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India’s Missing Cog

Image from static.ibnlive.in.com

Imagine you’re a high schooler, like me. You’re going to write your SAT tomorrow, but you’re pretty darn well prepared. Just to savour the victory ahead of time, you decide to try out a practice test. However, you finish the test with a score of 1200 (which is a 22nd percentile, and enough to make your parents mad at you). Has that ever happened to you? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening to the Indian cricketing team right now. They’ve been in Australia for just about 2 months now, and they’ve still not tasted victory. With the World Cup just weeks away (which is by the way being played in Australia and New Zealand), no doubt both Indian fan and player alike would be feeling the heat.
The defending champs have shown on more than one occasion on this tour that they are fighters, but regrettably they have no win to show for their efforts. They’ve has some stars, such as the mature, peerless Ajinkya Rahane and the resurgent, vengeful Virat Kohli, but all in all their performance as a team has been average.
What is wrong with them you may ask? Well I personally feel that their issue is not batting quality (although that has been rather on-and-off as well), but their bowling. To be more specific, their fast bowling. Their quicks simply have not been able to step up, and therefore have not been able to make the dents that people like Mitchell Starc and Steven Finn have been making. Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav have been fast but too wayward, gifting too many runs to the opposition but not keeping up the pressure. Mohammed Shami has had relatively more success, but has still not quite been able to hold on his discipline when bowling long spells. Ishant Sharma was also good on some occasions, but again, he just didn’t have the “oomph” factor that men like Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris had. Even Bhuvneshwar Kumar, once India’s go-to fast bowler, made a very lackadaisical comeback from injury, barely troubling Australia’s batsmen. Now, if there’s something Indian need more than ever, especially with the World Cup looming over, it’s a top grade fast bowler. Not just a guy who can hit the 150’s, but a guy who you can rely on to hit the new ball hard and draw early blood, and then come back in the death and land the final kill. There are going to be plenty of these types of players coming into the World Cup, such as Dale Steyn, Mitchell Starc and Lasith Malinga. If India want to be able to hold on to their trophy, they will need such a bowler. It’s probably too late to call up a new face, so for now India will have to trust Shami, Umesh, Ishant and Bhuvi, and just hope for the best. However, in the long run, it is imperative that India look for a pacer who they can rely on.
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The IPL Trading Window – MI

Vinay Kumar is one of MI’s 3 new imports for the year. (Image from gocricket.com)

The IPL Trading window has been going very well so far. I’m personally very happy to see that teams are actually using it this time (as opposed to last year), and I’m also glad that I can actually understand why the teams made the decisions they did.

The Mumbai Indians have been the most active, dropping 2 of their players and acquiring 3. The two players they dropped were Praveen Kumar and Michael Hussey.

With PK, I can see why they did what they did. The seamer was, after all, only a replacement for Zaheer Khan, and while he did not underperform, he did not do enough to give MI enough reason to retain him. Still, I personally would have thought that MI would have done well to retain PK, owing to the fact that Zak is injury prone.

With Hussey, however, I was more surprised. Although he had a poor showing in the UAE, he made a strong comeback in the India leg of the tournament, and brought experience to the playing 11 that would have been much missed after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement. This again shows the fickle nature of the Mumbai Indians unit in terms of their player choices. Players such as Richard Levi, Davy Jacobs, and Corey Anderson were all players who delivered momentary bursts of brilliance, and were immediately snapped up by the franchise. However, when they failed to show, they were discarded almost as quickly as they were purchased. Jacobs and Levi were dropped following the 2012 IPL, and Corey was not a part of the playing XI for any of MI’s games in their forgettable CLT20 run this year. Same thing has happened to Hussey here. I’m guessing that it’s because of the unexpected rise of Lendl Simmons as an opener. His revolutionary rise to the occasion when Mumbai were all but out of the IPL is probably what inspired them to give him their slot for overseas opener.

Now on to their purchases. With Unmukt Chand and Parthiv Patel, I believe that it is yet again a part of Mumbai’s black hole desire for opening batsmen. Since Tendulkar’s retirement and Dwayne Smiths’ leaving MI, they have been searching for that suitable pair to open the innings. Hence, players like Hussey, CM Gautham and Ben Dunk were tried, but in vain. This, I assume, is just a continuation of that need to fill the void. Parthiv Patel was scintillating for RCB in the first few games of the tournament, but he quickly sizzled out, and failed to make much more of an impact. Nonetheless, he has shown on numerous occasions that he can be a stable opener, and could well be the answer to MI’s opening issue. As with Chand, he received well below his due playing time in IPL 2014, which I assume is due to Karun Nair’s extraordinary form. However, he can be a forceful opener for the MI squadron, and I feel that spending some time under greats like Tendulkar, Johnty Rhodes, Shaun Pollock and Anil Kumble would give the youngster an excellent chance to hone not only his cricketing skill, but his leadership skills as well. This experience could be one that would prepare him to be a future leader of India.

As for Vinay Kumar, the only reason I can find for their picking him is Zak’s injury situation. Although he is by no means a very economic bowler, Vinay is an aggressive wicket taker, who can choke oppositions at the right times. The Karnataka skipper also brings some experience with him, which can be useful for nurturing some of the other young bowlers in the MI squad.

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What Happened to India?

Along with the rest of the Indian lineup, Cheteshwar Pujara had a below-par time in England. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

Along with the rest of the Indian lineup, Cheteshwar Pujara had a below-par time in England. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

July 21st, 2014: Indian won in Lord’s for the first time in 28 years. It was a day to rejoice, and Indian fan and cricketer alike were all happy. However, the cloud of jubilation proved to be but a mask of what would come next. The English batsmen began the third test with an attack of renewed vigour to register a massive total of 569 before James Anderson and Moeen Ali cleaned up the dazed Indian lineup to register a mighty 266 run victory; their first since beating Australia in the Ashes during the summer of 2013. The Indian side never quite looked the same again, as they were routed for 152 and 161 within 3 days during the 4th test, registering one of the meekest surrenders in cricket history. At the start of the 4th test, Independence Day luck failed India as they collapsed yet again to register only 148. Now down 2-1 in the series (with 1 draw), it is hard to see how this young Indian side, which had looked so authoritative back in Lord’s, managed to bring themselves down to such a lowly fate.

 

The biggest problem in the last 2 tests was undoubtedly the Indian batting lineup’s failure to click. Virat Kohli in particular has failed to give India those strong partnerships and 100-ball innings you see from guys like Kumar Sangakkara. Even Ajinkya Rahane – who looked set to be India’s Mr. Dependable in the making after his mature Lord’s century – stuttered and spluttered in the last few innings. Only a few “rescue operations” (literally) innings from MS Dhoni and R Ashwin saved the Indians from sub-100 scores in the last few innings.

 

This may lead you to the conclusion that it is easy to blame the losses entirely on India’s batting, but don’t cast your judgement just yet. We must also take into accord England’s bowling. After the Lord’s test, England took a bit of a gamble bringing in 4 specialist fast-bowlers and leaving only 1 part-time spinner. However, it paid off dramatically well. James Anderson and Stuart Broad were the key figures, as they demolished the Indian batting as clinically as German U-Boats sunk Allied shipment during WWII. Don’t forget Chris Jordan and Chris Woakes though. While they may not have done the damage done by the Broad-Anderson duo, they definitely made an impact, silencing a few batsmen and allowing the pressure to creep on them. Now the bottom line question arises: why couldn’t India do the same? Why couldn’t India’s bowlers dive bomb the British batsmen as efficiently as their English counterparts had done to theirs?

 

There are quite a few reasons for this. The first is poor selection. Where England played 4 full-time seamers, India played just 3, of whom 1 was debuting and 1 was not known for his pace (in the 3rd test). Hence while they were not terrible, they did not do as much as Anderson and Broad had. Their problem was that their selection did not have the pace needed to repeat what Ishant Sharma did back in Lord’s. Varun Aaron had more success in the 4th test, as he picked up 3 wickets, including a lovely inswinger to knock over Moeen Ali. He was probably bowling slower than he would during a T20 to preserve his fragile fitness, but was still fast enough to trouble the English batsmen. This is where it might have been handy to use someone like Umesh Yadav (not selected for the tour) or Mohammed Shami ahead of Stuart Binny or Pankaj Singh, as those guys are probably the fastest bowlers we have in India today and might have had a strong impact.

 

The second issue is inexperience. India’s complete revamp of the side in the past 3 years has stripped them drastically of hardened international experience. In fact, Ishant Sharma is the only Indian pacer who’s played the tour to debut before 2013. In England, on the other hand, James Anderson and Stuart Broad are hardened veterans, and Woakes and Jordan have a good level of experience with English tracks, even if not much at the international level. Therefore the English side was able to outplay the Indians on experience alone (the inexperienced Indian lineup did not help). Even though guys like Mohammed Shami possessed the pace to dent England, their lack of experience barred the way. Persisting with Zaheer Khan might help. Even though he is injury prone and possesses only flashes of the potent that made him such a lethal bowler a few years ago, he would help smooth the transition into the new generation for India’s quicks.

 

This tour has been a bittersweet one for India (maybe more bitter than sweet though). They lost two crushing defeats, true, but it’s not everyday that you win a test at Lord’s. I personally feel it will be a tour of comprehension for India. It is time for them to find some way to either bring an experience equilibrium to the squad, or get their youngsters accustomed to foreign conditions (through domestic leagues in different countries). Even if India lose the series, I feel it will be a good wake-up call for them, and will hopefully spark some degree of reform and change, so we have a better, classier Indian side too watch in the near future.

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Kings XI Punjab: Season Preview

The T20 world cup is over, with Sri Lanka thwarting India by 6 wickets to clinch the title that barely evaded them last year. Now, we have about 1 and a half weeks to calm down before the next big event in the cricketing world: the Pepsi IPL 2014.

Therefore, I’m going to start putting in season previews for the various franchises, starting with the Kings XI Punjab. Hope you enjoy 🙂

First up, watch this video for my insights on their team as it came fresh out of the auction:

 

Kings XI Punjab have been a team very similar to New Zealand on the International Cricket scene: they’ve had legends in their ranks, and played some truly fantastic cricket at times, but still fail to make it large in the big tournament. This has been shown clearly as they are the only team to have started in 2008, but not yet qualified for two semifinals. They only managed to make it in the inaugral season, under Yuvraj Singh’s leadership. Since then, however, it’s been a rather disheartening 5 years for Kings XI fans. Finishing 5th, 8th, 5th, 6th, and 6th across seasons 2 and 6. However, this season might just be different. After beefing up their lineup by pulling in the cool-headed George Bailey, the devastating Mitchell Johnson, the explosive Glenn Maxwell, and the aggressive Virender Sehwag, they brought in other class players, such as Cheteshwar Pujara, Thisara Perera, Beuran Hendricks, and Wriddhiman Saha. Combined with the already retained David Miller and Manan Vohra, their squad looks like a formidable one, and KXIP seem fit to claim their first ever IPL title.

Author’s Choice XI (Based on more recent times):

Virender Sehwag

Cheteshwar Pujara

George Bailey (c)

Glenn Maxwell

Wriddhiman Saha (wk)

David Miller

Mandeep Singh

Rishi Dhawan

Mitchell Johnson

Murali Karthik

Laxmipathy Balaji

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India vs Sri Lanka: Familiar Foes in a Fiery Final

Apart from just being a World Cup Final, this will be the last time we see these two men playing a T20 for Sri Lanka (Image credits:  Troll Cricket)

Apart from just being a World Cup Final, this will be the last time we see these two men playing a T20 for Sri Lanka
(Image credits: Troll Cricket)

There is a time in all sports where none but the best are left in the contest. When all are judged unworthy for success but the top guns, who have played their very best game. This is that time. India and Sri Lanka, the top two teams in this year’s world cup T20, take each other on in an epic final tomorrow night. Both teams have been in sublime touch throughout the tournament. India barely ever looked troubled for the first few games, and in fact it was even said that they were simply not “tested enough”. However, in their previous game against South Africa, they were under the hammer as Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy mercilessly took the attack to the Indian bowlers, with even Amit Mishra, India’s trump card so far in this world cup, going for plenty. However, Virat Kohli’s inspired 72* in just 44 took India over the line quiet comfortably. For Sri Lanka, it has been a series of dominance as well, even if not as one-sided as most of India’s games. They pulled off a clinical victory over South Africa to start their campaign, before absolutely decimating the Netherlands. Although they ended up on the wrong end of the stick in their high-scoring affair against England, they came back with vengeance to defend a paltry 119 as the hapless New Zealand lineup was bowled out for 60. Their semifinal encounter against the West Indies was a close one, as Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels’ decision to take it slow and steady at the start of the innings despite the possibility of rain proved to be their own death rite as they ended up losing by 27 runs according to the D/L method. Sri Lanka might have to have gone through a considerably higher amount of strain had the entire match been played out, but it was not to be.

The key thing to notice in both sides’ extreme success has been the strong presence of one particular element: spin. Both India and Sri Lanka docked up on heir spin resources, and on the spin-friendly tracks in Bangladesh, this has proven to be a brilliant move. For India, it has been Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, and Ravindra Jadeja who have done their magic, while it has been Sachithra Senanayake, Rangana Herath, and Ajantha Mendis (though not all at once), who have done it for Sri Lanka. This has been what set these two sides ahead of other brilliant T20 teams, such as South Africa and Australia, who insisted on going in with just the one spinner per game. Therefore, I feel that apart from being just a clash between India and Sri Lanka, it’s going to be a battle between the two teams’ spinners. What strategy will Sri Lanka have for playing Ravi Ashwin’s carrom ball (which produced an absolute gem of a wicket in the game vs RSA)? Will India be tenacious in their approach towards Rangana Herath? These are some of the questions one must ask for this “spin to win” encounter.

Setting the Stage: 

It’s going to be an emotional game for most cricket fans as it will be the last time we ever see Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jaywardene walk out onto the field for a T20 in Sri Lankan colors. Although both have been far from remarkable so far, it would be lovely to see them do well in this final T20I for them. On other news, it’s interesting that this final should be exactly 3 years and 3 days since the 2011 World Cup Final, which India pulled off quiet a heist to win, courtesy of MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir (you can read my emotional facebook post about it here). While India would use that as inspiration for them, Sri Lanka would want to put the past in the past and look to make a fresh start here. Also, Sri Lanka have often be teased for being a team that only makes it to the finals of tournaments, but never wins. Of course, Sri Lanka broke this tradition by winning the Asia Cup finals against Pakistan, but will want to try and finish that here as well.

Player Contests:

Virat Kohli vs Lasith Malinga: Virat Kohli is currently in the form of his life. With 242 runs at an average of 121, he has single handedly taken the reigns of India’s batting in this tournament. Lasith Malinga, on the other hand, has had a slightly more quiet tournament, as his 5 wickets from 14 overs leaves him lower down down the wicket takers chart than he would be used to. However, that does not nullify the effect he can have one bit. Those slinging yorkers he produces, especially at death, are not by any means easy to pick. Although Malinga has painful recollections of bowling to Virat Kohli, he would still take it upon himself to run one past VK, and if he can get the in-form batsman out early, it would put India in all sorts of trouble.

Ravichandran Ashwin vs Mahela Jaywardene: Ravi Ashwin has had a brilliant tournament so far. His stash of 10 wickets from 19.2 overs at an economy rate of just 4.91 (just as a reminder, this is a T20 tournament) speaks for itself, and there is nothing more that is needed to be mentioned about his impact for India this tournament. Mahela, on the other hand, has had quiet a struggle, having scored just 45 runs across his 4 innings, barring that 89 he made against England. Despite that, Mahela is a known expert against spin, and he would want to do everything in his power to neutralize Ashwin before he can have an effect. On the other hand, Ashwin would want to try and make the veteran batsmen look like Hashim Amla did, and give him a good “send off” in his final ever T20 game.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar vs Kushal Perera: In almost all of Lanka’s games so far in the tournament, they’ve been able to rely on Kushal Perera for a strong start at the head of the innings that would set the tone for the later part. Bhuvneshwar, on the other hand, has been silently baffling batsmen with his sharp swing bowling at the start of the innings, and setting the stage for the spinners to come in for the kill. Both of them would look to dismantle each other in this epic final clash.

Squads:

While there is really nothing much you would want to change in either of the teams, my only change would be to see Sri Lanka bring back Ajantha Mendis into the side, as particularly against a side with a batting lineup as reputed as India’s they would want to keep as many bowling cards in hand as they can. Although this would leave them with an extended tail, Nuwan Kulasekara and Senanayake are decent batsmen, and can give SL sufficient insurance for that spot.

India (Potential XI):

Ajinkya Rahane

Rohit Sharma

Virat Kohli

Yuvraj Singh

Suresh Raina

MS Dhoni (c & wk)

Ravindra Jadeja

Ravichandran Ashwin

Amit Mishra

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Mohit Sharma

Sri Lanka (Potential XI):

Kushal Perera

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Mahela Jaywardene

Kumar Sangakkara (wk)

Lahiru Thirimanne

Angelo Matthews

Nuwan Kulasekara

Sachithra Senanayake

Rangana Herath

Ajantha Mendis

Lasith Malinga (c)

 

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IPL Auctions 2014 – A Look Back

Hey guys,

Firstly, I’m really sorry I couldn’t do any pre-auctions reviews this year. I had an unfortunately high amount of work and also fell sick, so I really had no time to do them.

However, because of that, I’m going to make this post-auction review the best it can possibly be. I’m not going to go in depth on each team, but I’m going to touch on the highlights, and talk about a few things. Hope you enjoy 🙂

At ₹14 crore, Yuvraj Singh was this year’s most expensive player.

This IPL auction was something different for several reasons. Of course, it was the quarterly team revamp auction, but it also featured many different twists to it. For instance, it was done in Indian Rupees, included the Right to Match cards (which you can read about here), and also included uncapped players. While the other two definitely have their own effects, the latter is probably the most crucial, because it meant that teams would have to look to literally build their entire squads in this auction, and would not simply be able to buy some stalwarts in the auction and look to pick up the uncapped players later. Hence, it required a whole new scope of planning from the franchises as they made their purchases in this auction.

There were plenty of highlights of course; most of all was Yuvraj Singh going to the Royal Challengers Bangalore for a hefty sum of 14 crore rupees – which is roughly $2.26 million – making him the second most expensive player in IPL history. His inclusion into the RCB side, along with Chris Gayle, Virat Kohli, and AB de Villiers, means that they have what is arguably the most devastating batting unit in the tournament. Next to Yuvraj was Dinesh Karthik, who was snapped up by his first franchise the Delhi Daredevils for an explosive sum of ₹12.5 crore which is around $2.02 million. It was also exciting to see Virender Sehwag  (I do not speak for Delhi fans when I say this) purchased by the Kings XI Punjab, even if it was for a relatively small sum for someone of his stature. Some of the other interesting purchases included the little-known New Zealand quick Matt Henry (CSK), the Zimbabwe wicket-keeper batsman Brendan Taylor (SRH), and the young Australian T20 opener Nic Maddinson (RCB). Another player who earned a surprisingly high sum was the uncapped Indian all-rounder Karan Sharma. Although he was eventually bought back by his former franchise the Sunrisers Hyderabad, it was not before his price had shot up from a mere ₹30 lakh to a mammoth 3.75 crores (about $600,000), which was more than what capped stars like Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, and Brad Hodge got.

The best post-auction squads, in my opinion, are those of the Sunrisers, Kings XI, and Royal Challengers. Kings XI probably made some of the best bargains of the auction, picking up players like Mitchell Johnson, George Bailey, Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Thisara Perera; none of whom cost them more than 7 crores. The Sunrisers were probably one of the happiest franchises after the auction, after they walked out with guys like Aaron Finch, David Warner, and Naman Ojha combining with the already-retained Shikhar Dhawan to make up the SRH batting. In addition to this, their overall bowling attack now consists of Dale Steyn, Ishant Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Parveez Rasool, Amit Mishra, and Darren Sammy (which is already enough to make any batsmen pee in his pants), not even including their bench strength. The best part? None of their prices exceeded ₹5.5 crore. With RCB, it is easy to see why their side appears so intimidating. Not many look at a batting order containing Gayle, Kohli, de Villiers, Yuvraj, and Albie Morkel and say “that’s not good enough.” To add to their batting power, they pulled in former Sunrisers keeper batsman Parthiv Patel – who struck some crucial blows at the top of the order for SRH in both IPL 2013 and CLT20 2013 – India’s U19 World Cup hero Vijay Zol, and the talented Kenyan batsman Tanmay Mishra. Their bowling will be spearheaded by the Ozzie new-ball gun Mitchell Starc, ably assisted by Albie, Varun Aaron – one of India’s fastest bowlers today – Ashok Dinda, and Shadab Jakati. Hence, this RCB side resembles the one  the Delhi Daredevils had in 2012, with the beefed up batting and the pace-reliant attack.

Another thing that surprised most was that not many Sri Lankan players were picked at all. In fact, only two – Muttiah Muralitharan and Thisara Perera – were picked in the entire auction. While there are many factors that could possibly have lead to the franchises turning their back on them – most prominent of which is their tour of England that would lead them to miss a large portion of the tournament. Despite that, I find it very surprising that no franchise was willing to make a long-term investment in a T20 specialist like Mahela Jaywardene, Tillakaratne Dilshan, or Ajantha Mendis. Of course the franchises may show more interest when they appear in next year’s auctions, but the unconventional shortage of Sri Lankan stars will be something new to the league this year.

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IPL Auctions 2014: Right To Match Cards Explained

The IPL Auctions are closing in fast, and, as always, they promise to be a gripping experience, with almost as much tension and excitement as the real league itself. This years’ auctions, however, promise to be much more exciting than the ones before, primarily because of the implementation of several new measures. Amongst these is the “Right to Match card” concept. This may seem a complex concept, but in reality it’s not. It’s just like a stimulant to add an extra variable to the auctions, and make them even more exciting. The number of Right to Match cards a team has is based off how many players they retained. This chart will represent that:

 

Number of Players Retained Number of RTM cards

5

1

4

1

3

1

2

2

1

2

0

3

 

So as you can see, the number of players retained is inversely proportional to the number of RTM cards the franchise has. Since nearly every franchise decided to retain someone, the Delhi Daredevils is probably the only team with 3 RTM cards. The number of cards each franchise has is as follows:

Franchise Retentions RTM Cards Remaining Sum
Mumbai Indians

5

1

Rs. 21 crore

Chennai Super Kings

5

1

Rs. 21 crore

Rajasthan Royals

5

1

Rs. 22.5 crore

Sunrisers Hyderabad

2

2

Rs. 38 crore

Royal Challengers Bangalore

3

1

Rs. 30.5 crore

Kings XI Punjab

2

2

Rs. 43.5 crore

Kolkata Knight Riders

2

2

Rs. 38 crore

Delhi Daredevils

0

3

Rs. 60 crore

 

Now how the card itself works, is as follows. The player comes up for auction, and is auctioned as normal. Once the player receives no further bids, the auctioneer (hopefully Richard Madlee) will announce him sold. Then, he will ask if the players’ former franchise wishes to use an RTM card. If the franchise uses a card, then they will get the player at the final bid made. You may think that the franchises might as well use it on their best former player, and it will pretty much like a 6th retention. However, it has a different twist to it. To display this, I will use the practical example of Micheal Hussey. He was (surprisingly) released by CSK, and will feature in the auctions. So lets assume that he comes up, and all the teams start bidding like crazy.  They bid and bid and bid, and eventually Mumbai Indians raise the baton for 5.00 crores, and no one bids any further. Then, when the auctioneer hits the hammer, he will ask CSK if they wish to use their RTM card. This is an example of where things get complicating. While CSK have the chance to buy Hussey back, would it be worth paying up ¼ of their remaining purse just on him? That is why the RTM is a little more ambiguous than retention, and adds an extra twist to the auction. Hopefully this article has given you an insight on the RTM card factor, and helped you understand it better. Now lastly, here are my predictions as to who the franchises will use their RTM cards on, based on my assumptions and whatever information I’ve managed to find:

Franchise Player(s) the card(s) will be used on
Mumbai Indians Mitchell Johnson
Chennai Super Kings Chris Morris
Rajasthan Royals Brad Hodge
Sunrisers Hyderabad Quinton de Kock, Amit Mishra
Royal Challengers Bangalore Vinay Kumar
Kings XI Punjab David Hussey, Shaun Marsh
Kolkata Knight Riders Jacques Kallis, Eoin Morgan
Delhi Daredevils David Warner, Mahela Jaywardene, Umesh Yadav

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Pune Warriors – A final tribute

by iplgeek 0 Comments

Pune Warriors India

In spite of all that’s been going on in the world of cricket, I’m sure all of you out there heard of the termination of the Pune Warriors India. I know it’s been a while since their actual termination, but I’ve been rather busy off late, and just found some time to put together this final tribute to the most expensive franchise in IPL history. I will talk about how they went through 3 years of the IPL, and what they did wrong in the end. Hope you enjoy 🙂

So basically, the Pune Warriors were brought ahead of the 2011 season, and were purchased at a feisty 290 million USD by Sahara Adventure Sports Limited, replacing the Mumbai Indians as the most expensive franchise. They made their first mark in the 2011 IPL Auctions where they managed to snap up the star of India’s 2011 World Cup Triumph Yuvraj Singh for a whoop-de-do $1.8 million, along the Karnataka’s carnage in the form of Robin Uthappa for a jaw-dropping $2.1 million (which tied with Yusuf Pathan as second-most expensive player of the auctions). They also brought other trustworthy hands on board in the form of Jesse Ryder, Murali Karthik, Alfonso Thomas, and Mitchell Marsh. They looked like a side to be reckoned with. IPL finally came, and Pune opened their campaign with an emphatic 7-wicket win over the Kings XI Punjab. However, a slump in form saw the Warriors win only 3 games more in the entire tournament and slip all the way down to 9th out of the 10 teams. 2012 came, and so came a new captain Saurav Ganguly, a few new players, and even a new jersey, but no new results. They started well again, defending a paltry 129 to hand the Mumbai Indians a 28-run defeat in their backyard. However, they could win but 3 more games again, giving them 9th place yet again (only this time it was out of 9). 2013 came, and they flunked yet again, finishing with (you guessed it) 4 wins. Now here’s where I want to make a few points on what went wrong for them. For starters, let’s consider their home track. The Subrata Roy Stadium track was a spongy, slow one, that favored slow bowlers and saw Amit Mishra pluck a hat-trick to help his team the Sunrisers Hyderabad defend 119 to pull off an unlikely win against their hosts. Basically, the side PWI should’ve been looking for should’ve been like that of the Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012, with primarily slow bowlers but a strong batting. However, we saw their star spinner Ajantha Mendis play only 3 games, 1 of which wasn’t even in Pune. This was definitely a huge mistake, as Mendis’ mystery spin could’ve definitely proved to be very useful for the men in turquoise. Although their batting was almost always up to the mark (thanks to the exploits of Aaron Finch) their bowling was very shaky, with only Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowling consistently. Finally, one thing that greatly crippled the Warriors was Yuvraj Singh’s abysmal form. Being a spinner and a batsmen with an adaptable temperament, the Prince of India would have turned the fate of the Pune Warriors had he been in form. So that’s about it, and Pune will be missed by all, particularly their loyal fans who turned up again and again to watch them play despite the far-below-par performances of their team. Well, this is IPLgeek signing off, adios! 🙂

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Game over for Ishant?

Is Ishant Sharma out of chances?

Is Ishant Sharma out of chances?

44 needed in 18 balls. Adam Voges and James Faulkner at the crease. Most people would agree that India would have easily taken the game home from here. However, they also thought RCB would have defended 43 in 12 in that game vs CSK in IPL 2012. However, the circumstances are a bit different here. For one, MSD had far more trustworthy bowling options than poor Daniel Vettori did, and secondly, James Faulkner is not as renowned as a batsman as Albie Morkel is. So when Ishant Sharma walked in to bowl the 48th with figures of 7-1-33-1, no one protested much. After all, Ishant had responded to his captain’s need back in the Champions Trophy Final during the summer and defended much less against much more dangerous batsmen. However, what came was enough to give some a heart-attack, and made others look like this:

Why when even I popped open my Yahoo Cricket app on my iPod this morning and saw Australia won, I naturally went to investigate more and I saw James Faulkner with a score of 64 in 29. I was upset that we had lost, but not as much as I was befuddled as to how James Faulkner’s batting could have been the instrumental to it. Even more when I found that he had taken Ishant Sharma for 30 runs in an over to pull it off. However, a quick look at some highlights showed me that Ishant had really walked right into Faulkner’s trap. Or rather, fixed it up before falling into it. From the highlights I saw, it could not have been more evident that Faulkner was playing the typical “desperate tailender” game. He was simply slogging at everything, and a yorker, or a delivery that was a tad wider and slower would have done him in. However, like I said, Ishant fixed up the trap before he fell into it. He gave Faulkner a series of pitched-up deliveries, which to the Ozzies was like Gold Dust. Faulkner smashed 4 of them for six in addition one double and a boundary. A real “whoops” moment for poor Ishant.

Alright, end flashback. Back to the here and now. Now that brings us onto what I really wanted to discuss in this post. Is it time up for Ishant Sharma? Of course, one can argue that it was just one of his “bad days”. However, we must also consider that Ishant has an economy of 7.87 this series, with only 2 wickets and a pitiful average of  94.5. Not what you’d expect of the most experienced seamer in the XI. Now the reason he is so disappointing as contrasted to the other two seamers – Vinay Kumar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar – is that they each have a plus and minus. Bhuvi is expensive at death, but is tidy at the front and even though he has only 1 wicket this series, he is the only Indian bowler to keep his economy below 6 in all three games. Vinay has been terribly expensive (he is not known for economical bowling) but did what he did for RCB: picked up wickets. Even if his death bowling hasn’t been as good as it was during IPL 2013, he was the only Indian bowler to pick a wicket in every one of the 3 games. Ishant has been on neither side. Many have jokingly said that his poor shows are “tribute” to Ajit Agarkar, who recently retired from first-class cricket. On the up side, India have plenty of reserves. Jaydev Unadkat – who had a good tour of Zimbabwe and a brilliant IPL, along with Amit Mishra – who used the slow track of the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium to his advantage to outfox batsmen in IPL 2013, and was also India’s best bowler in Zimbabwe. So in the likely event of Ishant getting dropped, India will not miss him too much. As for Ishant himself, hopefully he will use this as a wake-up call and look to work on his lines and lengths so he can hope to make a comeback soon.

 

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India pull off unbeaten Champions Trophy win

After enduring through consistent showers and shortened playing time, the fans who grouped at Birmingham finally got the result of the final of this last ever Champions Trophy, and it was India who pulled out victorious. Chasing 130 for victory in the 20 over game, on a challenging track, the Englishmen were rocked as they lost their top four inside 10 overs, with the required rate climbing. Then Ravi Bopara – who had shined with the ball and in the field – bugged India once again as he put together a strong 64-run stand with Eoin Morgan. The two of them managed to simplify the equation to 28 needed of 18. Then Ishant Sharma – who’s arrival to the bowling crease that over had been greeted with heavy criticism – went from Zero to Hero in 2 balls as he removed both Bopara and Morgan in just 2 balls. That was the end of England’s chances of getting the cup. Looking at the rainy conditions, English skipper Alastair Cook gave his seamers the first ball. The Englishmen were very disciplined, and never really let India run away with it. Only Shikhar Dhawan (31), Virat Kohli (43) and Ravindra Jadeja (33*) made double digits. It was a marvelous tournament for the Men in Blue, as they were unbeaten throughout; including the Warm-Up games. This is quiet a contrasting result to the one expected by most people, looking at India’s squad – particularly the fast-bowling attack. Still, MSD’s men proved their critics wrong yet again, and shone bright to clench another cup. An example of just how dominating they were was shown as both the leading run scorer and wicket taker were both Indian (Dhawan and Jadeja respectively). This seems to show that India have finally struck a balanced side, and hopefully can carry this form onto their various other tournaments.

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