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5 Players Who Can Make It Happen this IPL

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.

 

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Top 5 Bargains of the IPL 2016 Auction

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.

#3 – Mustafizur Rahman (Rs. 1.4 crores – roughly $210,000) – Sunrisers Hyderabad

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.

#2 – Dwayne Smith (Rs. 2.30 crores – roughly $340,000) – Gujrat Lions

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.

#1 – Dale Steyn (Rs. 2.30 crores – roughly $340,000) – Gujrat Lions

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.  

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Cricket On The Scorecard – A Visualising Experience

Cricket is undoubtedly one of the most exciting sports there is. Both for the polished analyst as well as that guy who lives for exciting moments, cricket has plenty to offer. While the best experience undoubtedly comes from watching from the stadium itself, television has evolved so much that now watching from your HD TV with surround speakers and a box of pizza with ice cream for dessert provides an experience just as enthralling. However, this experience is often a tad harder to get for us cricket fans who live in countries where cricket is not quite the hot sport. Stadium watching is completely out of the question (unless you have a lot of money and passion), and getting high quality streams is sometimes very tedious. I know that starsports streams a majority of the big matches, but probably because I live in Korea, this starsports gives me this message of death instead of cricket more often than not:cons of cricket in koreaRacism….pfft (just kidding).

The only other streams available to me are ones that have such low quality and so much buffering that I usually just prefer to go watch IPL highlights.

To add to all of this, ICC clearly didn’t plan the timing of the matches to suit to the Korean time zone, so I often found myself rolled up in my bed, laptop on low volume, watching Yuvraj Singh pulverising Australia, or the West Indies outplaying Bangladesh at 2 AM. It is nonetheless fun, but it does cut in with my sleep, and sleep is good.

After watching this guy at 1 AM, I'm surprised I didn't get nightmares. Image credits: @AltCricket

After watching this guy at 1 AM, I’m surprised I didn’t get nightmares.
Image credits: @AltCricket

 

So in the end, my most reliable form of cricket viewing has been my cricket apps on my iPod. My favourite one used to be Yahoo Cricket’s app, which I found was neat and gave me all the info I needed. However, for some reason it lost its sense of time, and began to show scores with a delay. That’s when I switched to the espncricinfo app, which after updates, has proven to be one of the best apps I’ve ever used.

Now, I use these apps not just for the score, but for the commentary. The commentary is what helps you relive the match, and imagine what may have happened. They say good authors allow you to “live their books”. While the commentary provided on cricinfo may not be a literary work of art, but it helps me visualise nonetheless. While I may not be able to actually watch the match, I can still live the gameplay in my head. For example, if the commentary says Wriddhiman Saha is pulling Sunil Narine for sixes, I try and envision how that may work. Sometimes I may see him sitting on one knee and pulling him, or taking a step back to pull a shorter one. While the commentary does sometimes provide details that specify which one it actually is, the process of imagining it itself is quite incredible. This way, you can create your own image of cricket inside your head, which I feel is something every cricketist needs to be able to do.

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A Long Weekend of IPL

Yuvzendra Chahal has been one of the finds of the tournament. (Image from iplt20.com)

 

IPL is here. The most awaited event in the cricketing world barring World Cups, the IPL brings in a new essence of fickleness and thrill to cricket. In fact, we’ve already seen a 200-run chase, even though its been only 4 days since the start of the tournament. We’ve also seen how unpredictable it can be, as Mumbai Indians cartwheeled from a well-poised 60-2 in 9 overs to a paltry 115-9 in their 20 overs. Overall, its been a fabulous tournament already, and I can’t wait to see what the next month and half will bring!

The start of the IPL has was awaited event for me. Of course, watching it from South Korea is rather hard, owing to the fact that the 8 PM game begins at midnight, but being a hardcore cricket fan, I’ve managed to fight that obstacle and stay awake to see my favorite players rock the stage. I failed to catch the essence of the first game, owing to my over reliance on starsports.com (which apparently only streams in the subcontinent), and ended up with a terrible quality stream, to which I preferred simply catching the highlights next day during lunch break. For the rest of the games, however, I managed to find the correct YouTube streaming channel, and have managed to catch each and every match. And boy, did my dedication pay off. As mentioned in the intro paragraph, I’ve already been treated to Glenn Maxwell’s reverse sweeps, Yuvzendra Chahal’s googlies, Sunil Narine’s mystery, and Lasith Malinga’s yorkers, to name a few. There’s been some lovely contests, as Glenn Maxwell out shined Brendon McCullum and Dwayne Smith as KXIP successfully chased CSK’s 205-run total, and Virat Kohli combining with Yuvraj Singh to barrage the hapless Delhi Daredevils for sixes to successfully chase 145 with 20 balls to spare.

So far, I feel that two players who have impressed greatly are Parthiv Patel and Yuvzendra Singh Chahal. Since the moment Richard Madlee’s hammer hit the deck (and SRH declined to use ther RTM), Parthiv was doomed to be the minnow in the shadow of Gayle, Kohli and de Villiers. After all, what could be expected from a little man with an average barely over 20 and a strike rate barely over 100? However, Parthiv has been the not hid in the shadow, but cast his own. So far, he has epitomized the ideal opening partner for Chris Gayle. He’s played with beautiful temperament, and has taken the pressure off the rest of RCB’s batting lineup. Versus Delhi, he lead the charge with some aggressive batting to allow Virat Kohli to settle in, and against Mumbai he played a steadying innings to help RCB get off the hook after they were at 17-3. His good form also covered for Nic Maddinson’s lapses, and I am sure he will be incredible when Chris Gayle returns. Chahal was, I admit, a surprise choice as first spinner ahead of the much more experienced Shadab Jakati. However, it was nothing to the incredibility of his performance. He has taken 3 wickets across 2 games, with economy rates under 5 in each game. He is also yet to concede a boundary this tournament. However, his true beauty lies in his variations. For example, he bowled a beautiful legbreak to bowl over Murali Vijay on the very first ball of the season he bowled, and then bowled some beautiful wrong-uns vs MI to remove Kieron Pollard and Rohit Sharma. All the more impressive, considering he has played only 1 IPL match before this. Overall, Chahal looks like a promising talent, and RCB can rest their spin responsibilities on him.

 

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Rajasthan Royals: Season Preview

For the last time, watch the podcast for my views on the team as it came out of the auction. In case you want to view my other podcasts, you can always watch them here.

The Rajasthan Royals have always been admired as a franchise that takes what little it has, and makes it large. This was more than clear when Shane Warne picked up the least-likely-to-succeed team he was given, and took it to a victory. Although Rajasthan had rather lean times after that, they came back strong to secure third place last IPL. In the auction, they were frugal spenders, their most expensive buy being Steve Smith at Rs 4 crore ($660,000). The walk into this IPL with an abundance of young talent, in the form of Ajinkya Rahane, Sanju Samson, Unmukt Chand, Dhawal Kulkarni, Karun Nair, and Iqbal Abdullah. These players, working under brilliant mentors such as Paddy Upton and Rahul Dravid, will definitely blossom. In terms of overseas firepower, RR are not far behind either. Along with the already retained James Faulkner and Shane Watson, they brought back Kevon Cooper and Brad Hodge, and also pulled in the accurate Tim Southee, the hard-hitting Ben Cutting, and the ferocious Kane Richardson. I feel Ajinkya Rahane will have a crucial role to play for the Royals this year, as Rahul Dravid’s retirement makes him the most experienced Indian batsman in the playing team. Also, it will be interesting to see Shane Watson leading the side this year, as he has not had any experience captaining Australia and how he manages this young squad will be interesting to watch.

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

Unmukt Chand

Ajinkya Rahane

Shane Watson (c)

Sanju Samson (wk)

Steve Smith

Brad Hodge

Stuart Binny

James Faulkner

Vikramjeet Malik

Dhawal Kulkarni

Pravin Tambe

 

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Delhi Daredevils: Season Preview

As I have said in every season preview, view my podcast for some of my words of wisdom on the team:

The Delhi Daredevils have had a revolution going on. After a dismal 2013 season, where the Mahela Jaywardene-led side slipped to a 9th place finish, they have enlisted some major reforms, and really looked to start fresh in 2014. After dropping all their players, including Virender Sehwag, they went into the auction, and had a ball. After splurging a bit by picking up up Kevin Pietersen at Rs. 9 crore ($1.5 million), and Dinesh Karthik at Rs. 12.5 crores ($2.1 million), they went for some more decent buys, like JP Duminy (Rs. 2.2 crore), Ross Taylor (Rs. 2 crore), and James Neesham (Rs 1 crore). That was not the end of the Daredevils’ spending spree however, as they ended up spending their entire 60 crore quota (which is the highest possible purse size). So now the heavily beefed up Delhi squad looks like it can steamroll anything that comes in its way. Looking forward to see the KP-led squad move towards its first ever IPL trophy.

Author’s Choice XI (Based on recent shows):

Murali Vijay

Mayank Agarwal

Kevin Pietersen (c)

Ross Taylor

JP Duminy

Manoj Tiwari

James Neesham

Mohammed Shami

Jaydev Unadkat

Shahbaz Nadeem

Siddhart Kaul

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Kolkata Knight Riders: Season Preview

As done with the last several posts, watch my podcast for my ideas on the squad as it came fresh out of the auction:

Following their purchases in the 2014 IPL Auction, the Kolkata Knight Riders received much criticism from people for picking a squad of either out-of-form or rejected players. While that is true, one cannot forget that the players in their lineup are match-winners, and have made a great impact in the IPL. For instance, Robin Uthappa has not played an international match since 2012, but we all know what he has done on the IPL platform in the past. Vinay Kumar had what was probably the worst night of his life during the final India Australia ODI in Bangalore, where he went for 102 in 9 overs, but his death bowling for RCB is still something to remember. Piyush Chawla also came into their ranks, and while he is not the most reliable spinner in the world, he may be a wicket taking partner for Sunil Narine. Nonetheless, this IPL will need to be a wake-up call for Yusuf Pathan, who despite being brought back by KKR, received only Rs. 3.25 crores (roughly $540,000), which is a 75% paycut from his original $2.1 million in 2011. On paper, the KKR squad looks fairly strong, with other quality overseas recruits like Jacques Kallis, Shakib Al Hasan, Morne Morkel, and Chris Lynn. Although the rustiness of their armor might turn on them, KKR still have the potential to pull off something spectacular.

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

Manish Pandey

Jacques Kallis

Gautam Gambhir (c)

Robin Uthappa (wk)

Shakib Al Hasan

Ryan Ten Doeschate

Yusuf Pathan

Vinay Kumar

Piyush Chawla

Sunil Narine

Umesh Yadav

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Sunrisers Hyderabad: Season Preview

As always, watch my podcast for my general overview and analysis of the team:

After the Kings XI Punjab, I feel that the Sunrisers Hyderabad made some of the best buys in the IPL Auction for 2014. They pulled in a strong, balanced squad, and look like the team to bet this IPL. They did bring in Australian duo of David Warner and Aaron Finch to combine with the retained Shikhar Dhawan to beef up the top order, but the true strength of their side comes in their bowling. After pulling back the core of their attack by retaining and buying back Dale Steyn, Amit Mishra, Ishant Sharma, Darren Sammy and Karan Sharma, they roped in Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Irfan Pathan, Jason Holder, Parveez Rasool, and Moises Henriques to form what is inarguably the most dangerous bowling line up this season. The only issue for them would be who be that a majority of their middle order is left in a slightly slippery position, with players like Venugopal Rao and Naman Ojha not really being in impact form over the last two years. However, they do have other options, such as Manpreet Juneja, Lokesh Rahul, and Srikkanth Aniruddha, so they do have room for experimentation. Some other things it will be interesting to see is whether Sunrisers will prefer to use Karan Sharma to Parveez Rasool, or whether they will play Ashish Reddy in their squad, as he has been good for the Sunrisers in the past.

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

Shikhar Dhawan (c)

David Warner

Aaron Finch

Lokesh Rahul (wk)

Darren Sammy

Irfan Pathan

Ashish Reddy

Karan Sharma

Amit Mishra

Dale Steyn

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

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Chennai Super Kings: Season Preview

As before, watch my podcast for my general thoughts on the team, as it looks on paper:

The Chennai Super Kings have undoubtedly been the most successful team in the IPL so far. They are the only team to qualify for every single semifinal since the inaugural edition, and are also the only team to win the league twice. They come into the tournament with a side similar to the one they had in 2013, but with more changes than one is used to when it comes to CSK. Firstly, we see that former clutch players like Michael Hussey, Albie Morkel and Subramaniam Badrinath have been discarded. Also, we see several new faces, such as New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum, Australia’s John Hastings, and West Indies’ duo of Dwayne Smith and Samuel Badree. Overall, the CSK squad looks very well balanced, as it always has. The only niggle they will have will be the question of who will be the spearhead fast bowler. Although Ben Hilfenhaus is indeed an option, he hasn’t played international cricket in well over a year now, and bringing him in will mean leaving out either Faf du Plessis or Samuel Badree, two of CSK’s clutch players this tournament. Therefore, it is likely that CSK will give someone along the lines of Ashish Nehra, Ishwar Pandey, or Mohit Sharma that responsibility, although it is a risky move. However, their spin attack is impeccable, with Badree combining with an in-form Ravi Ashwin, and Ravi Jadeja.

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

Brendon McCullum

Faf du Plessis

Suresh Raina

Dwayne Bravo

MS Dhoni

Mithun Manhas

Ravindra Jadeja

Ravichandran Ashwin

Ishwar Pandey

Samuel Badree

Mohit Sharma

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