Monthly Archives: May 2008

Will the IPL force transparency in selection?

In continuing the selection theme raised by Sanjay and Mohan, I was wondering if the performances at the IPL be really counted in the selection of the Indian team. By and large, the selection retained the team that played in Australia except for a couple of changes as mentioned before. The selectors have also stated various reasons for the same. But are those reasons really valid? Wouldn’t the performances and the state of mind of certain players be a factor? Take the case of Praveen Kumar. He looked jaded, lost, and disinterested. What would make him suddenly change all that?

On a more general note, I believe that the performances of IPL will eventually make a big differences particularly for the unknowns and new players. The public hardly cared about regional tournaments before and neither did the selectors. It is going to be extremely difficult to ignore the performances of the individuals anymore because of the exposure to the game. Additionally, the performances are against teams with international players. Some of the senior players cannot take their place for granted any more or hide behind some external source of influence. Take Dinesh Karthik, for example. I do not believe he has much chance of coming back to the Indian side unless he performs miracles soon. Players like Takawale and Goswami are going to knock on doors soon. The same may apply to bowlers like RP Singh, Zaheer Khan, Sreesanth etc. IPL might be T20 cricket, but it certainly forces different thinking processes for the longer versions of the game. Most certainly, in the make up of team compositions…

What say?

– Srikanth

Indian ODI squad announced

A 15 member squad has been announced for the tri-series in Bangladesh and the Asia Cup in Pakistan.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni (capt & wk), Yuvraj Singh, Robin Uthappa, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yusuf Pathan, Irfan Pathan, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar, RP Singh, Piyush Chawla, Pragyan Ojha.

The highlights have been the complete absence of the ‘seniors’ with Sachin opting out because of injury. Personally the picking of Yusuf Pathan and Suresh Raina have been made more in tune with their recent performances in the IPL. Praveen Kumar keeps his place ahead of someone like Manpreet Gony because of his good performance in Australia. The only other new pick is Pragyan Ojha. He did look impressive in the IPL and I think on a turning wicket especially in Asian conditions he could be a handful. Also because the other probable contender, Ravindra Jadeja, the U-19 left arm spinner, has hardly bowled in the IPL and has shone as a batsman. The interesting thing is that there is not a single player from the U-19 World cup winning team!

— Sanjay

PS: Just checked cricinfo and found that Ojha was the selectors’ pick and not the captain’s!

I just missed Mohan’s post completely. Anyway he has been spot on except for Ojha.

Home team (dis)advantage in the IPL…

Dileep Premachandran has written an excellent article in Cricinfo, in support of Shane Warne’s anguish at the organisation of the IPL finals series. Because the Mumbai Indians spent most money in buying their franchise, they got the “right” to host the two semi-finals and the IPL Final. Bangalore Royal Challengers, by virtue of being the team that bid the second highest franchise-purchase, won the right to host the opening ceremony and the first game. This does not strike me as a sensible or fair framework.

Luckily for the IPL, Mumbai Indians did not make the semi-final cut. Or else the home-team advantage would be far too huge a leverage for the other teams to overcome!

It also does not make a huge amount of sense to me to have half the competition to be in the reckoning in a “Finals Series”! After playing over 50 matches over 40 days, surely, one should be able to separate the wheat from the chaff — although I will be the first to admit that the margin between wheat and chaff is far less in T20 than in ODI and Tests! Yet, to have half the teams participating in a knockout Finals Series that does not have a home-team-advantage to a top-performing-team makes a mockery of the hard yards that, for example, a team like Rajasthan Royals have put in to get to where they have got to.

My reckoning is that the “Finals Series” should be conducted in two simple rounds organised as follows (this borrows from the Aussie Rules approach):

Only the top-3 teams go through to the “IPL Finals Series” numbered T1 through T3 on the basis of their final league standings.

  • T1 gets a “bye” in Round-1 of the IPL Finals Series.
  • T2 plays T3 at T2’s home ground. Winner is W1 and loser is eliminated!
  • T1 plays W1 in the FINALS.

This is a fairer system and allows for a travel-day if one were needed. Views?

— Mohan

Team India’s IPL gains…

The IPL tournament has certainly thrown up a few names that could be in contention when Team India’s selectors sit down to pick the Team India ODI teams for Bangladesh and for the Asia Cup. These teams will be chosen on 30 May.

From the team that won in Australia when India last played a ODI — Harbhajan Singh will certainly not feature! He has had a ban slapped on him (pun totally intentional!).

Virender Sehwag feels that it would be fine for the young turks that have done well in the IPL to be considered for Team India ODI selection on the basis of their good IPL-showing. However, Dilip Vengsarkar, the Chairman of selectors is not one for making large-scale changes.

Having said that, it would be impossible to ignore the number of young cricketers that have put their hands up — some more compellingly than others!

The Indian ODI squad that won in Australia included: MS Dhoni, Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Dinesh Karthik, Praveen Kumar, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth, Sachin Tendulkar, Manoj Tiwary, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, RP Singh

Of these, apart from Dinesh Kartik and Manoj Tiwary, who have not set the IPL on fire, and Harbhajan Singh, who is not available for selection, not many have gone “backwards” in terms of their chances. Although Dinesh Kartik did win a game for Delhi Daredevils, one probably felt that he had blown a few chances to make an impression along the way. Munaf Patel has had an outing that could best be described as Munafesque! Praveen Kumar has also not had a fantastic IPL. However, I do not think he would be dropped.

On the other hand, players like Piyush Chawla, Gautam Gambhir, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Sreesanth, Robin Uthappa and RP Singh would have appeared to have strengthened their cases.

So, it would seem to me that the following will be retained:
Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan, Piyush Chawla, Praveen Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Suresh Raina, Sreesanth, RP Singh

That gives us a listof 14 players. I am assuming that Zaheer Khan is not considered. It may help India’s chances if he –like Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman and Sourav Ganguly — is asked to focus his energies on Test cricket!

Assuming that the selectors may select 2 more to add to the above list, the impressive bench could well boast

Yusuf Pathan
Shikar Dhawan
Yo Mahesh
Pragyan Ojha
P. Vijaykumar
Ashok Dinda
Manpreet Gony
Abhishek Nayar

Of these, I have been most impressed with Manpreet Gony and Yusuf Pathan and would possibly get my nod ahead of anyone else.

So, my Team India ODI team would be:
Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir / Robin Uthappa / Suresh Raina
Rohit Sharma
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Irfan Pathan / Yusuf Pathan
Piyush Chawla
Praveen Kumar / Manpreet Gony
Ishant Sharma
Sreesanth / RP Singh

— Mohan

No place for Icons in the playoffs

With Mumbai Indians officially out of the IPL, none of the original Icons find themselves in the semi-finals. The fact that Dravid, Laxman, Ganguly and Tendulkar will not appear anymore in this year’s extravaganza says a lot. Though Sehwag was eventually made an icon, Delhi has played phenomenally as a unit and deserves to be in there and Sehwag belongs more so amongst the next generation icon list.

The last few games truly showed the value of leadership, team play and constant innovation as being critical to success in the T20 form of the game and not necessarily on the dependence on individual brilliance. The four abovementioned icons and other individuals on those four teams had some brilliant performances and all that did not matter in the end. NK Patel, RA Jadeja, Shaun Marsh or Dinesh Karthik could do what different combinations of Dravid, Tendulkar, Ganguly, Jayasuriya,  Shahid Afridi, Gilchrist, Shoaib Akthar or Shaun Pollock could not achieve. Strange but brilliant game this!

Frankly, I have not been a fan of either the Royals or the Kings X1but they have performed consistently well to be where they are. No doubts about where my loyalties lie moving forward, it is Chennai all the way.

Emotions, nostalgia, and personal choices aside, the four best teams are going to battle it out and the fun is only going to begin.

Eagerly looking forward to the semi-finals…

Srikanth

The illusionary world of IPL

We have already heard two veterans of the game asking to be considered for longer versions as a result of their apparently good performances at the IPL. Shane Warne has dropped a bombshell offering to make himself available of the ashes next year possibly due to his revived interest in the game thanks to the IPL razzmatazz. Saurav Ganguly wants the BCCI selectors to consider him for one day internationals because he scored a 90 and dived a couple of times while fielding. Jayasuriya’s amazing displays in the last few games has made the Sri Lankan selectors to reconsider him for the Asia Cup. Who’s next? Anil Kumble,  Rahul Dravid, Glenn McGrath? If performances at the IPL do count and folks like Ganguly can stake a claim on the basis of perceived successes, what would players like Yusuf Pathan, Swapnil Asnodkar, Abhishek Nayar, Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Shikar Dhawan, Shaun Marsh, Luke Pommersbach, S. Badrinath, Shane Watson etc. have to say to that?

On the side, I have been enjoying some and not-so-enjoying some of the commentary being offered. While commentators like Sivaramakrishnan, Aamir Sohail, and Ranjit Fernando should seriously look for other professions and/or go a decent english speaking school, I found Greg Chappell to be quite disturbing. His insecurity and associated immaturity is well in display as he continues to vent against the “senior” indian players at every opportunity. He really needs help, possibly of a medical kind!

– Srikanth

Disenchanted with IPL…

I have, for the last few weeks or so, been somewhat disenchanted with the IPL. So much so that I seem to be slowly disengaging with the tournament.

To start with the positives first, I do believe that the IPL has got several things right. Some of these are:

  • The format is right.
  • Limiting the number of teams in the competition to 8.
  • Having home-and-away games.
  • Having a limit of 4 on the number of overseas players that can play any game for a team.
  • Having and enforcing a salary cap.
  • Insisting that each team include at least 4 young players. Although some of these young players haven’t got too many games (and in some cases, none at all), the experience would be truly wonderful for these young guys.
  • The IPL is attracting huge crowds to all games.
  • Apart from the odd glitch here and there, all matches appear to be well-run and managed.

So, given that there are lots of things going well for the IPL, I shouldn’t really be knocking the comp. And I am not really doing that. I just feel that the IPL has become a wee-bit tired and we are now in the business-end of the competition! I thought I would share some of my own views here and see if there is some resonance — not that there needs to be any at all!

There are a few reasons for my disengaged state and although I may not put my finger in all of them, here is a starting list.

Too long:

Is it only me or does everyone else feel that the IPL has been going on ever since time began? While I laud the home-and-away format that the organisers have gone with, any tournament that goes for nearly 50 days starts to resemble the previous installment of the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies: long, dreary, taxing, somnambulism-inducing. Major sporting events around the world have to get over in 2-3 weeks flat. To retain interest, excitement, engagement and involvement over a 50-day period calls for a lot, particularly when country-based, nationalistic and emotional-connections are not involved! A suggestion to the IPL commission would be to have two matches per day on all days of the tournament. Perhaps the tournament could then be squeezed into a 3-week time-frame. Yes, this would mean more cricket more often for the individual teams, but in these days of bloated wallets in India, a bloated bench-capacity should not be a problem! The IPL could increase the salary-cap to $7m and get teams to stack their bench with 20 players who could be rotated in and out of games!

Difficult to form geography-based connections with teams:

I am a Tamil-speaking guy who has lived much of my life in Bangalore. Yet, I feel little connection with either Chennai Super Kings or Bangalore Royal Challengers. At the moment, I am supporting Rajasthan Royals because because of the fairy-tale story and romance that surrounds it! This is not something that the IPL can “fix” easily. This emotional-connection arises either through geography, style-of-play (Liverpool’s style of play Vs Millwall’s style of play, for example) or player-affinity. These things will take time to evolve and are necessarily organic in their context and construction. But unless the IPL starts, supports and grows strong fan-clubs and unless players are deeply connected to specific teams, team-connections and emotional-attachments will take some time to establish. In the absence of such strong attachments, I am merely watching the games to ascertain who is playing well and who is not. I can’t see myself biting my nails in anxiety or anguish if (say) the Chennai Super Kings needs 6 runs off the last over!

On Too late:

This is a peculiar-to-Australia problem. The games start way past midnight. I did watch a few games and I do catch replays. But to do that in a systematic manner over a 50-day period is calling for a bit too much!

Cricket has not been that great/gripping:

Not many may agree with this statement, but after the first week or so, the cricket hasn’t really been that gripping. Yes there are, no doubt, flashes of brilliance every now and then — like a great catch (like the one Chipli took the other night). However, I haven’t really seen sustained brilliance from a player or a clutch of players. They come and they go! Perhaps it is the Twenty20 format that induces this feeling of mediocrity. However, even in the Twenty20 World Cup, one sawa sustained excellence from the likes of Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Umar Gul and Misbah-ul-Haq (to name just a few). This seems to be more pot luck than demonstrably sustained excellence!

Other minor issues:

Any tournament needs a fairy tale that grips the attention and engages. The emotional level has been, in my view, somewhat consistent. One has not seen a large bloke from Bermuda running in to bowl to a rampaging Matthew Hayden and getting him bowled! One has not seen an unfancied Team Australia march on to the quarter-finals (as it did at the Soccer World Cup). The only “fairy tale” in this competition is perhaps the strides made by the Rajasthan Royals. They were written off even before a ball was bowled. However, they are the first team to make the semi finals!

I probably switched off the moment the team names were announced! Apart from Delhi Daredevils and perhaps Kolkata Knight Riders, the other names are duds by my reckoning! So much so that I begin to question the imagination (or lack thereof) of the people that chose these names! I can’t, for the life of me, see the Chennai Super Kings stick like Manchester United or Chicago Bulls. How lame is a set of names in which there is a Royal or a King stuck either as a prefix or a suffix to all names? Surely, the advertising gurus could have done better than that lame set of names?

Anyway, these are my thoughts… What do you think?

— Mohan