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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Howzit guys, I was looking through the views feed on my admin page, and found that the posts I did with cricket attax pics sometime in 2011 were still getting a fair number of views. Hence, I decided that it would be well worth my time to post some more cricket attax pics, with my commentary on them. So while digging through some of my old stuff, I found these “treasures” that I’ve had for at least two years now. Forgive me for being rather behind time with my cards, since I’ve not purchased any since my last trip to India in December 2012. I’ll do my best to get some 2013 cards to post soon 🙂 So here are some of my more prized cards. Follow along with the slideshow, and the captions represent which card my commentary is about. Hope you enjoy 🙂
This is my Brendon McCullum Gold. He’s from 2011, and was one of the more rare gold cards around. With a batting of 93, Brendon McC was the strongest wicket-keeper of the 2011 set, and one of the cards I had to really look around to find.
This is my Ravichandran Ashwin Gold. He’s also is from 2011, and although not the rarest card around, he was still a useful one to have around, with a bowling of 92 an batting of 40. He was one of the last golds I got in the 2011 set 🙂
This is my Praveen Kumar Gold. He’s my only gold card from 2012. Although this one was not nearly as valuable as the PK gold from 2011, his bowling score of 87 makes him a fairly helpful card to start your set with.
This is my Sreenath Aravind normal card. He’s from the 2012 set, and my most valuable normal card. One of the many young prodigies who rose in 2011, Aravind’s brilliant show brought him a bowling score of 88, along with an over-rated batting score of 53. Despite the fact that the real Aravind ended up having match economy rates that went up to 17.25, his card is still a very good one to have, particularly since he doesn’t count against your gold/silver count.
This is my Jacques Kallis Silver. He too is from the 2012 set. Although the 2011 one is definitely better, a batting of 84 and a bowling of 71 coupled with 35 runs makes Kallis one of the more valuable silvers, even for 2012.
This is my Iqbal Abdulla Silver. He’s been given the title of “Rising Star Player” because the real Iqqi won the actual award in the 2011 IPL, thwarting other candidates such as Paul Valthaty and Sreenath Aravind. This card is my best bowling card from 2012, with a score of 91. I’m not exactly sure how rare or otherwise this card was, but is still a very powerful one to have nonetheless.
This is my Murali Vijay Gold. He is from the 2011 set. His batting score of 97 made him the fourth-best batsman of the 2011 set, behind only Jacques Kallis gold, Sachin Tendulkar Orange Cap, and Sachin Tendulkar Player of the Tournament. I managed to get him in an extraordinary deal, and he’s one of my best cards.
Last but by no means not least, we have Virender Sehwag normal. He’s from the 2012 set, and one of the few cards who had almost the same score as he did in the previous year. However, with a score of 88 and 35 runs, he is still a devastating card. This could also be said to be one of my tributes to Viru, and one of the many memento of his ruthless run of fine form during the 2011 season.
I hope you’re doing well. Well, the IPL has been going in full flurry, with some scintillating knocks and nervy bowling that takes teams across the line. I find that IPL really is a good platform for the youth of India to make their mark, and play under some of the greatest players ever, Indian and overseas alike. Many people have criticized the IPL saying that it ‘undermines their sides’ and stuff like that. However, saying IPL is the reason your players are suffering in international cricket is like saying that the reason for you’re son’s failure in school is the fact that you send him for tutoring. Yes, there is the injury factor, but there is so much other exposure that the players receive. Like if your players are struggling on Indian soil, who better to learn from than the Indian players themselves? Like I said before, playing IPL gives you first-hand relationship with people like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, and MS Dhoni, who know Indian tracks like the back of their hand, or people like Adam Gilchrist, Ricky Ponting, and Kumar Sangakkara who have had so much exposure to Indian tracks, and can provide you with new insights on how to put your strengths to maximum effect. Also, you get loads of cash. For example, you can get about $700,000 if you’re a good all-rounder in form, while the South African cricket team won $450,000 for being the number one test team. That’s the other bonus. Amazing isn’t it?
The frenzy of the Border – Gavasker trophy, where the Indians successfully whitewashed their opponents the Australians 4 – 0 in a thrilling contest. It was made far more interesting by the fact that Mickey Arthur sent 4 players home, but had to call back 3 of them because of injuries. (Kind of like a teacher sending kids out of the class because they didn’t do their homework, but having to call them back because half the other kids were absent). Of course, now the much awaited Pepsico IPL has arrived. This one, or course, promises to be just as good as the previous ones. However, there will be several players who will be missed, for the first few games at least. The ones who will be missed include Kevin Pietersen, Jesse Ryder (who is currently in coma because he was assaulted), Ross Taylor, Faf du Plessis, Micheal Clarke and JP Duminy. However, there are several new changes this year as well. For one, the Deccan Chargers’ franchise has now become Sunrisers Hyderabad, Ricky Ponting has become MI’s new captain, Angelo Matthews PWI’s, and Virat Kohli RCB’s. However, the biggest development has been that Sri Lankan players have been banned from playing matches in Chennai. This is an absolute outrage, as now every team will suffer while playing in Chennai – particularly MI (Malinga is their best bowler), DD (Mahela’s their captain), SRH (Sanga’s their captain/keeper, and Perera is a key all-rounder), PWI (Matthews is their captain, and Mendis is a key spinner), and RCB (Dilshan is a key top order batsman, and Murali’s their best spinner). As you may have noticed, CSK are not affected by this, as neither Nuwan Kulasekara and Akhila Dananjaya are crucial in their side. Although the other teams will have to play only one game in Chennai, it could still be the difference between qualify and drop. Also, the eliminator will be in Chennai, and it will be suicide for any team to drop key players at this stage. However, moving past that, let’s see what happens this season, and the first match report will be made sometime before the first game, on the 3rd of April. Well, see you then!
Micheal Clarke’s first-ball duck led to Australia’s collapse
The third India vs Australia test has come to the second day of play, but the third day of the test (the first day was rain-washed). I had been thinking about whom the Ozzies would bring in, after the homework incident, which resulted in the axing of Mitchell Johnson,James Pattinson, Shane Watson, and Usman Khawaja. After a rain-soaked first day, I finally got my news in the second day. Predictably, Mitchell Starc was brought in for Pattinson. This was obvious, as Starc – despite looking like a pussy cat compared to his show against South Africa at home – was the last pacer left in the squad. The more curious changes were Nathan Lyon for Maxwell, and Steve Smith in for Watson. What I had expected was that Ozz would have tried to replicate India’s 3-spinner ploy, using Lyon, Doherty, and Maxwell. Steve Smith’s inclusion was not expected either. Of course, Steve’s heroics in the field and with the bat for Pune in IPL 2012 made him quiet popular in India as a T20 player, but as a test player, not so much. However, Smith played a rebuilding half-century after the advantage the assault by David Warner and Ed Cowan provided appeared to be slipping away with Micheal Clarke’s first-ball duck, and a collapse in Australia’s lineup. With Mitchell Starc for company, he fought hard for his 92, until he was dismissed by Ojha two minutes before I finished this post. For India, some exciting stuff came in as well. Shikhar Dhawan and Praghyan Ojha came in for Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh. Seeing Sehwag’s poor form, it was only a matter of time before he was dropped. As for Bhajji, I really don’t know, as he bowled pretty decently. Ojha has already come to the party,with the wickets of Smith and Philip Hughes. Thenext innings, however, promises to be very interesting as Dhawan and Murali Vijay play against the spin duo of Doherty and Lyon. However, this one is still in progress, so let’s enjoy this one!
The first test between India vs Australia went very well for the hosts. Dhoni’s magnificant 224, and Ashwin’s 12 wickets left the Australians hapless, and took a 1-0 lead in the 4 test series. For the Ozzies, only James Pattinson, Moises Henriques, and Micheal Clarke managed to provide some resistance against the Indian fury. While this victory might seem great, we must keep in mind that this was the same way we started against England, and went on to lose the series 2-1. Now, what negative points came out in this game? Well, we have Murali Vijay and Virender Sehwag’s miserable shows up front, and also we have Nathan Lyon’s dismal show with the ball. Probably because of Sehwag’s experience, Vijay will be the one to get the axe. Question is, who will replace him? I think that Shikhar Dhawan will be a good option for that. Why over Rahane? Well, Rahane’s shows against England were far below satisfactory, and also Dhawan provides another left-handed batting option. This will definitely prove useful, knowing that the Australian bowling lineup doesn’t have too much quality spin. With Virat Kohli, Sachin Tendulkar, and MSD in such good touch, this is a risk worth taking. For the Lyon problem, I don’t think there’s very much the Ozzies can do about it. Lyon is one of the two full-time spinners they have now. I believe they should just shrug off the fact that he conceded 215 runs in India’s innings an just keep in mind that he took 4 wickets, in addition to bringing in Xavier Doherty in to support him. The interesting thing will be to see at who’s expense he will come in. Definitely not Moises Henriquesor Pattinson. Probably not Starc, as he’s the only left-arm seamer in the side. I believe it will be either Peter Siddle or Philip Hughes who gets the axe. Doherty will definitely be a good move, as more than three-fourths of the Indian lineup is right-handed. Another few things I missed were the performance of India’s pacers, and Harbhajan Singh. Both Ishant and Bhuvneshwar didn’t trouble much with the ball, although the latter played a crucial knock with the bat. India don’t have too many pace options, but trying Ashok Dinda ahead of Ishant might be an interesting move. Now on to Bhajji. He had very moderate success in his 100th test. He took 3 wickets in 2 innings, whereas Ashwin took 12 and Jadeja took 5. Nobody is going to try and drop Ashwin, and Jadeja’s absolute snorter to Phil Hughes in the second innings was a delivery even fast bowlers would have been proud of. Dropping Bhajji for Praghyan Ojha might be an interesting move, but consider that the Australian line up has a total of 6 left handers. Ojha might be very effective, but when David Warner is opening the innings, playing a left arm spinner is always a risk.