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New Dawn After Night: A Kolkata Knight Riders Post Auction & Pre-Season Review

Gautam Gambhir has led KKR to two titles in his 6 years as captain — can he do it again? (image from espncricinfo.com)

The Kolkata Knight Riders finished 2016 on a respectable note. They didn’t quite display the dominance that they displayed in either of their winning campaigns, but still exited with a very respectable 4th place, after losing the First Eliminator to the eventual champions Sunrisers Hyderabad.

There was no nagging flaw that kept KKR the whole time — their batting was robust, with the ever-consistent Robin Uthappa and Gautam Gambhir, and their bowling was in the able hands of Sunil Narine, Piyush Chawla, and Shakib Al Hassan. Andre Russell was a triple threat, with power-packed performances in all three departments. They were also heavily bolstered by Yusuf Pathan’s rich vein of form, as his 361 runs at 145.56 provided some valuable middle order solidity.

The only concern KKR would have had would be the instability of their overseas player combination. While Narine, Shakib and Russell kept their places with little worry, the fourth slot kept cycling between a batsman (Chris Lynn, Colin Munro), or a bowler (Morne Morkel, John Hastings, Brad Hogg). They never quite settled on a combination, and this situation was only further complicated when Andre Russell suffered an injury the twilight stages of KKR’s campaign.

Their intent to completely refurbish their overseas stocks became pretty evident as they released 6 overseas players – a joint highest with the Rising Pune Supergiants. Especially with Andre Russell’s ban meaning that he will not be a part of this edition of the tournament, they would have keenly hoped to pick up a strong overseas contingent at this auction:

KKR Auction Results - Image property of IPLgeek.com

It is fairly evident that, as expected, KKR went big for overseas players. Apart from the players they purchased, they were also the second highest bidders for Tymal Mills, who ended up with the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Yet, it would be ignorant to say that they didn’t get a decent chunk of what they needed.

Trent Boult will likely serve as the first-choice, and KKR will hope that he can provide a solid partner for Umesh Yadav, who has bowled some ripping spells for India in the test arena. This will also be Boult’s best shot at making a mark on the IPL — at SRH his opportunities were limited, and competition was always breathing down his neck. However, as mentioned, he will likely be the first-choice seamer for KKR this season, meaning that he will get more opportunities, as well as added responsibility.

Chris Woakes (who was a real bargain compared to his countryman Ben Stokes) will likely play the most important role of all for KKR: Andre Russell’s replacement. While his T20I numbers haven’t been the best, Woakes’ all-round shows have been of great value to England’s ODI squad, and he will be expected to play a similar role of frontline seamer cum low order hitter for KKR.

Chris Woakes (image from espncricinfo.com)

Chris Woakes will have the monumental task of filling Andre Russell’s shoes. (image from espncricinfo.com)

The rest of their picks serve as pretty solid backups: Rovman Powell was good for the Jamaica Tallawahs in the 2016 Caribbean Premier League, and his all-round abilities will come in handy if Woakes fails to perform. Nathan Coulter-Nile offers a backup seam option for Trent Boult, as well as a few runs lower down the order. Darren Bravo’s abilities will come in handy if Chris Lynn fails to fire, and Rishi Dhawan and Ishank Jaggi provide good Indian options as well.

Now, take a look at my playing XI dynamic:

KKR Playing XI Dynamic - Image Property of IPLgeek.com.

Note: This dynamic represents possible scenarios of my own deduction, and have no direct affiliation with the actual plans of the KKR team management.

As shown, their likely combination is to rely on their fairly consistent Indian batting, while clumping their overseas stocks in their bowling. This produces a combination fairly similar to that which won them the 2014 IPL, with the two bowlers and two all-rounders. Should the need arise to solidify their batting, however, they have Brisbane Heat’s superstar Chris Lynn on the ropes, along with West Indies’ Darren Bravo.

After his Big Bash heroics, Chris Lynn probably deserves another shot for KKR. Apart from a stellar show on debut, Lynn hasn’t really been able to make himself indispensable for the Knights, and the relative stability of their top order makes breaking in a difficult task. Yet, he is their first choice overseas batsman, and if their Indian bowling contingent steps up, there’s a chance they may be willing to give him a go ahead of one of their overseas bowling all-rounders. With Umesh and Kuldeep Yadav

Apart from his brilliance with the ball, Sunil Narine has also developed a panache for scoring quick runs lower down the order. In fact, he even opened the innings with Aaron Finch for the Melbourne Renegades during his BBL stint. Apart from his responsibility as KKR’s sole overseas spinner, if he can provide some runs lower down the order, it would give the Knights a valuable extra dimension of depth to their batting lineup.

If Umesh Yadav‘s test form is anything to go by, he will have a wonderful IPL 10. Bowling beautiful lines with his natural gift of express pace and swing, he played a crucial role in inciting Australia’s collapse in their second innings of the recently concluded 4th Test. If he can form a potent pace trio with Boult and Woakes in the 2017 season, it will be a season to remember for KKR fans.

The “other Yadav” Kuldeep Yadav also had a breakthrough in the recently concluded Border-Gavasker series vs. Australia, as he scythed through a defiant Australian batting lineup to claim a four-wicket haul on debut. He was in and out of the KKR setup last year, but with the release of Brad Hogg, he will be the sole chinaman bowler in the team. He will be in hot competition with Piyush Chawla however, so he will need to put on a strong show to remain in contention throughout.

The Kolkata Knight Riders will start their IPL 10 campaign as they square off against the Gujarat Lions on April 7th.

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Return with a Roar: A Gujarat Lions Post Auction & Pre-Season Review

Suresh Raina (image from espncricinfo.com)

Suresh Raina will lead the Gujarat Lions once again. (image from espncricinfo.com)

While the Gujarat Lions had an excellent season on the field in 2016, it is key to appreciate all the work they put in before the season even began, starting right from the Player Draft in December 2015 – where the spoils of the suspended Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals were divided between the Lions and the Rising Pune Supergiants. While Pune went for the batsmen, Gujarat picked five very all-round players, beyond whom they would not need to spend too much to build a strong team. This was an invaluable foresight, given that they had to build from scratch in an auction that not only had limited marquee players to begin with, but would also have to contend with other franchises with fewer players to buy, and more to spend. In the end, GL entered IPL 2016 with a squad closely resembling that of the Chennai Super Kings in 2015, with all their overseas strength invested in their top and middle order, and a robust Indian bowling lineup, even if not the best.

The results went their way, as they topped the table in the league stages before eventually bowing out after successive losses in the Playoffs to the eventual finalists Royal Challengers Bangalore and Sunrisers Hyderabad. Their key issue was that while their bowling lineup was – more often than not – solid enough to keep any opposing batting units to totals within the chasing range of their batting lineup. However, that same bowling lineup lacked the ability to defend totals posted by their batting lineup. This is shown as only 2 of their 7 losses came while chasing, but only 1 of their 9 wins came defending. Addressing this issue would have been their main concern in this auction. Here’s how they fared:

GL Auction Results - Property of IPLgeek.com.

On the whole, the only thing GL seemed interested in was strengthening their Indian bowling contingent. Barring Ekalavya Dwivedi, even all of their unsuccessful bids – Pawan Negi, Aniket Choudhary, Karn Sharma, and Varun Aaron – are all Indian bowlers. This indicates that they are looking to retain the same squad composure, with the beefed-up top and middle order, followed by a largely Indian bowling lineup. Chirag Suri – the first UAE player to be offered an IPL contract – was also a talking point from the Lions’ auction.

Once again, it was fairly smart auctioning from GL; they didn’t splurge on one player, but looked to pick up a wide range of different players to help remedy their situation. It will also be interesting to see Munaf Patel and Manpreet Gony back in the mix of things again – neither has represented an IPL team since 2013, but both offer skills and experience that will be invaluable to the GL lineup.

However, one key point they did not address was the issue of their overseas all-rounders. Their top order firepower is matched by few in the competition (especially when you add Jason Roy to the mix), but they did not address the issue of Dwayne Bravo. Bravo is still recovering from an injury he sustained in the Big Bash League, and is likely to miss at least the first few games for the Lions. It would have served them well to have an additional all-rounder – such as Chris Woakes, perhaps – to hold fort, especially considering James Faulkner had a fairly unremarkable 2016 season. Yet, nothing has suggested that Bravo’s injury is serious enough to keep him out of the entire tournament, which means that Faulkner could perform his duties until he returns.

GL had a pretty decent auction, picking up a truckload of Indian youth as well as some experienced faces, and should enter IPL 2017 ready to roar.Now, check out my dynamic for their playing XI:

GL Playing XI Dynamic - Property of IPLgeek.com.

Note: This dynamic represents possible scenarios of my own deduction, and have no direct affiliation with the actual plans of the GL team management.

Jason Roy is not likely to feature unless either Dwayne Smith, Brendon McCullum or Aaron Finch is injured or has a lean run. However, Roy’s aggressive technique and ability matches that of his colleagues, and having someone like him as a reserve will go a long way for GL. All said, however, an interesting move would be to play him ahead of Dwayne Bravo while he is injured. While this might disrupt the overall balance of the lineup while weakening the bowling, the prospect of a top order consisting of McCullum, Roy, Raina, Smith, Finch and Dinesh Karthik is undoubtedly very tempting. Regardless, GL fans will be hoping to see the belligerent Englishman plundering runs under their flag in 2017.

The bowling is likely to be a mix of old and new. Praveen Kumar and Dhawal Kulkarni – who had solid returns in 2017 – are likely to stay, and Nathu Singh is likely to make it in as a third seamer. He beats out Munaf Patel and Manpreet Gony on youth, and because his extra pace would bring a little more diversity to skipper Raina’s attack. Shivil Kaushik will likely play as the main specialist spinner, given pretty solid returns last season.

Chirag Suri made history as the first UAE player to receive an IPL contract, but if he was looking to make it into the playing XI there are few other teams in which he would have a lower chance of making it. Like Jason Roy, he would have to count on an injury/a poor run of form from one of the Lions’ first-choice overseas batsmen to make the cut. His best scenario would be if this were to happen while Dwayne Bravo is out on injury, and if the Lions’ bowling attack puts up solid displays, negating the need for James Faulkner. While it may be a long shot, it would no doubt be a memorable moment for Suri, his country, and the IPL at large, if he were to make it into the XI.

Given GL’s issues with all-rounders, the form of Ravindra Jadeja will be vital for GL’s success. Although ever-reliable with the ball, Jadeja has flattered to deceive with the bat (191 runs, SR 107.30), leaving the Lions’ lineup dangerously exposed beyond the top order. That said, he has played a number of gutsy knocks down the order for the Indian test side in recent times, and the Lions will hope he can do the same for them come game time.

The Gujarat Lions will make their first appearance of the season on April 6th, as they lock horns with the Kolkata Knight Riders at home.

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IPL Auctions 2017: A Player For Your Team

by iplgeek 0 Comments

Ben Stokes can most could have an extraordinary impact on many franchise — but who will buy him? (Image from espncricinfo.com)

We are now just hours away from the eagerly anticipated IPL Auctions for 2017. This auction is the 3rd “remedial” (as I like to call it) auction, where teams aren’t looking as much to build a new side (on average), but are rather looking to secure the few players they need to strengthen their weaknesses from the previous season. With some of England’s finest limited overs players making their debut in the IPL Auctions, it will bring an extra dimension of interest.

This article will focus on one player who could impact each franchise the most. This does not mean that player is the only player who could make an impact, nor that this is the only player the franchise can buy; just the one who could impact them the most. Hence, if you want to know which player could certainly turn around (or boost) your team’s fortunes, read on:

Sunrisers Hyderabad: Johnny Bairstow

Came Close: Ben Stokes, Corey Anderson

While David Warner was second only to Virat Kohli last season, the SRH middle order struggled to register runs, and this flaw came dangerously close to choking them in the Final, before Ben Cutting did his part. Not only does Bairstow bring strength to that middle order, but also brings a brand of aggression that was not seen enough in the Sunrisers lineup barring Warner. In addition, his ability as a wicket-keeper allows SRH to be flexible with Naman Ojha and the rest of their Indian batting contingent. He narrowly edges out Ben Stokes and Corey Anderson because the Sunrisers’ bowling is already above and beyond, and because of the presence of technically similar all-rounders in Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting.

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Tymal Mills

Came Close: Trent Boult, Ben Stokes

RCB’s bowling has always been an issue, and is even more in light of Mitchell Starc’s recent departure from the side. While RCB do posses other bowling reserves – such as Tabraiz Shamsi, Adam Milne and Samuel Badree – injuries have not been kind to them, and hence having the insurance of a frontline seamer will be invaluable for the Challengers. Mills also worked with RCB’s head coach Daniel Vettori whilst playing for the Brisbane Heat earlier this year, strengthening his appeal to the side. He narrowly edges ahead of Boult on stats and base price. Stokes is also a strong contender, but the presence of Shane Watson and RCB’s plethora of Indian batting talent edges him out.

Gujarat Lions: Ben Stokes

Came Close: Ishant Sharma, Irfan Pathan

Gujarat’s only major problem in a table-topping debut season was the fact that their bowling attack struggled to defend totals – they won only the solitary game against the Delhi Daredevils batting first (by 1 run). This is a problem further exacerbated by the injury to Dwayne Bravo, which puts question marks on his participation during the season. Stokes could directly remedy the problem with Bravo, and contribute to the Lions’ smothering, all-out aggressive batting approach. While their Indian bowling contingent is something they will most certainly have to look into, Stokes’ bowling can also aid

Kolkata Knight Riders: Patrick Cummins

Came Close: Chris Woakes, Irfan Pathan

KKR essentially let go of what is essentially their entire overseas pace contingent ahead of the auction, perhaps looking to pick up one or two quicks in this auction to replace them. Now, with Andre Russell banned over doping charges, the Knight Riders will need to take that into account as well while rebuilding. Pat Cummins functions as a perfect platform for that. While his 2 crore base price is slightly high, his ability to throw down absolute thunderbolts, coupled with some skillful hitting at the back end of the innings, makes him the ideal starting pick for the Knight Riders. While there are other bowlers and bowling all-rounders in the pool, Cummins’ relative bowling strength to others with a similar batting capability sets him apart.

Mumbai Indians: Mohammed Shahzad

Came Close: Jason Roy, Johnny Bairstow

Mumbai have had trouble with opening combinations since the days of Sachin Tendulkar, and 2016 was no different. Like the Lions, they too struggled to defend totals, not due to poor bowling, but due to a batting lineup that didn’t seize enough initiative up front, like they did in their victorious 2015 campaign. In fact, one could go as far as to say that the injury to Lendil Simmons hurt them more than the injury to Lasith Malinga. Mohammed Shahzad could help solve this problem. His fearless hitting at the top could set a base for Rohit Sharma, and later the finishers in Kieron Pollard and Jos Buttler, to give MI some truly unassailable totals. The fact that he offers another wicket-keeping option edges him slightly ahead of his closest competition.

Delhi Daredevils: Ben Stokes

Came Close: Angelo Matthews, Corey Anderson

Delhi Daredevils’ campaign was a truly remarkable one, built on a strong backbone of India’s youth, supported eagerly by upcoming stars from all over the world. Constant (and sometimes unnecessary) tinkering is one of the possible reasons as to why they did not make a semifinal spot. Ben Stokes can settle the squad, and hopefully form a solid base around whom the Daredevils can construct the rest of their side. Matthews and Anderson would be great for this too, but current form favors Stokes. In addition, Delhi’s auction purse is second only to KXIP, meaning that they will have an edge should the bidding get heated.

Rising Pune Supergiants: Mohammed Nabi

Came Close: Corey Anderson, Ben Stokes

Rising Pune Supergiants have a strong top, but lacked depth in their batting. In addition, Pune unfortunately failed to fully utilize their spin resources, shown as Adam Zampa did not play until the back-end of the tournament, and R Ashwin was criminally under-bowled. However, Nabi would be able to remedy both problems at once, adding a few runs lower down the order and be a valuable spin resource. This would allow the Supergiants to exploit the spin of their home pitch, and by doing so build a side similar to the KKR side that won the 2012 IPL. Stokes and Anderson are equally competant, but Nabi’s spin – and the presence of Mitchell Marsh – mean they take second place.

Kings XI Punjab: Ben Stokes

Came Close: Corey Anderson, Angelo Matthews

Punjab’s poor performance in 2016 was mainly attributed to the fact that they lacked an “X-factor” player; someone who delivers sensational performances that single-handedly bring victory, inspiring their teammates in the process. This was reflected as they released only 4 players – 3 overseas players and one costly Indian player. This shows that KXIP have very specific players in mind, and are willing to spend heavily on them. It would not be a radical leap of faith to assume that Stokes is most certainly one of those specific players. While the other two will also likely be on KXIP’s list, Stokes is most definitely a forerunner.

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IPL Auction 2017: 7 Bargain Picks

by iplgeek 0 Comments

After a scintillating Big Bash, Ben McDermott makes it to the IPL Auctions. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

The coveted player list for the 2017 IPL Auctions is finally out. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what I have been waiting for since forever. This finally allows me to fill theories with solid data.

To celebrate this, here are 10 potential bargain pics for the 2017 Auction:

#7: Martin Guptil (NZ)

Base Price: Rs. 50 Lakh

Once again Martin Guptill enters the auction with a base price that – compared to many other of his calibre – is laughably low. After going unsold last year (to the shock of the cricketing community), he had a short stint with the Mumbai Indians as a replacement for Lendil Simmons. Despite the relative stability of most teams’ overseas combinations, Guptill could be an invaluable investment to the bench strength – at the very least – of any franchise, for a very low cost.

#6: David Wiese (RSA)

Base Price: Rs. 30 Lakh

A mainstay of South Africa’s T20I side for some time now – until his signing of the Kolpak deal which effectively ended his international career – David Wiese is loaded with T20 potential. He has represented numerous T20 sides across the globe, and had a great stint with RCB in 2015, grabbing 16 wickets in 14 games. Although form – and age – haven’t been on his side, Wiese’s T20 repertoire at that price would be an excellent deal at that price.

#5: RP Singh (IND)

Base Price: Rs. 30 Lakh

RP Singh has not been in India’s international setup for nearly 6 years now, and has even had a lean run in the IPL, with only two IPL stints in the last 4 years. Regardless, RP Singh possesses a strong reputation in IPL cricket, and for 30 lakh he serves as a useful backup seamer, particularly for teams with few Indian seamers.

#4: Mitchell Santner (NZ)

Base Price: Rs. 50 Lakh

Arguably one of the best spinners out there on the international front, Mitchell Santner will have fond memories of bowling in India — his 4/11 which helped New Zealand engineer a 47-run victory against their hosts in the 2016 T20 World Cup still lives in the memories of the cricketing community. While it is difficult for overseas specialist bowlers (or batsman) to get buyers at a stage where sides are already relatively settled Santner’s excellence – at a relatively low price – is something franchises to keep their eyes open for.

#3: Tom Cooper (Netherlands/AUS)

Base Price: Rs. 30 Lakh

Tom Cooper is essentially a T20 specialist, with a great deal of experience under his belt. He has made some memorable knocks – including a whirlwind 15-ball 45 in the Netherlands’ memorable chase against Ireland in the 2014 T20 World Cup Qualifier. He is a very experienced campaigner in the Big Bash League, serving as a powerful hitter for the Melbourne Renegades. His part-time off-spin is more than tidy, and can keep runs down when needed. At 30 lakh, he could bring some extra bench strength (if nothing else) to any team.

#2: Ben McDermott (AUS)

Base Price: Rs. 10 Lakh

Ben McDermott had a wonderful Big Bash league. His skillful stroke-play combined with a panache for power-hitting managed to even keep the legendary Kumar Sangakkara out of the Hobart Hurricanes XI. He also scored a blazing 114 of 52 to help Hobart chase down a monumental 222 set by Aaron Finch’s Melbourne Renegades. At 10 lakh, he would be a small investment with great potential for any franchise.

#1: D’Arcy Short (AUS)

Base Price: Rs. 10 Lakh

D’Arcy Short turned eyes as he lit up the Hurricanes’ first game of the 2016 Big Bash with a 29-ball 61. Although the rest of his season was relatively unimpressive, Short’s aggressive batting style lends itself well to T20 cricket in general, even more in the IPL. His left arm chinaman spin is also effective in stealing a few wickets here and here. At 10 lakh, he is also an incredible bargain.

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RCB Need a Daniel Vettori

by iplgeek 0 Comments

 

Daniel Vettori, RCB’s current Head Coach, was one of the team’s best bowlers when he played. (image from www.burrp.com)

After watching RCB triumph over the Sunrisers Hyderabad last week, I will not deny that I thought they would be an invincible side in this tournament. Then, when I saw Kedhar Jadhav scratch around so hard to score runs, and Quinton de Kock literally playing the same shot over and over again en route to his century, doubts began to form in my head. After the Mumbai mishap yesterday night, my fears have been realized: RCB’s bowling is still poor. All in all they weren’t horrible, but they simply lacked the ability to keep the pressure on MI. There was not a single time where the required run rate reached the 10 rpo mark, something that liberated the likes of Pollard and Buttler to play their natural games without any pressure.

This issue stems from one simple fact: RCB lack a bowler who can bowl economically in all circumstances. This reminds me of the days of Daniel Vettori. One game during which I saw this illustrated best was the game between RCB and the South Australian Redbacks, during the 2011 edition of the Champions League T20. Daniel Harris, the Redbacks opener, took a special liking to Sreenath Aravind, and wasted no time in piling up 49 in the first 4 overs. Then, in came DLV. He bowled 4 tidy overs, conceding only 24, in a match where the Redbacks would eventually go on to score 214. However, that was a time when the RCB bowlers didn’t have enough teeth to do any damage, apart from DLV himself.

Now, what I have noticed about RCB’s bowling attack this year is that it is smart enough to crush a side under pressure. This is something that was clearly demonstrated against the Sunrisers, as they were able to land the KO blow pretty easily once David Warner was out of the way. And it’s not a bad tactic at that, given the sheer magnitude of their batting line up. However, what they seem to lack is the ability to squeeze their opposition enough to create that pressure. Against SRH, Adam Milne fired a wide down leg side that went for five wides the very first ball. Sreenath Aravind followed suit vs. DD (albeit off the 2nd ball). This is something that is really hurting them, and is why they are having trouble keeping the opposition batsmen down. This is where they need someone who can come in, even against the tide of the innings, and get away four tidy overs at 6 an over or so. If that can happen, this combined with the high standards created by the batsmen will no doubt place a significant stress on the opposition, and will create optimum environment for wickets. They need a Daniel Vettori.

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IPL 2016: 5 Players Who Can Surprise Us All

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Carlos Brathwaite will be fresh off a magnificent finish to the WT20 (image creds: www.india.com)

Playing T20 cricket is like binge drinking: it’s fast and reckless; and leaves you surprised at what it can get you to do (not speaking from experience). IPL – with it’s lucrative cash deals and massive popularity – only raises that bar even higher. As fans, watching IPL often leaves us surprised at the performances some people end up pulling off: be it Paul Valthaty’s blitzing 120 in 63 to stun Chennai in 2011, or Chris Gayle’s bizarre 24-ball 10 while chasing 209 vs. MI in 2015. My point is this: players surprise a lot in T20 cricket, especially in IPL. Here are 5 players who I think can surprise us with some scintillating shows in IPL 2016. This list includes people who could prove us wrong, people who could perform well above our expectations for them, and plain exciting prospects, who I tout to do great things for their teams.

The difference between this article and my last one is that these are players who are less of a certainty to do well, and more of “potential stars.”

#5 – Marcus Stoinis (KXIP)

Marcus Stoinis is a top-order batsman and medium pace bowler. He’s yet to find his feet in the international arena, but he made some significant contributions for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League that took place earlier this year. Reliable up at the top, and handy with the ball, Stoinis will be an excellent man to turn to in the event that Glenn Maxwell fails, a liability that KXIP lacked last year.

#4 – Carlos Brathwaite (DD)

Brathwaite is a more balanced all-rounder, made in a similar model to Kieron Pollard or Dwayne Bravo. He is best known off late for his four consecutive sixes off Ben Stokes to win the World T20 for the West Indies. He presents the frame of someone who can bring balance and stability to a Delhi Daredevils side that has been found wanting for quite some time now, something that Angelo Matthews failed to do last year. Hopefully, he can shine for them.

#3 – Adam Zampa (RPS)

This Ozzie leggie showed in the World T20 that he is a force to be reckoned with, as he took 5 wickets at a tidy economy of 6.27 at an average of 13.80. For the slow surface that is the track in Pune, I think Zampa will provide quite an edge for his franchise. I look forward to seeing him bowl with R. Ashwin.

#2 – Akshay Karnewar (RCB)

In the past 2 years, spin has been a resource woefully underused by the Royal Challengers. True, Yuzvendra Chahal has been brilliant enough that this didn’t matter as much, but their lack of spin resources is still something that has been somewhat worrying (at one stage Chris Gayle was their number one capped spinner). Hence, it is quite nice to see RCB investing in someone like Akshay Karnewar. His ambidextrous ability will really be fun to watch, and will also help RCN put an extra bit of uncertainty in the minds of their opponents.

#1 – Krunal Pandya (MI)

Many an eyebrow was raised when Krunal Pandya was purchased by Mumbai Indians for 2 crore rupees at the auction. From my statistical analysis of him, he appears to be an all rounder of the Ravindra Jadeja-esque build: a low-order batsman, and a front line spinner. If he is given a chance, he could definitely make an impact for MI by providing another spin option for Rohit Sharma to use as well as an extra line of defence with the bat. He would especially be useful to shore up the bowling in the absence of Lasith Malinga.

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Post Auction & Pre-Season Review #1: Rising Pune Supergiants

by iplgeek 0 Comments
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"What? No MSD in CSK?" :3 (image creds: www.india.com)

Welcome to my series of Post Auction & Pre-Season Reviews! How I will do this is that I will discuss my proposed Playing XI for each team, and in the process review my thoughts on the players and the team. Enjoy! 

Basic Analysis

The Rising Pune Supergiants have one of the more glamorous and star-studded sides in this IPL. It was interesting to see their approach as they approached an auction where most other teams were looking to strengthen their sides with a whole team to purchase. They were not able to spend exorbidantly, like some of their counterparts could, but still managed to scrap together what I think is a very strong side. They played to a good plan, picking up bowlers to complement their strong batting pics from the draft. My only issue with their auction picks is that they undervalued the importance of those “in between” reserve Indian batsmen. Their lineup is strong up top, but the fact that they lack a couple of Indian batsmen who they can squish into their middle order while they use their overseas slots to experiment with bowlers/bowling all rounders. Saurabh Tiwari is the only guy they have right now who can do this, so his form will be vital.

Squad

Here’s the playing XI I think they should use. I’ve also done some player-specific player analysis there, which is why it’s so long:

Ajinkya Rahane

Rahane’s biggest role at the top of the order for RPS will be that of an anchor. His solidity at the top should allow other players, such as Kevin Pietersen, Steve Smith and MS Dhoni, to play a more free-flowing, aggressive variant. Many complained that his innings in the T20 World Cup semifinal vs. the West Indies was too slow given the pitch they were playing on, but I personally feel that Rahane did his job well. He gave the strike to the more aggressive Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli as much as possible, and although he could have tried for a few more boundaries here and there, he fulfilled the role that was given to him. If he can do the same for Pune, they will be quite happy.

Kevin Pietersen

The mainstream path would be making Faf open the batting, as he has a significant amount of experience with the role in IPL cricket. However, I would go with KP. The main reason for this is that he contrasts Rahane better. Faf’s conventional style of play is that of an anchor, not unlike Rahane himself. While that is handy to have, I feel KP would be better utilized at the position. Rahane’s stabilizing effect will allow the Englishmen to do what he does best, and attack from ball one, all without the worry of trying to rebuild after the fall of a wicket. It will be an unorthodox ploy, but will definitely be one that can bring the Warriors Supergiants great success. Also, with the track in Pune known for being notoriously slow, don’t be surprised if he is called on to roll his arm over once in a while.

Faf du Plessis & Steve Smith

Faf and Smith. Nuff said, to be honest. Anyways, I find it so hard to decide which one of them should play at 3 and which one at 4. Both have similar variants of gameplay, and both are equally capable of batting at both positions. However, if I were forced to chose, I would say that I would send Smith at 3 if KP got out early, as Smith has a better reputation for being aggressive in the IPL. If Rahane got out, I’d send Faf, as he can consolidate better.  Again, these are just speculations. Only the actual tournament will tell which one is in better form to take that number 3 spot. Both batsmen will also be looking to re-cuperate themselves in the T20 format after rather dismal campaigns in the recently concluded World T20, so expect them to come hard.

MS Dhoni

Self Explanatory.

Saurabh Tiwari

Tiwari’s role – should Pune play him – will be of utmost importance. Pune, as it seems, have contracted what I call “RCB Syndrome,” where they have a super strong top 4 or 5, but after that you kind of see that there’s on one else who really makes that much of an impact (so named because of RCB’s issues with this between 2012-2014). Hence, Tiwari’s form will be critical to determining the flavor of Pune’s squad composition this year. If he does well, they will be free to experiment with options like Adam Zampa, Scott Boland, Thisara Perera and Albie Morkel, without much fear of losing batting stability. If he fails, however, they will pretty much be stuck with Mitchell Marsh, who has been a bit off-color lately.

Irfan Pathan

Irfan Pathan joins Dhoni for a second time. He did not get much of a chance in CSK due to the resurgence of Ashish Nehra, as well as the arrival of Pawan Negi. However, Pune’s squad composure will allow for his talents to really be put to the test. More than being a 5th bowling option, he provides some extra insurance with the bat at that number 7 position. Also, should Saurabh Tiwari fail and Adam Zampa prove to be worthy of cementing himself in the playing XI, he will need to take the further responsibility of shoring up the batting at number 6. All this said, Irfan cannot afford to be complacent with his role, as Rajat Bhatia is also knocking on the door.

Ravichandran Ashwin

Ashwin is probably India’s best bowler out there right now. Especially on a slower wicket in Pune, Dhoni will be licking his lips at how he can deploy his number one spinner to max effect. Also, Ashwin’s moderately effective batting ability will come in handy for those few extra runs that – in T20s – can really make the difference. Honestly, there is not much else to say for Ash.

Ishwar Pandey

Pandey was one of CSK’s best finds over the last 2 years. His excellent tandem with Ashish Nehra allowed CSK to go with their traditional structure of 3 overseas batsmen and Dwayne Bravo, something that was crucial to their success in the tournament. He represented the Pune Warriors India in 2013, so he should have some prior knowledge of the wicket.

RP Singh

This slot is basically one that will be contested for between RP Singh, Ashok Dinda, and Ishant Sharma. I picked RP because he offers a unique angle of left arm seam, has the best IPL stats of the three, and frankly because Ishant and Dinda have been pretty terrible off late. However, the competition is still healthy to have, as it will keep all three bowlers on their toes. Also, this will be RP’s first IPL appearance in 3 years, so hopefully he can use it to springboard himself back into the limelight.

Adam Zampa

Zampa is probably Pune’s most underrated foreign player. I would understand if they eventually decided to go with Mitchell Marsh ahead of him, but I still feel that he is one of their true trump cards. He was one of Australia’s most successful bowlers in their recently concluded WT20 campaign, and also bowled some superb spells for his Big Bash franchise, the Melbourne Stars. Especially on what has historically been a turning track, I think Zampa will really make a difference. It will help that he has MS Dhoni, Steve Smith (his Int’l cricket captain), and R Ashwin in his team, players that can help him reach his full potential with the Supergiants.
 

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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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IPL Player Draft: Takes

by iplgeek 0 Comments

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

Rajkot: Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, Brendon McCullum, James Faulkner, Dwayne Bravo

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.

Pune

Overview

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.

Rajkot

Overview

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.

 

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IPL Semifinals: Who Stands Where?

by iplgeek 0 Comments

CSK have been brilliant yet again, and are the first team to be guaranteed a semifinal spot. (image from http://www.cricketcountry.com/)

IPL Season has just flown by, and we’re already approaching the playoffs. The points table stand as follows:

  1. Chennai Super Kings (16 points, NRR = +0.646)
  2. Royal Challengers Bangalore (15 points, NRR = +1.037)
  3. Kolkata Knight Riders (15 points, NRR = +0.315)
  4. Sunrisers Hyderabad (14 points, NRR = -0.033)
  5. Mumbai Indians (14 points, NRR = = -0.259)
  6. Rajasthan Royals (14 points, NRR = +0.027)
  7. Delhi Daredevils (10 points,, NRR = -0.049)
  8. Kings XI Punjab (6 points, NRR = -1.425)

As you can see, the points table is quite close. Everyone in the first 6 spots is within a difference of two points. Hence, these last few league matches promise to be quite exciting. Every team is playing, so whether you want to be there as your team makes the semis, or you support DD and/or KXIP, You’ll want to know the schedule for the next 2 days (last two of the league stage):

  • Today (Saturday, May 16 2015):
    1. KXIP vs. CSK at Mohali (4:30 PM IST)
    2. RR vs. KKR at Mumbai (7:30 PM IST)
  • Tomorrow (Sunday, May 17th 2015)
    1. RCB vs. DD at Bangalore
    2. SRH vs. MI at Hyderabad

Every one of these matches can be important for you (again, unless you support DD and/or KXIP), even if your team is not playing. But how do you know what matches are important? Who should you be supporting? Well, here I’ll do some analysis of crucial matches for each team, who you should be rooting for in them. I’ll also be doing a little summary on what each team needs to do to qualify.

 

1. Chennai Super Kings.

What they need to do to qualify: Nothing (they’re already in)

Crucial match: KXIP vs. CSK (CSK to win, if you didn’t figure that out)

With 16 points in 13 games, CSK have assured themselves a place in the semifinals. Not even the most absurd and unlikely results could bring them any lower than 4th place. However, the men in yellow would still like to take a swing at the bottom-placed KXIP side to finish with 18 points, and gain an assured spot in the top two.

2. Royal Challengers Bangalore

What they need to do to qualify: Almost nothing (just don’t lose to Delhi by a ridiculously large margin).

Crucial match: RR vs. KKR (KKR to win)

RCB have made quite a comeback in this IPL. After stuttering with 2 points in 4 games, they’ve made a dramatic turn-around to lose only 2 of their next 9 (one washout). Their massive-margin victories have yielded great fruits now as their staggering +1.037 net run rate gives them a massive edge over KKR, who also have the same number of points. Because of this, they are all but assured a spot in the semifinals. If KKR win in their game vs. RR, then RCB will be through, regardless of their clash vs. DD. If RR win however, RCB will just need to make sure that their NRR does not drop below that of KKR as they take on DD in order to qualify. However, considering that KKR’s net run rate is roughly 0.7 below that of RCB (and will sink even lower if they lose to RR), this is extremely unlikely to happen. Nonetheless, RCB will be eyeing to land a killer blow on the Daredevils, and book their place in the top two with 17 points.

3. Kolkata Knight Riders

What they need to do to qualify: Beat Rajasthan.

Crucial match: RR vs. KKR (KKR to win)

The defending champions have not run through as smoothly as they did last year. Nonetheless, they are still in the top 4, and will be eyeing to seal that semifinal berth. To get this, the equation is simple: beat Rajasthan. If they were to lose, however, they would need to pray for a rainwash in the SRH-MI match, lest they be knocked out by the winner of that game. If they beat RR, they’ll be hoping for DD to beat RCB so they can seal a top two spot.

4. Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians

What they need to do to qualify: Beat the other one.

Crucial matchSRH vs. MI (whoever you want to qualify must win).

Both MI and SRH are in a very similar situation, so I thought it would be convenient to group them together. Both have 14 points, but SRH is above MI courtesy of a higher net run rate. SRH have been shaky throughout the tournament, but have managed to win games with fair regularity. MI on the other hand, started of disastrously, losing 4/4, but then made quite the turnaround to lose only twice in their next 9 games. The equation for these two teams is simple too: winner qualifies, period. Neither of these teams has a chance of making the top two, however. The last thing either of them would want is a rainwash, as it would mean that neither of them would qualify. The only exception would be if Rajasthan beat KKR by a enough to push their NRR below that of SRH, in which case the men from Hyderabad would qualify.

5. Rajasthan Royals

What they need to do to qualify: Beat KKR

Crucial matchRR vs. KKR (RR to win).

It’s really surprising how Rajasthan managed to get themselves into this position. They won their first 5 games, but could only gather a further 4 points in their next 8 and are now 6th. Their equation to qualify (like that of many others above) is very simple: beat KKR. If they don’t, they’re out, and if they do they get in. They don’t have a hope of making the second place spot either, so they’ll just want to try for a win here, and nothing more.

6. Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils

What they need to do to qualify: Wait until the next IPL (no hope).

Crucial matchRCB vs. DD and KXIP vs. CSK (for pride)

It’s really sad to see KXIP end the way they did. The batting lineup that scored 200 four times last year has failed miserably, and their bowling attack has been dismal. They won more matches in their first 5 last year than they did in 13 this year, and now it’s all done for last year’s finalists. For Delhi, there was some fun to be had, as they pulled off some truly remarkable victories and made some brilliant performances. However, they just couldn’t keep the fire blazing long enough, and are now at 7th. They have nothing to play for now but pride, so hopefully they’ll come out all guns blazing to give their fans something to cheer about.

 

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