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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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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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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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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 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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RCB: Make Badri Open, Abdullah for Spin

by iplgeek 0 Comments

Subramaniam Badrinath has played some really good innings for CSK, and will hope to do the same for RCB (Image from sports.ndtv.com)

RCB made a bunch of stats in their victory against KKR on Saturday night. To name a few:

  • RCB’s first win vs. KKR since exactly two years ago.
  • First time RCB has beaten KKR in their first match of the season (out of 3 such encounters).
  • RCB’s first win in Eden Gardens since 22nd April 2011.
  • End of KKR’s 10-match winning streak – best for any team in the IPL.
  • End of KKR’s 6-match winning streak at Eden Gardens.
  • Chris Gayle’s first IPL fifty since 2013.

However, amidst the jubilation of the victory, I found some things about the RCB side that worried me. The fielding is not my problem; every team has it’s off days, and no team that has AB de Villiers and Virat Kohli on the field at once can have a bad fielding tag for long. What troubled me most was the batting. Let me clarify; what troubled me most was the reckless nature of RCB’s batting that made it look like RCB was chasing 240, and not 170-odd. Mandeep Singh followed up a lovely straight six with such an ugly reverse-sweep (which he obviously failed to connect, with the result of his stumps being uprooted) that even he probably had no idea why he played that. AB de Villiers had taken 16 off KC Cariappa’s second over, but still ran down the track on the sixth delivery to get stumped. Darren Sammy, the last recognized batsman left to make a partnership with Gayle, walked down the pitch to play a blind hoick off Shakib al Hassan, only to be stumped as well. This approach further weakens RCB in the fact that they are going with the same shallow batting lineup as they did last year – Gayle, <Indian opener>, Kohli, de Villiers, <reputed Indian batsman>, <hard-hitting all-rounded>, 5 bowlers. This lineup can work, but for the way things have turned out for RCB, I think it’s too shallow. To remedy both of these, here’s what I think they should do. They should bring Subramaniam Badrinath in. Badri is a stable batsman, who can play solid innings with composure. More than once he has rescued CSK – his former team – from sticky situations, and could do the same for RCB. I feel that he would do a great job opening, as his stable nature could allow for partnerships to build at the top of the order, reducing the pressure on men like Virat Kohli, AB and Dinesh Karthik. He will probably come in at Mandeep Singh’s expense, although leaving out a bowler and shortening the tail would not be a bad idea.

And speaking of bowling, there is another issue I wanted to address: spin bowling. RCB’s spin bowling has been utterly neglected, to say the least. They have a total of 3 full time spinners, and none of them are capped. Past evidence suggests that the Chinnaswami pitch has some aid for spinners, as guys like Rahul Tewatia of RR, Shivam Sharma and Karanveer Sing of KXIP, and Karan Sharma of SRH have reaped great rewards here. Hence, I feel that RCB should give Iqbal Abdullah a chance. If he could pair with Yuzvendra Chahal and produce a strong spin pair, I think it would be invaluable for the Challengers, who have historically struggled with their bowling. Dropping one of their 3 Indian quicks might be the answer, but I really liked how all of them bowled on Saturday (barring those last overs against Russell) for the most part, and I doubt that RCB will drop any of them soon. Still, I think that they should seriously consider it.

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KKR vs. RCB: The Poor Little Rich Attack

by iplgeek 0 Comments

Chris Gayle made his first IPL fifty in 2 years to give RCB their first win in IPL 2015 (Image from iplt20.com)

On Saturday night, the Kolkata Knight Riders slumped to their first defeat since May 5th, 2014. They played good cricket, but there is little you can do once Chris Gayle has gotten rolling. Even KKR’s famed spin attack – that has been stifling opponents since 2012 – seemed insufficient to take on the Big Jamaican.

I definitely feel that Chris played a major role in RCB’s success, but not in the obvious way. You see, RCB was able to gain momentum and keep the run rate from escalating too high due to the fact that KKR had long gaps of overs where they didn’t have any of their potent bowlers running through overs. And the reason for this can be directly attributed to Chris Gayle. See, Gayle – if you didn’t know – is a left-handed batsman. And most left-handed batsmen, especially those of Chris’ calibre, are known for being able to take on slow orthodox and leg spinners well, because their natural stock deliveries turn into the left-hander. Hence, Gambhir had lost access to two of his main bowlers – Shakib al Hassan and Piyush Chawla – as soon as Gayle had walked out onto the pitch. 8 overs of quality spin down the drain right there. To unlock them, needed to get Gayle out early. This is why I feel he bowled Sunil Narine as early as the second over of the match. If Gayle had fallen to Narine, Shakib and Piyush would be able bowl, and RCB would’ve had a tough path ahead.

However, Gayle survived Narine’s first 2 overs and Morne Morkel’s 3. Now Gambhir was under the pump. Morkel had removed Virat Kohli (who had decided to open the innings), but didn’t have the important wicket of Gayle yet. However, to give Narine another over would leave his death bowling reserves precariously low. Now this situation I think is the result of something that happened before the match even began: the dropping of Umesh Yadav. Dropping their only other specialist quick denied Gambhir another option to bowl the death, and more importantly, another speedster he could throw at Gayle early on. In fact, it was Yadav that removed Gayle the last time these two teams met. Leaving him out for KC Cariappa left Gambhir one less bowler who he could bring in later on. This raises questions as to whether Cariappa should have been brought in ahead of Piyush Chawla instead of Yadav. As shown, Gambhir trusted Cariappa to bowl to Gayle, something that he clearly did not trust Chawla with. If this had been done, Gambhir would have had four extra overs he could gamble with, and would not have been choked for resources as he was.

After Narine and Morkel were removed from the attack, Cariappa and Andre Russell came in to bowl. Neither could make make any impact against Gayle. Then, no one else to turn to, Yusuf Pathan – the part-time off-break bowler – was handed the ball. He produced immediate success, crashing into the stumps of Dinesh Karthik and Mandeep Singh. However, neither was Chris Gayle, so the objective had not been completed. Yusuf was handed an additional 3 overs, with the same purpose in mind, but this turned out to be more of a blessing for RCB than anything else, as both Gayle and AB de Villiers took Pathan apart, ending his spell at 4-0-40-2. This ensured that RCB’s required run rate never creeped above 11, and hence they were at relative ease, which might have made all the difference.

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IPL Auctions 2015 – Team Strategy

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The auction will take place on the 16th of February, this Monday. (Image from iplt20.com)

The World Cup has started, and the cricket world has now sprung to life. However, on the horizon we have another important event in the cricketing world – the IPL Auctions. Though not a cricket match per se, the auction is something that I personally look forward to every year, as it not only gives the thrill of seeing massive players being sold for heists of money, but also presents a chance for us to gain a deeper insight into team strategies and plans. Each team walks into the auction with different needs and theories, so who they go after will be interesting to see. Here’s who I think they should/will go after. Keep in mind that to keep this structured, I’ve suggested only a few of the many possibilities for players that fit into my frame.

Delhi Daredevils (payroll: ₹39,75,00,000)

Players to buy: Hashim Amla, Angelo Matthews, Trent Boult

In the last year, Delhi Daredevils have been much like an anxious Asian before his SATs: Anxious, unstable, and trying every possible method his money can buy him. Last year, after some belligerent spending, they landed up with 23 players, including Kevin Pietersen and Dinesh Karthik. However, following their 8th place finish, they released 13 of those players (including KP and DK). First and foremost, I think they need a stable leader. A centerpiece around whom the franchise can not only build a new team, but also around whom the team can rally. For this, I think that Hashim Amla and Angelo Matthews would be excellent. Both are proven leaders, and are known for their ability to lead from the front. Amla could provide the stability up front that Delhi so desperately lacked, and Matthews could chip in with his all round abilities, and give more stability in both departments. In addition, I think Delhi just need a good frontline pacer. For this, Trent Boult would be a good option. He’s got an excellent pace, and can provide that “oomph” factor to the bowling lineup.

Sunrisers Hyderabad (payroll: ₹21,05,00,000)

Players to buy: Mahela JaywardeneKane WilliamsonMichael Beer

Sunrisers had a lukewarm season last year, with some good wins and terrible losses. Their main concern, as with the Daredevils, will be leadership. Shikhar Dhawan did not quite capitalize on his opportunity. Hence, someone like Mahela Jaywardene would be excellent for the job. In addition, we must take into account the fact that the Sunrisers top order was not quite at it’s full potency throughout the tournament. Kane Williamson could help solidify that gap, in addition to providing an off-spin option to remedy the gap created by Amit Mishra’s releasing. This is also where Michael Beer would be handy. The left-arm spinner would be useful for spearheading the attack along with Dale Steyn, especially seeing as Bhuvneshwar Kumar’s form has been slipping

Chennai Super Kings (payroll: ₹4,80,00,000)

Player to buy: Trent Boult/Adam Milne

The Chennai Super Kings are unarguably IPL’s most successful franchise. 7 semifinals in 7 tournaments (with 5 finals and 2 victories) is a stat that speaks for itself. Their side for 2014 was pretty well set, except for the fact that their fast-bowling lineup was weak. Yes, they picked up wickets, but they simply never had the potency to rip through and sting opposing batsmen. For this, all they would need is someone like Trent Boult or Adam Milne, who can clock 140-odd speeds and “crash it in” to opposing batsmen.

Royal Challengers Bangalore (payroll: ₹20,80,00,000)

Players to buy: Trent Boult, Nathan Lyon, Angelo Matthews.

RCB had many problems with their side last year. Their batting was inconsistent, and their bowling was mediokre. Overall, though, I think it’s their bowling and team balance that need the most work. Especially after Yuvraj’s departure, they are in desperate need of more spinners (they have 2 pro spinners at the moment). Nathan Lyon would help here. Trent Boult could partner with Mitchell Starc to give the RCB fast-bowling a potent sting, and Angelo Matthews could contribute to both departments, giving the side balance.

Kings XI Punjab (payroll: ₹12,60,00,000)

Player to buy: Kane Williamson

Punjab are one of the most settled franchises of them all. The only thing I think they need is a man who can play a calm innings at the front amidst the bludgeoning of Virender Sehwag and Glenn Maxwell. Kane Williamson would be good for that.

Mumbai Indians (payroll: ₹10,00,50,000)

Players to buy: Kane Williamson, Nathan Lyon,

Mumbai started the IPL in a less-than-remarkable fashion, but fought hard to make it to the semifinals in an almost unreal way. Nonetheless, Mumbai would want to address the fact that they have some chinks in the batting lineup. Kane Williamson would be a good, flexible batsman who could address this. In addition, he and Nathan Lyon could help bolster the MI spin unit, which didn’t quite look at it’s prime last year.

Kolkata Knight Riders (payroll: ₹13,20,00,000)

Player to buy: Trent Boult/Adam Milne

Kolkata won IPL 2014 and technically haven’t lost an IPL match since May 5th of last year. Hence, it is pretty safe to say that their team composure is in good shape. However, it would be handy for them to have a backup for Morne Morkel. Someone like Trent Boult or Adam Milne would be good for this.

Rajasthan Royals (payroll: ₹12,75,00,000)

Player to buy: Gurinder Sandhu

To be honest I don’t think Rajasthan need much improvement. Their side compusure looks wonderful, and it was mostly unnecessary and ill-timed tinkering with the lineup that led to their premature exit from the tournament just before the semifinals. However, I would love to see someone like Gurinder Sandhu bowling for them, as he would gain ample experience working with the Royals, a team known for nurturing the young.

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IPL 2015: The Released XI

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Amongst the released players is Yuvraj Singh, the most expensive player of the 2014 Auctions (image from sportskeeda.com).

In the last few days, we’ve seen a lot of players being released prior to the 2015 IPL. In past seasons, this releasing window has been a usually uneventful time, where franchises release a few random low-price players to free their roster a bit. However, this time we’ve seen a massive movement, with some really big names hitting the released list. I made a playing XI out of these released players, fitting in the biggest names.

1. Murali Vijay (DD): Vijay had a pretty lean run for Delhi in the 2014 season, with a paltry 207 runs at an average of 18.81. That, and his massive price tag of 5 crore rupees, is what probably led to the franchise letting him go. However, his scores of 53 and 99 in the first test Down Under indicates that the Daredevils might have missed a trick by letting him go.

2. Aaron Finch (SRH): Finchy had a lukewarm run this IPL, with 309 runs at an average of 28.09. Nonetheless, he was never quite the impact player that the Sunrisers wanted, as they ended up slipping to 6th place.

3. Jacques Kallis (KKR): Well, to be completely honest, we cannot say that we didn’t see this one coming. KKR pretty much gave up on Kallis 8 matches into the tournament, and preferred to run in with Ryan Ten Doeschate as the fourth overseas player along with Morne Morkel, Sunil Narine and Shakib Al Hassan. Injuries to other players meant that he got a few games in the Champions League, where he played a memorable knock against the Hobart Hurricanes to take KKR into the final, but I think that the Golden Era of Jacques Kallis in IPL is pretty much over.

4. Kevin Pietersen (DD): Cricket is a lovely game, but can have a terrible twist. Kevin Pietersen’s fate is just another example of that. Prior to IPL 7, he had been dropped by the English side, but offered a massive Rs. 9 crore deal from the Delhi Daredevils, and made their skipper shortly after. It was the perfect chance for Kevin Pietersen to lash the whip at the ECB. However, this story turned out to have a rather naturalistic twist to it, as his side finished at the bottom of the table, and Pietersen himself scored only 294 runs. And now, come the reformation era, he’s been released, and will most likely be up for grabs in the IPL Auctions 2015 (where the Daredevils may seek to buy him back at a cheaper price).

5. Yuvraj Singh (RCB): In the ICC World Cup 2011, Yuvraj Singh was India’s hero, as he seemed to be able to score runs and take wickets by the sheer power of his will. Now, with the 2015 World Cup just a few months away, things are very different for the Prince of India. He’s was not included in the Indian World Cup Probables’ list, and has now been dropped from the RCB roster. Despite starting off the 2014 IPL with a blazing half century, he had a lean period that stretched through most of the tournament, before he finally brought out some fireworks that brought some light to what was otherwise was a dismal exit for the Royal Challengers. I’m guessing that it was not poor performance that caused the RCB management to make their decision as much as the fact that he consumed 14 crores of their auction money, which means that they may well try and buy him back in the auction.

6. Brad Hodge (RR): Since his acquisition in IPL 2012, Brad Hodge has undoubtedly been one of Rajasthan’s most valuable players. Nonetheless, last season Steve Smith showed much more potency that he did, and that is why I think they dropped him. Still, I think it’s a queer option, as Shane Watson’s dastardly form last year showed that RR would be well advised to have a backup batsman on the side. He is still one of the best T20 batsmen in the world today, and I’m sure that some team will be willing to pay big bucks for him, even if it isn’t the Royals.

7. Dinesh Karthik (DD): I think that Dinesh Karthik’s sacking was probably the saddest decision of the lot, along with Yuvraj. This is perhaps because of the fact that he was one of the few batsmen who did something for Delhi. He was the only batsman to cross 300 runs apart from JP Duminy, and while he was understandably not his 100%, he did more than most of the other batsmen. Like in the case of Yuvraj, I think that this is more related to the fact that he cost the franchise 12.5 crores to hire that led them to their harsh decision, and I’m sure they will try and get him back ahead of IPL 2015.

8. Darren Sammy (SRH): In 2013, it was Sammy’s two sixes that pulled the Sunrisers into a semifinal berth in their debut season. In IPL 2014, he managed to hit just six more sixes than that in the 108 runs he scored. He was dismal in this season, and failed to make the impact that inspired the Sunrisers to fight to buy him back in the 2014 Auctions. It was probably just the fact that Shikhar Dhawan was a lousy captain and Moises Henriques’ indifferent form that kept him in the playing XI for most of the tournament. Overall, Sammy will need to buck up and try to redeem himself with his new franchise in 2015.

9. Irfan Pathan (SRH): Yusuf had a bit of a blast towards the end of IPL 2015, but it was rather lean for the other Pathan. Irfan barely managed to make an impact with the bat, and was barely trusted with the ball. This is undoubtedly the awakening period in IPL, and the fate of Irfan confirms it. Franchises are no longer willing to express sympathy to a player because they’re Indian; if you don’t perform, you’re out. Hopefully this is a wakeup call for Irfan, and a reminder to some other players.

10. Amit Mishra (SRH): I must admit that I never saw this one coming. Amit Mishra had a terrible season last year (7 wickets from 10 games with an E/R of 9.06), not to mention this hilarious incident. Again, I think it’s a wake up call for players who’ve been coasting on IPL contracts just because they’re capped Indian players. It’s a blunt reminder that talent, not nationality is what matters in the world of cricket.

11. Pragyan Ojha (MI): The irony of MI releasing Pragyan Ojha is just so sweet that I cannot help but post it. MI picked Ojha with their RTM card, which they could have used on Glenn Maxwell or Dwayne Smith (who finished first and second on the MVP list respectively). Then, he ends up bowling so terribly (4 wickets in 12 matches, E/R 8.26) that they throw him out. It’s just so sad for MI (more for their fans). Nonetheless, Ojha was pretty bad, so we must say that MI were justified in throwing him out.

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What have RCB Done Wrong?

 

Image Credits: BCCI

Chris Gayle. Virat Kohli. Yuvraj Singh. AB de Villiers. Albie Morkel. Mitchell Starc. Each and every one of these players is a game-changer in T20 cricket, and has a great reputation of absolutely decimiating oppositions to clinch victories. Inarguably, most IPL franchises would pay big money for any one of these players. But all of them in one team? That’s a “fantasy team legend”…. and the side RCB has this year. When they walked out of the auction with a squad like this most people were convinced that they were favorites for the cup. After all, with that many match winners, someone would get them over the line. However, it has been far from that for the Royal Challengers this year. With 6 losses and 3 wins from 9 games, they now stand at 7th place, just ahead of the Delhi Daredevils. One may ask, how did this happen? Quite understandably too. After all, the chances of Virat Kohli (the man who came out of the T20 World Cup with an average exceeding 100), AB de Villiers (Mr. Awesome), Yuvraj Singh (Stuart Broad’s nightmare), and Chris Gayle (Chris Gayle), fail to make it large? Well, here’s what seems to have happened. Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli have looked very scratchy, and have often given their wickets away cheaply. This is why we have often seen the RCB batting card with 2 in the wickets column well before they would have liked. Also, a scratchy Yuvraj Singh (barring his gallant shows of marvel against RR and DD) has stuck the wheels on RCB, and not allowed them to gain momentum. AB de Villiers has carried too much of the weight, and even he was in indifferent form back in the UAE leg of the tournament, and it took a show against his old buddy Dale Steyn to get him back in color. The other batsmen have done precious little as well, as Parthiv Patel, Rilee Rossuow, Nic Maddinson, Yogesh Takawale, and Sachin Rana all have fallen flat, and not done justice to their selections. Albie Morkel has not looked like the genuine all-rounder he has been known for, as his bowling has not been economic, and his shot selection has been simply terrible, especially considering the situations he often walked into. Mitchell Starc has actually often been smarter as a batsman than he has, and as a result lasted longer at the crease. Their bowling was stellar for the first part, with Yuzvendra Chahal, Starc, and Varun Aaron high in the wickets column. However, in the last two games against KXIP and RR, their fast bowlers received a mauling at the hands of David Miller, James Faulkner, and Steve Smith, and ultimately conceded extremely high totals.

Some potential remedies:

The batting needs to begin to settle. They need to find a combination at the top which can play a calm, composed game to build partnerships, and set a strong foundation for the finishers. Parthiv Patel looked good for this, but effort to try and go big too often in the last few games has sucked him in. Vijay Zol played some very good shots against Rajasthan before he fell, and would not be a bad opening partner for PP, if Gayle is unfit.

The Bangalore track has offered good purchase to spinners. However, the RCB attack – with only one pro spinner – has been unable to take advantage of this. With the poor form of Ashok Dinda, they may want to consider using Shadab Jakati, the experienced left-arm spinner from Goa. He had a good stint with Chennai from the 2008-12 era, and will have plenty to offer for RCB.

If they can do this, RCB might achieve a turnaround, and achieve the already-improbable semifinal berth.

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