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#PlayBold Once Again: A Royal Challengers Bangalore Post Auction & Pre-Season Review

Virat Kohli (Image from espncricinfo.com)

Virat Kohli’s 2016 run was truly awesome to behold. (Image from espncricinfo.com)

It was a memorable, yet all too familiar IPL for RCB. After having to win all 4 of their last league games to make it to the playoffs, the side found an enormous adrenalin burst, and not only won those games, but won them big (including a 144-run trouncing of the Gujarat Lions). At the helm of this burst was Virat Kohli, who – after an already incredible run in the rest of the league stage – blasted 351 runs in those 4 games, including two centuries. After trouncing GL for a second time to make the Final, RCB fell just short of chasing down SRH’s 208, meaning that they failed to lift the cup yet again.

As it has been for many years, the crux of RCB’s problems was their bowling. Or rather, the lack of a quality spearhead bowler. Like the Rising Pune Supergiants suffered with injuries to all their best batsmen, RCB suffered with all their best bowlers. Despite possessing three of the best T20 spearheads in the world – Mitchell Starc, Adam Milne, and Samuel Badree – injuries meant that the three played a combined total of one solitary game: Adam Milne’s short feature in RCB’s tournament opener. Hence, while all of RCB’s remaining bowlers were able to pick up wickets, they were unable to exert any pressure from the onset, as a good spearhead would do.

One thing that did go for RCB, however, was their batting. Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers held firm at the helm, everyone else played around them. The result was that RCB scored above 170 on all but one occasion, and registered four 200+ scores (the other 7 franchises put together made 2). Kohli and AB aside, they possess Chris Gayle and Shane Watson, two of heavyweights of the T20 world, in addition to their stock of young talent – including Kedar Jadhav, KL Rahul, Sarfaraz Khan, Mandeep Singh and Travis Head. Hence, batting is one whole avenue RCB did not need to worry about entering the 2017 Auction.

Hence, their main goal would have been to get a quality spearhead in the auction, particularly in wake of Mitchell Starc’s dissociation from the squad. Here’s how they fared:

RCB Auction Results - Image property of IPLgeek.com

It was not a particularly active auction for RCB. Apart from the players they eventually purchased, the only players for whom they even made a bid were English all-rounder Ben Stokes, and uncapped Indian fast-bowler Mohammed Siraj. Their biggest talking point was the English seamer Tymal Mills, on whom they spent ₹12 crore.

From a purely monetary perspective, this isn’t a very smart purchase, just because of the fact that Mills is a one-dimensional player (i.e. a full-time bowler), and hence his ability to provide a contribution worthy of the sum spent on him is limited. However, consider this from RCB’s perspective: their squad was already fairly solid, with few wounds to remedy. In other words, they had very little patching up or backing up to do ahead of the 2017 season, and hence would not have to spend their money on a large number of players.

Mills, being one of the few players they really wanted to get given his calibre as a T20 spearhead bowler. Also, due to the high-scoring nature of their home ground, they needed – as Daniel Vettori put it – some[one] special. Therefore, someone like Mills would be worth splurging on. Would it have helped to get him at a cheaper price? Certainly. That extra money could have then been spent on a backup overseas all-rounder (like Chris Woakes, for example), but then again, Mills was the first priority.

The benefit to having Mills in that XI is that RCB now have a player who they can rely on for solid starts with the ball, which increases the potency of the rest of their bowling lineup. How? All of RCB’s main bowlers – Watson, Yuzvendra Chahal, Sreenath Aravind, etc. – are players who can make demons appear when the batsmen are under pressure, but can’t quite generate said pressure on their own – as shown by the fact that they all (barring Aravind) had economy rates above 8 during the 2016 season.

However, given a spearhead who can generate that pressure, they all are suddenly that much more dangerous. Consider RCB’s bowling show in 2015, for example: Mitchell Starc’s spearhead ability allowed all of RCB’s other bowlers – Chahal, Aravind, Harshal Patel and David Wiese – to build on his generated pressure and thrive. This is why Mills is so absolutely critical to RCB’s setup .

Tymal Mills (Image from wisdenindia.com)

Mills will be an integral cog for RCB in the 2017 season. (Image from wisdenindia.com)

The rest of RCB’s buys aligned with their main goal of strengthening their bowling. Rajasthan’s Aniket Choudhary, for example, offers an additional Indian fast-bowling option, while Australia and Adelaide Strikers seamer Billy Stanlake – the tallest player to represent Australia – serves as a handy backup overseas seamer, in case Adam Milne fails to regain fitness. Pawan Negi can provide some quick runs lower down the order, as well as providing an extra spinning option to partner with Yuzvendra Chahal.

While this was a quiet auction for RCB, they still did make some fairly significant purchases, purchases that could potentially make the difference as they make their tenth bid for IPL glory. Check out the playing XI dynamic for RCB:

RCB 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 RCB team management.

On the whole, RCB are likely to go with a 6 man bowling attack – 4 bowlers, Negi and Watson. This means that skipper Kohli will have a decent set of options to chose from on the field. Aravind and Choudhary are most likely to make it in as the Indian seamers, but for sake of diversity Avesh Khan or Harshal Patel could be slotted in ahead of one of them. One of those spots could also be occupied by Iqbal Abdulla, should RCB see the need for the extra spinner.

It will be interesting to see of Samuel Badree gets a run in the playing XI. One of the best T20 bowlers out there, he played an integral role in the West Indies’ triumph in the 2016 World T20. Had he been available for selection during 2016, things might have been very different for Virat Kohli’s men. If RCB persist with their standard dynamic, it is unlikely that he will make it into the XI ahead of Mills. However, Chris Gayle’s poor form in the PSL suggests that there might just be an entry for him. If this is the case, Badree could come in at the expense of one of RCB’s Indian bowlers, and someone like Mandeep Singh or Sarfaraz Khan could come in to fill the batting void.

As hinted above, a lot will ride on the form of Chris Gayle. On his day he can absolutely maul his opponents into submission, but his run in the 2016 IPL was less than remarkable, with 7 single digit scores out of his 10 innings. However, just because of his sheer potential, as well as his incredible name value, it is unlikely RCB will drop him unless he has yet another awful run. If they do, though, Shane Watson will have a chance to open the innings, a position more natural to him than his regular of number 5 last year. Travis Head will also look to cash in on such an opportunity if it arises, both as a solid figure in the middle order, as well as another bowling option for Kohli. All said, however, it would do a world of good for RCB if Chris Gayle gets out there and smashes some out of the park.

Although it may not be explicit on paper, Pawan Negi will have a significant role to play in RCB’s lower order. Not only will he be expected to score runs as the last line of defense before the tail, but he will also be expected to function as a full-time left-arm spinner, contributing more overs than Stuart Binny did with his part-time medium pace. If he pulls through, it will allow RCB to walk in with 6 reliable bowlers instead of 5, which – given the nature of their home ground – could prove to make the difference in the end.

The Royal Challengers’ first game will be a “re-enactment” of sorts of the 2016 Final, as they take on the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the tournament opener on April 5th.

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Defending the Crown: A Sunrisers Hyderabad Post-Auction & Pre-Season Review

On April 5th 2017, IPL will begin its 10th edition, meaning that it’s time to begin talking about how the teams line up. This article, as well as the 7 following it, will discuss auction performances, as well as key players and lineups for each team.

SRH were largely dependent on David Warner for their runs. Image credits: espncricinfo.com

The Sunrisers Hyderabad put up a dominating show to register their maiden IPL victory. Building on the star performances of the accurate Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the devastating David Warner and, of course, the peerless Mustafizur Rahman, SRH managed to end a streak of mediocre performances to finally seize the cup.

Approaching 2017, however, it is impossible to overlook certain issues that appeared in their lineup during the 2016 campaign. First and foremost was the middle order — While Warner and Shikhar Dhawan both had seasons to remember, none of the other SRH batsmen managed to put together substantial runs. Yuvraj Singh had his moments, but the rest of SRH’s middle order could neither score consistently nor at a quick rate. The two main culprits of this were Deepak Hooda (144 runs from 17 games; SR 119.00 & Avg 10.28) and Naman Ojha (136 runs from 17 games; SR 98.55 & Avg 13.60). Even overseas recruits Eoin Morgan (123 from 7 games @ 117.14) and Kane Williamson (124 from 6 games @ 101.63) flattered to deceive. This meant that for the most part, SRH were largely dependent on their openers for the bulk of their runs, and were easily bogged down if their openers (particularly Warner) failed.

Hence, they entered the 2017 Auction with the main goal of picking up someone who could solidify that middle order. They exited the auction with:

SRH Auction Results - Property of IPLgeek.com.

 

As always, SRH exited with a pretty decent set of players for a relatively small sum of money. They have been good auction “players” since their first auction in 2013, and have continued that trend here. Their most expensive player was the young 19-year old Afghani leg spinner Rashid Khan.

Rashid and Mohammed Nabi – the first Afghani players to be offered IPL contracts – were obviously the two talking points on SRH’s purchase list, but on the whole it was quite interesting to see SRH did not actually spend a whole lot on middle-order batsmen, as simple logic would suggest to be their logical course of action. For the most part, they were looking for all-rounders and bowlers. Despite the fact that Naman Ojha will need to step up his game given that Ekalavya Dwivedi will be breathing down his neck, this indicates that on the whole, they are willing to trust a largely similar middle order to last year to make it count this time around, but are looking to solidify their bowling options, and bring in the extra all-rounder wherever possible. This is also something that was indicated by the retainment of Kane Williamson ahead of the auction, despite a poor season.

A possible reason for this style of purchasing could be that they want to maintain the two overseas all-rounder dynamic that was present in their victorious final squad, but at the same time provide more stable all-round options than Moises Henriques and Ben Cutting. Henriques was an integral cog to SRH’s bowling unit, but floundered with the bat. Cutting offered some decent all-round shows in the 4 games he played – including a scintillating all-round show in the Final – but his low-order smashing does not quite fit within the niche of solidity that SRH need to help anchor their middle order. A more solid all-rounder like Ben Stokes (for whom they were willing to spend up to ₹14 crore), therefore, could have helped remedy that while still maintaining that two-allrounder dynamic. Mohammed Nabi will play a critical role here, as he can not only serve as a powerful batsman, but also be a frontline spinner, something that SRH critically lacked last season.

Another main point they might have wished to address would be Mustafizur Rahman’s situation. Although it feels strange to doubt the form of a player who was next to invincible just last season, SRH did the right thing by bringing in backups for him. As KXIP learned the hard way in 2015 with Glenn Maxwell, not having backups for even your best players can result in disaster. This also makes sense given that Mustafizur played almost no cricket between the 2016 Final and December of that year, due to injury. His return to cricket has not quite been marked by extraordinary success, and hence SRH would have every reason to be cautious about his form come April. On paper Chris Jordan is a play-for-play replacement — he is a death over specialist, often saved for the last few overs of the innings, very similar to the way Warner used Mustafizur during the 2016 season. However, this is also where Rashid Khan could make his break into the side. While SRH rode largely on a solid fast-bowling squadron in 2016, Rashid’s recent performances – including a 5 wicket haul in 10 balls – for Afghanistan make him very hard to ignore.

All in all, SRH had little to fix ahead of the 2017 season, and even if they didn’t address every concern, they opened up some very interesting avenues, and have put together a very solid team for 2017. Now, check out my dynamic for their playing XI:

SRH Playing 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 SRH team management.

Mohammed Nabi will play one of the largest roles for SRH this season; doubling up as a frontline spinner and a middle-order power hitter, Nabi will allow SRH to stick to their very successful fast-bowling lineup from 2016 while still being able to take advantage of any spin on offer. However, that is not to neglect the presence of Pravin Tambe, who enters the side as a full-time spinner, something SRH lacked last year. While SRH have had the most success with their pace attack, Tambe’s presence allows them to have a second frontline spin option with Nabi, and one of higher quality than Bipul Sharma.

Rashid Khan could also play a massive role in SRH’s defense of their title, but his entry into the XI will largely be dependent on whether or not SRH want to play Mustafizur. Given their lack of quality Indian batting, it is unlikely that they will go for two overseas bowlers, which means that it will either be one or the other. Previous IPL stats obviously favor the Fizz, but as mentioned above, he has been sidelined with injury for a long time, and has had very little playing time between the 2016 IPL and now. Rashid, on the other hand, has been making headlines with his star shows against Ireland. Hence, it will be a very interesting contest to see which of the two makes it into the final XI.

The use of Kane Williamson will also be something to look out for. Henriques had a poor run with the bat in 2016, and the number three spot was an itch on their nose for the whole of the season. Although Williamson did little to turn heads himself, the fact that SRH have chosen to retain him demonstrates that they have faith in him, faith that his English colleague Eoin Morgan did not receive. If Williamson fires, he could solve pretty much all of SRH’s middle order woes in a jiffy, while also offering the option of playing as an opener with David Warner, should Shikhar Dhawan’s form tail.

Mohammed Siraj will also be expected to make ripples for SRH this season. While Barinder Sran holds the advantage of being a capped bowler, he has had little playing time since spearheading India’s side that toured Zimbabwe in June of last year. While they have little reason to tinker with their winning combination, Siraj could provide an alternative to Sran’s left-arm pace (which SRH already have an abundance of in Mustafizur and Ashish Nehra), which would bring a tad more variety to David Warner’s bowling options.

The Sunrisers’ first game will be the tournament opener on April 5th, as they take on fellow finalists Royal Challengers Bangalore at home, in the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

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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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World Cup Journal #2: Blitzkrieg

AB de Villiers’ innings of 162 in 66 is an innings we will never forget for a long time. (Image from lockerdome.com)

The World Cup has steamed through February, and has now hit March. We’ve seen some exciting cricket, but I’d like to bring up one theme we’ve seen prevalently since my last World Cup Journal just over a week ago: Blitzkrieg.

Before you ask, no, Adolf Hitler did not invade Australia (he’s dead, and will hopefully stay so). Rather, the style of cricket we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks has been like that. For those who aren’t World War 2 Enthusiasts like I am, Blitzkrieg was a tactic used by Nazy Germany during WWII. Basically, what they did was that they would send forward an initial overwhelming thrust of tanks, which would shake up the opposition. Then, the rest of their army would come in, and finish the job. Using this, the Germans conquered nearly all of Europe. Similarly, now teams in the CWC are using it to destroy their opponents.

We’ve seen some belligerent cricket being played in the last week: Chris Gayle’s 215, AB de Villiers’ 66-ball 162, Dilshan’s 161, Mitchell Starc’s steaming 6-28, and Kumar Sangakkara’s twin centuries all showed a sense of dominance that the opposition fell flat before. While the innings themselves were magnificent, it was that air of supremacy, and authoritarianism that they stamped into the pitch that was so wonderful. It was as though they went up to the pitch and said “we’re here to thrash you, and there’s nothing you can do about it”. This is a marvellous quality we see in cricket, and I hope to see it more as the World Cup progresses.

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India vs Sri Lanka: Familiar Foes in a Fiery Final

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

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

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

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

Setting the Stage: 

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

Player Contests:

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

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

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

Squads:

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

India (Potential XI):

Ajinkya Rahane

Rohit Sharma

Virat Kohli

Yuvraj Singh

Suresh Raina

MS Dhoni (c & wk)

Ravindra Jadeja

Ravichandran Ashwin

Amit Mishra

Bhuvneshwar Kumar

Mohit Sharma

Sri Lanka (Potential XI):

Kushal Perera

Tillakaratne Dilshan

Mahela Jaywardene

Kumar Sangakkara (wk)

Lahiru Thirimanne

Angelo Matthews

Nuwan Kulasekara

Sachithra Senanayake

Rangana Herath

Ajantha Mendis

Lasith Malinga (c)

 

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T20 World Cup – Who Stands Where

 

Sri Lanka showed the power of their bowling attack as they bowled out Netherlands for just 39, which is the lowest ever T20I score.

This T20 world cup has been very enjoyable so far. With an even contest between both bowler and batsman, we have been able to see some very good cricket being played by the different nations. We have had high-scoring thrillers, such as Australia’s all-but-successful chase against Pakistan’s massive 191, and down-the-wire encounters, such as South Africa’s jailbreak 2-run win against New Zealand. We have been treated to magic from the fingers of the bowlers, as well as brute hitting from the batsmen. Overall, it’s been a league you’d put down your textbook to watch.

How They Stand

So far, the teams stand at fairly even positions. The exceptions would be from Bangladesh and the Netherlands, who are at the bottom of their groups, courtesy of some terrible cricket and tremendous defeats. Some other exceptions would be India and Sri Lanka, who are at the top of their groups having not lost a single game so far in the tournament. Sri Lanka’s first game involved a close but clinical triumph over South Africa, and the second a monstrous thrashing of the Netherlands, in which the latter was bowled out for a mere 39 (which is the lowest total in T20Is ever). The impact of that defeat on Netherlands is very evident as their Net Run Rate currently sits at -6.05. India, on the other hand, overcame both Pakistan and the West Indies courtesy of some marvelous bowling (from Amit Mishra in particular), which gave their batsmen only 130-odd totals to chase. Of course 130 is not necessarily a terrible score, but when your opposition has an Virat Kohli in the form he is in, it is really infinitesimal. All the other teams that have played 2 games stand with one win and one loss.

Who Needs to Buck Up

While India and Sri Lanka stand in paradise for the time being, the other teams need to pick themselves up and push hard if they want a place in the semifinals. At the moment, the West Indies and New Zealand are much better placed than the others, and hence will just need to look to try and keep their spots by winning. However, teams like South Africa, England, Australia and Pakistan suffer from low net run rates, and will need to not only push for wins, but big ones. At the back of the table, Bangladesh and the Netherlands will need to push extremely hard and win huge victories to seize the already improbable chance they have of qualifying.

Net Run Rate Factor

As we have seen so often in so many different T20 tournaments, net run rate can often be the difference between whether a side qualifies or not. This tournament is no different. Net run rate has a crucial role to play, particularly with the small, 5-team groups. In group 1 (Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, Netherlands and England), Sri Lanka dominate in this aspect as well. Following their colossal thrashing of Netherlands, they stand with a net run rate of +3.23, which is unmatched by any other side (second highest is New Zealand with +0.28). Hence, it is unlikely that any other team would be able to undermine Sri Lanka that way. They will all need to fight for the second spot, and try to bypass New Zealand. In group 2 (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Australia and West Indies), however, the competition is much wider. Toppers India have a net run rate of just +0.36, and the highest net run rate is +1.75 with the West Indies. This gives all the other teams a chance to pull through if they can get that one big win, which would boost their NRRs.

Who Needs To Do What?

In the case of India and Sri Lanka, I feel that all they need to do would be to play safe and just go for the wins, as that would keep them on top by points, irrespective of NRR. Same case with New Zealand and the West Indies. South Africa and Pakistan have got the groove, but need that one 40-run/3 overs to spare victory to push themselves ahead of the rest. Australia and England have a low NRR due to large defeats, but have the edge of having played only 1 match so far. This gives them more opportunities, but they will still need at least two 40-run wins to push their NRR ahead of the others.

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Pune Warriors – A final tribute

by iplgeek 0 Comments

Pune Warriors India

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

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

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Team Australia – Golden Era Over?

End of the road for the Ozzies?

Team Australia. Once the bullies of the cricketing world, home to legends like Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, and Micheal Hussey. Three-time World Cup winners, and arguably the best team of their time. In fact, such was their dominance that playing Australia at home is still referred to as playing “Down Under” because you are literally “Down Under the Heat” when you play there. Even though a most of their legends were gone, they still made South Africa – the number one Test team in the world – really sweat when they toured the Ozzies in the dying months 2012. Even though the visitors eventually edged through to clinch the 3-match series 1-0, the amount of effort it took showed how much it takes to beat the Ozzies. However, this was merely a step towards Australia’s sudden downfall. Despite being stripped of their title of World Champions by India, the 5-0 Whitewash win against the latter, and the tri-series win against India and Sri Lanka helped the Ozzies cover up for the World Cup failure. Nothing wrong here. The true fall began in March, 2013. The Ozzies were coming off a 3-0 win against Sri Lanka, despite not having Ricky Ponting at the time. However, now Micheal Hussey too was gone, and their test side was slightly weaker. They walked right into the wide-opened arms of the Indian side, who re-payed some debts by taking the series 5-0 as the visitors watched helplessly. Only Micheal Clarke and James Pattinson put up some sort of a fight, but it was too little. The next drop came when the Ozzies were stripped of their title of Champions Trophy Champions (true champions huh?) as they exited the tournament without a single league match victory – by India (again). Things didn’t get better by David Warner punching Joe Root. After all this came the Ashes. Although their bowling put up a reasonable fight, the batting failed miserably, as England have treated themselves to a 2-0 lead in the 5-match series. Even Micheal Clarke – who had proven to be their saving grace in Test cricket – failed to get the runs. Couple that with poor use of the DRS, and we got some performances so comically poor, that even Cricket Germany couldn’t resist having a little go at them:

It’s really a shame to see this being the standard of the team that once won three consecutive World Cups, and beat England in England to start the concept of “The Ashes”. Is it the end of the road for the Ozzies? Has the “Golden Era” for the men from Down Under ended? Whatever it is, it is high time for the Australian side to pull up their socks, and get back up to face the heat.

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India pull off unbeaten Champions Trophy win

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

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Update: Great Cricket Around Us

Hey guys,

I haven’t been able to update my site much in these past few weeks since I’ve been rather busy. Still, the cricket has still been going along pretty well! Despite the few hiccups which were the spot-fixing cases of several players, the entertainment provided by the game hasn’t been disturbed much. Right from the IPL, where the Mumbai Indians won their first ever IPL title – one that has narrowly been eluding them for six years. Then we have the Champions Trophy, which has been just as exciting. India’s men have been extraordinary, and are showing flashes of brilliance that resemble those of the side that won the 2011 World Cup. Also, luck (and the D/L method) finally went South Africa’s way as they edged past Dwayne Bravo’s West Indian side to get into the semifinals by virtue of a better net run rate after the rain-soaked affair that ended in a tie. Still, M.S Dhoni and AB de Villiers are the only two teams to have assured semifinal spots so far, as everyone in Group A still has a chance of qualifying (yes Australia, you too). Still, I feel that New Zealand – spearheaded by the efforts of Martin Guptill and Mitchell McClenaghan – look favorites to qualify. England, being the home side, would generally start as favorites, but I would say otherwise, after their dismal loss to Sri Lanka. Australia, though, require an enormous slice of luck to get through, and are really stuck in the mud here (David Warner punching Joe Root didn’t help, either). Still, the biggest shockers of this tournament (apart from the men from Down Under) are the Pakistan side. They were rated as favorites to win this season, and have responded by being the first to be knocked out, thanks to some scrappy, below-average batting which lost them both of their league matches. To give you an idea of how dismal they’ve been, only Misbah-Ul-Haq and Nasir Jamshed managed to post double digits in both matches, and are also the only two men from their country to score above 20 in this tournament so far. Even more embarrassing : the Pak side is yet to score 200 runs in a single innings. This – even for a bowling attack consisting of Junaid Khan, Mohammed Irfan, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammed Hafeez and Wahab Riaz – is a little too little to defend. They will look to go out on a high this season with a win over their all-time arch-rivals India today. Other than that, there’s no other game today. Hope you enjoy the match!

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