 2015, Mustafizur’s name comes up almost the same way Hitler’s does with World War II. The man picked up 5, 6, and 2 wickets in the first three games respectively, giving his team a 2-1 victory. The young 20-year old has not stopped his carnage there, however, as he holds averages under 15 in both T20 and ODI cricket. With a great abundance of Indian pacers in the Sunrisers lineup, not to mention Trent Boult vying for that bowler’s overseas slot, it will be difficult for Mustafizur to get games on a regular basis, but regardless, a price of 1.40 crores for him was a real jackpot for the Sunrisers.
Since he was made a regular opener by the Mumbai Indians in 2012, Dwayne Smith has taken the IPL by storm. His belligerent hitting played a vital role for MI in 2013, as he covered up for Sachin Tendulkar’s injury and helped them win their first title. When he was contracted to CSK in 2014, he simply picked up from where he left off, partnering with Brendon McCullum to make one of the most devastating opening pairs in all of IPL. In fact, he came within tasting distance of the 2014 MVP Award, only to lose it by half a point to Glenn Maxwell. Considering that they drafted McCullum beforehand, they will be very happy that they could pick up his CSK opening partner for such a modest price.
Despite the fact that he’s going through a rather rough patch, with injuries and lapses in form, Dale Steyn is still one of the best bowlers in the world today. Like he showed in 2012 with the Deccan Chargers, he can single-handedly lead a team’s bowling attack to some success. When Gujrat came out of the Player Draft, many questions were raised about how they were going to acquire someone to spearhead them for a price that their budget would permit. Hence, picking someone like Steyn up for just 2.30 crores was a true bargain.
MS Dhoni will be seen in Pune colors this year. Image Source: www.ibnlive.com
This year’s IPL will feature an interesting twist. The termination of the Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals left a gap for two new franchises – Pune and Rajkot – and these two teams today picked 5 players each out of the pool of former CSK and RR players.
Here’s what came out:
Pune: MS Dhoni, Ajinkya Rahane, Ravichandran Ashwin, Steve Smith, Faf du Plessis
It is no surprise that these players were picked; the only question was which teams they would play for. The biggest talking point is that Shane Watson was not picked. However, this too is not entirely shocking. Watson has been plagued by injuries and very sporadic form over the last 2 years, even in IPL. Hence, he will appear in the auctions for the first time since 2008.
It is interesting to see Dhoni, Faf and Smith – three leaders for their respective countries – all in one team. In Ajinkya Rahane and R Ashwin, they also have what is arguably team India’s best batsman-bowler combination today. Their team is very “polar” in terms of player specialities selected, as they’ve gone with 4 batsmen and one bowler. For the historically slow Pune track, this is not an entirely bad strategy.
What to Go for in the Auction
Pune’s top order looks in safe hands, with Rahane and Faf both capable of opening the innings, and Smith playing one down. What they should go for in the auction would be some all-rounders and bowlers, to provide some stability. The exact players they should go for is something that will be released when the auction list is.
While I love Pune’s players, Rajkot have probably done a better job in terms of team selection. Going for 3 all rounders in Jadeja, Faulkner and Bravo, they will have a strong foundation of all-rounders upon which to build their squad. In addition, McCullum and Raina are both prime top-order batsmen, and decent captaincy options.
What to Go for in the Auction
Like I mentioned, Rajkot have a strong foundation. Therefore, in the auction I sense they will be looking for more prolific, expensive bowlers, and top- of-the-line hard-hitters to work with Raina and McCullum. However, once again, it is difficult to come up with a definitive list of players for them to buy without a full list of players who will participate in the auction.
We will see the two teams again in the Auctions, which will take place on the 6th of February 2016 (our 5th Anniversary) in Bangalore.
Some of the various atrocities in the world today. Source: Facebook.
Paris: Terrorist attacks. Japan: Earthquakes. Baghdad: Suicide bombings. These are just a few of the major calamities that have happened over the last two days. Discounting the global scale, one only needs to look at a newspaper to see a plethora of atrocities that make even the holocaust look humane. This is not something new to our world. We have seen these kinds of events before, and we will see them in the future. There’s no escaping it.
While sifting through all the tabs on my browser, I inevitably stumbled upon the Australia vs. New Zealand test match. While comparatively insignificant, the Kiwis were going through a tragedy of their own. Led by the belligerent David Warner, Australia had racked up a massive 559/9 in less than 2 days, something that essentially wins half the game for you. Add Mitchell Starc to the equation, and I thought the Kiwis were done and dusted, and moved on. Yet, when I checked the scorecard recently, the men in black had put up 510/6, a feat that nearly mirrored the one the home side had put up. As I saw this impressive display of batting, something hit me. Resilience. That was the answer. Crises occur all the time. In 2001, it was America, in 2008 it was India, yesterday it was France, and tomorrow it will be someplace else – we cannot stop that. I now speak to all the survivors of atrocities – be it those that’ve made headlines on CNN or made 5th page on the local newspaper – be resilient. Keep your head up, and know that people are praying for you, in different languages, to different Gods, in different places, but for the same purpose. Keep your head up, even if it seems that things can’t get any worse, as the path is still not at it’s end. Keep your head up.
Now, I am aware that I am probably asking you for the impossible. I realize that I am probably asking you to come back from the dead, or to lift a mountain with one hand. However, know this: life doesn’t wait. Life doesn’t care how hard you fall. If New Zealand had succumbed to Mitchell Starc – who was hitting 160 kilometers per hour – and the sheer magnitude of the Australian score, would they have won a “pity point”? No! The series would have been 0-2, and that’s it. Now I’m not trying to be an insensitive person, but I beseech you, fight. While you have arms, pick up your sword, and fight for all it’s worth. Be resilient, like the New Zealanders, and like hundreds of thousands of others impacted by these crises across the years. Just fight. I cannot guarantee that you will win, but you can sure as hell try. If you can’t be a victor, you’ll be a martyr. So stand up, and fight. Stand up, and be resilient.
CSK have been brilliant yet again, and are the first team to be guaranteed a semifinal spot. (image from http://www.cricketcountry.com/)
IPL Season has just flown by, and we’re already approaching the playoffs. The points table stand as follows:
Chennai Super Kings (16 points, NRR = +0.646)
Royal Challengers Bangalore (15 points, NRR = +1.037)
Kolkata Knight Riders (15 points, NRR = +0.315)
Sunrisers Hyderabad (14 points, NRR = -0.033)
Mumbai Indians (14 points, NRR = = -0.259)
Rajasthan Royals (14 points, NRR = +0.027)
Delhi Daredevils (10 points,, NRR = -0.049)
Kings XI Punjab (6 points, NRR = -1.425)
As you can see, the points table is quite close. Everyone in the first 6 spots is within a difference of two points. Hence, these last few league matches promise to be quite exciting. Every team is playing, so whether you want to be there as your team makes the semis, or you support DD and/or KXIP, You’ll want to know the schedule for the next 2 days (last two of the league stage):
Today (Saturday, May 16 2015):
KXIP vs. CSK at Mohali (4:30 PM IST)
RR vs. KKR at Mumbai (7:30 PM IST)
Tomorrow (Sunday, May 17th 2015)
RCB vs. DD at Bangalore
SRH vs. MI at Hyderabad
Every one of these matches can be important for you (again, unless you support DD and/or KXIP), even if your team is not playing. But how do you know what matches are important? Who should you be supporting? Well, here I’ll do some analysis of crucial matches for each team, who you should be rooting for in them. I’ll also be doing a little summary on what each team needs to do to qualify.
1. Chennai Super Kings.
What they need to do to qualify: Nothing (they’re already in)
Crucial match: KXIP vs. CSK (CSK to win, if you didn’t figure that out)
With 16 points in 13 games, CSK have assured themselves a place in the semifinals. Not even the most absurd and unlikely results could bring them any lower than 4th place. However, the men in yellow would still like to take a swing at the bottom-placed KXIP side to finish with 18 points, and gain an assured spot in the top two.
2. Royal Challengers Bangalore
What they need to do to qualify: Almost nothing (just don’t lose to Delhi by a ridiculously large margin).
Crucial match: RR vs. KKR (KKR to win)
RCB have made quite a comeback in this IPL. After stuttering with 2 points in 4 games, they’ve made a dramatic turn-around to lose only 2 of their next 9 (one washout). Their massive-margin victories have yielded great fruits now as their staggering +1.037 net run rate gives them a massive edge over KKR, who also have the same number of points. Because of this, they are all but assured a spot in the semifinals. If KKR win in their game vs. RR, then RCB will be through, regardless of their clash vs. DD. If RR win however, RCB will just need to make sure that their NRR does not drop below that of KKR as they take on DD in order to qualify. However, considering that KKR’s net run rate is roughly 0.7 below that of RCB (and will sink even lower if they lose to RR), this is extremely unlikely to happen. Nonetheless, RCB will be eyeing to land a killer blow on the Daredevils, and book their place in the top two with 17 points.
3. Kolkata Knight Riders
What they need to do to qualify: Beat Rajasthan.
Crucial match: RR vs. KKR (KKR to win)
The defending champions have not run through as smoothly as they did last year. Nonetheless, they are still in the top 4, and will be eyeing to seal that semifinal berth. To get this, the equation is simple: beat Rajasthan. If they were to lose, however, they would need to pray for a rainwash in the SRH-MI match, lest they be knocked out by the winner of that game. If they beat RR, they’ll be hoping for DD to beat RCB so they can seal a top two spot.
4. Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians
What they need to do to qualify: Beat the other one.
Crucial match: SRH vs. MI (whoever you want to qualify must win).
Both MI and SRH are in a very similar situation, so I thought it would be convenient to group them together. Both have 14 points, but SRH is above MI courtesy of a higher net run rate. SRH have been shaky throughout the tournament, but have managed to win games with fair regularity. MI on the other hand, started of disastrously, losing 4/4, but then made quite the turnaround to lose only twice in their next 9 games. The equation for these two teams is simple too: winner qualifies, period. Neither of these teams has a chance of making the top two, however. The last thing either of them would want is a rainwash, as it would mean that neither of them would qualify. The only exception would be if Rajasthan beat KKR by a enough to push their NRR below that of SRH, in which case the men from Hyderabad would qualify.
5. Rajasthan Royals
What they need to do to qualify: Beat KKR
Crucial match: RR vs. KKR (RR to win).
It’s really surprising how Rajasthan managed to get themselves into this position. They won their first 5 games, but could only gather a further 4 points in their next 8 and are now 6th. Their equation to qualify (like that of many others above) is very simple: beat KKR. If they don’t, they’re out, and if they do they get in. They don’t have a hope of making the second place spot either, so they’ll just want to try for a win here, and nothing more.
6. Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils
What they need to do to qualify: Wait until the next IPL (no hope).
Crucial match: RCB vs. DD and KXIP vs. CSK (for pride)
It’s really sad to see KXIP end the way they did. The batting lineup that scored 200 four times last year has failed miserably, and their bowling attack has been dismal. They won more matches in their first 5 last year than they did in 13 this year, and now it’s all done for last year’s finalists. For Delhi, there was some fun to be had, as they pulled off some truly remarkable victories and made some brilliant performances. However, they just couldn’t keep the fire blazing long enough, and are now at 7th. They have nothing to play for now but pride, so hopefully they’ll come out all guns blazing to give their fans something to cheer about.
CSK have been one of IPL’s most successful franchises of all time (image from livecricketscore.io).
If you’ve browsed IPL memes on the internet, you’ve probably seen this one (or some variation of it):
Image from indianexpress.com
Just based off this meme (and many, many others online), you can pretty much conclude that the Chennai Super Kings are one of the IPL’s most dominant franchises. Again, this year, they are sitting pretty on the top of the points table with 12 points in 8 matches.
Now if you’re an non-CSK IPL fan, you’ve probably asked yourself: how are they so good? Many people have said match fixing, many people have said N. Srinivasan, and others have said match fixing by N. Srinivasan. Illegal activities aside, this is why I think CSK have been the best franchise this IPL:
1. They’ve got depth: Very few franchises will be able to say that they don’t have room for Michael Hussey in their first playing XI. CSK, though, have got that kind of depth. This is why, as we saw yesterday, they could recover from 90-5 and still make it to 150-odd.
2. They’re not afraid to be aggressive from the onset: A lot of teams walk out to bat with the mindset of “let me play out these first overs and go big later.” CSK, however, don’t do that. With guys like Brendon McCullum, Dwayne Smith and Suresh Raina in their order, they won’t be afraid to go after you from ball one. As a result, they immediately push their opponents into playing catch-up cricket, which then allows them to consolidate and set up for the big score. It must be noted though that this aggressive attitude has often cost them quick loss of wickets at the top of the order.
3. They’ve got a stable playing XI: Throughout the IPL, CSK have been known to not really change their squad much. Same thing here. They’ve not tinkered with their lineup too much, and just kept things simple with the same players. After, if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it.
4. They back their players: This is a tie-on from my previous point, but is still important. There are franchises that keep changing out their squad after rough performances, and don’t really give individual players many chances. However, CSK have been rather generous in this sense, and have always backed their players to come back strong.
5. They Work as a Team: This is one key element that you see in every successful sports team (not just cricket teams). Teams that are carried by one or two people can come far, but the teams that take that final step over the line to make history are the ones that have powerful teamwork. CSK are one such team. If you look at the way they play, you can barely ever pinpoint one man and say he’s the sole cause for CSK’s excellent form. Rather, it’s all the players coming together: the batsmen knocking the runs, and the bowlers and fielders backing them up. This is a crucial element of every champion team.
Lasith Malinga and Sunil Narine (image from ibnlive.in)
IPL 2015 is 32 matches in, and is thrilling as ever. We’ve seen some excellent cricket from some of the best. However, there have been some shockers so far as well. Most of all, Sunil Narine and Lasith Malinga. Malinga, despite his 10 wickets – four of which came in his last game against the Sunrisers – has been quite expensive, going at 7.96 runs to the over, an economy rate which – for someone of Malinga’s calibre – is just not up to par. Narine, on the other hand, has played 5 matches thus far, and taken 2 wickets – something he made double of in his very first match in the 2014 IPL (and Brad Hogg equalled in his first over against CSK last night).
Now Malinga and Narine are two of those bowlers who’s good form we just seem to take for granted, and to see them fail is something of an “end of the world” scenario. Malinga, with 129 wickets, is by far the highest wicket-taker of the tournament, outstripping his nearest competitor (Amit Mishra; 109 wickets) by 20 wickets. Narine, in his 4-year IPL career, has achieved nearly everything a bowler could hope to achieve in the IPL (except the elusive Purple Cap award) – a hat-trick, a 5-er, Sachin Tendulkar’s wicket, you name it. So what could be causing these greats to look so mediocre so far in this tournament?
For Narine, I think we could probably accredit that to his bowling action change. Last October, he was suspended following reports of an illegal bowling action, and this subsequently led to his not being selected for the 2015 World Cup – where he was missed dearly by the West Indies lineup. He was cleared in time for the IPL, but the first delivery he served up in the tournament was a juicy full-toss just outside off, which an in-form Rohit Sharma gladly crashed through the covers for a boundary. He was good, but couldn’t quite bring out that magical bowling that we associate with Sunil Narine. Malinga, on the other hand, looked quite off-color even in the World Cup, where he managed only 12 wickets in his 63.4 overs, and at a rather expensive 5.56 runs to the over. Some have said that his age of brilliance is coming to it’s end, but the thing is that he has still shown some brilliance. A maiden to Chris Gayle whilst defending 209. A wonderful spell of 4/23 to puncture the Sunrisers Hyderabad. These things have shown that he isn’t completely dead just yet, and has still got some juice in him.
Now what has happened to Narine and Malinga? Is it something technical, or is it just the law of averages catching up with them? Either way, we must acknowledge that every cricket player goes through bad patches in his or her career, and it’s how you’re able to pick yourself up and rise from those bad patches that truly defines who you are as a cricket player. And knowing Malinga and Narine, I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before they’re back in their usual legendary composures.