Daily Archives: 2 June 2008

Team India for Bangladesh Tri-Series and Asia Cup

In a week from now, Team India travels to Bangladesh to take on Pakistan and Bangladesh in a tri-series ahead of the Asia Cup, which will also include Sri Lanka.

We at i3j3Cricket had predicted the team makeup and there were no real surprises when the selectors announced a team that was not too different from the one that had won in Australia in February/March this year. Given Sachin Tendulkar’s withdrawal, R. P. Singh’s return to the fold and Dinesh Karthik’s slide, the team make up was not too surprising. Some IPL performances were rewarded — notably Yusuf Pathan and Pragyan Ojha.

The team that has been selected has a balanced and youthful look to it. I will not be surprised if the team that takes to the park on June 10th (a week from now) against Pakistan is (in batting order):

Gautam Gambhir
Virender Sehwag
Robin Uthappa / Suresh Raina
Yuvraj Singh
Rohit Sharma
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Yusuf Pathan
Irfan Pathan
Piyush Chawla / Pragyan Ojha
Sreesanth / Praveen Kumar / R. P. Singh
Ishant Sharma

On current form, this is, in my view, a very strong team. The opening combination is a winning combination.

— Mohan

IPL: Winners and Losers — I

The IPL cricket festival is over. The Shane Warne led unfancied and least-expensive team from Rajasthan took home the coveted trophy — said to be the most expensive sporting trophy ever! The match itself was befitting a final as it went down to the last ball for scores to be settled. And it had a fairy-tale ending too as Shane Warne, said to be the best captain Australia never had, was there at the end to guide the team home to victory.

So who were the winners and losers in this festival of cricket? I plan to write about this in the next few posts. In this post, I concentrate on winners and losers for the two finalists.

As far as teams go, the Royals formed either side of the win-loss spectrum. It would be fair to say that the biggest winner was Rajasthan Royals while the biggest losers would have to be the Bangalore Royal Challengers.

The team from Rajasthan was one of the least expensive teams going around. They banked on non-icon, non-expensive local players like Mohammed Kaif, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Swapnil Asnodkar, Neeraj Patel, Taruvar Kohli, Dinesh Salunke, Siddharth Trivedi, Mahesh Rawat, Pankaj Singh and Ravindra Jadeja. Most of these players have delivered big-time for the team. They then added to the mix a healthy dose of the right sort of experienced internationals who repaid faith in a big way. Players like Shane Warne, Shane Watson, Graeme Smith, Sohail Tanveer and Kamran Akmal were not hugely expensive. A disappointment was that the tournament did not get to see much of Younis Khan, arguably one of the best batsmen going around these days! However, the team had the right sort of players that Rajasthan was trying to build — a team of equals where everyone contributes in some way or the other. What you got was a terrific team combination that delivered consistently thanks to the leadership that made each player express themselves hugely. The biggest winners were perhaps Yusuf Pathan and Swapnil Asnodkar. The big factor here was that this team banked on overseas players that would stay the distance with the team! Unlike Chennai and Kolkata — two teams that were badly exposed when the overseas players departed, the Rajasthan Royals went for less expensive recruits that would stay the distance and mould the team into a fighting unit. Although Kamran Akmal and Younis Khan arrived late and although we didn’t hear much from Justin Langer, Dimitri Mascarenhas and Morne Morkel, all of the key overseas players stayed with the team for the duration. Moreover, there was little chopping and changing of the team. Any changes were forced either by injury or the 4-overseas-player rule — which meant that in some games Kamran Akmal was not included.

The Chennai Super Kings journey was a mixed bag. It was one of the more expensive teams. However, as pointed out above, the main difference was that the high-impact players stayed only for a brief period after which one felt that there was a re-building phase that never quite got over. Players like Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Jacob Oram and Stephen Fleming did not last the distance. This is something that the franchise owners may want to look into more seriously in the next installment of the IPL. Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid took wildly different routes to prove that a team is not just a random collection of talented individuals. The former had some talented players that formed the nucleus of a well-oiled and well-led machinery. The latter had a large collection of talented players who couldn’t quite work it together. Each player in the team needs to understand why they are there and needs to accept what is expected of them in different situations! Chennai, one felt, was still a work-in-progress when the finals series started. The big winner for Chennai would have to be Manpreet Gony. It would be a shame to see Manpreet Gony not being part of the longer-term ODI/T20 mix for Team India. The big strides he has put in are too compelling to ignore. But the player who created the biggest impact is, in my view, Suresh Raina. He seized his opportunities to make statements about his batting and fielding abilities. From amongst the overseas players Albie Morkel made the biggest strides while Makhaya Ntini and Muralitharan showed everyone the value of being a committed and strong professional. Players from the local catchment were somewhat disappointing and that, in the end, separated the wheat from the chaff. While Abhinav Mukund wasn’t given opportunities, one felt that Vidyut Sivaramakrishnan, S. Badrinath and L. Balaji did not do enough too often to stake serious enough claims about their potential. It is, however, certainly refreshing to see L. Balaji make those strides towards a total recovery. While Team India can now boast of a significant and non-trivial bench strength in the pace bowling department, the presence on the recovery-road of a past-winner like L. Balaji is certainly refreshing. It would have been a pity if Balaji had been lost in the system forever. I did feel that Joginder Sharma was a disappointment for Chennai. In my view, he is a player that has taken a backward step in the IPL. Another partial disappointment for me has been Parthiv Patel. Although Parthiv Patel’s batting appears to have improved, it is quite shocking to see that his ‘keeping is perhaps as good as it ever has been! With the solidity of M. S. Dhoni and with players like Dinesh Karthik, Mahesh Rawat, Shreevats Goswami and Wriddhiman Saha knocking on the doors, the route back into Team India for Parthiv Patel — as a ‘keeper — looks long and is perhaps a lost cause.

There ends Part-I of this commentary. I’d love your views and opinions on this…

— Mohan

All Super Kings come to a Royal End!

The IPL 2008 is over. And what a finish it was? Two teams with a similar hard approach to game gave it all and in the end the sheer brut of Yusuf Pathan saw the Royals grab the glitter. There really was no loser in the game today. Chennai fully deserved to walk away with their head held high because they fought hard and pushed it right till the end. One could endlessly argue tactics, mistakes, and opportunities but if a game ends on the last ball there really is only one winner, the game of cricket. I, unfortunately, missed Chennai’s batting but for watching the highlights ( I will catch all of it in a repeat telecast) and therefore cannot comment much on the same. Maybe, maybe, Badrinath ahead of Kapugedara could have given Chennai 20 more runs. Everything looks different on hindsight, doesn’t it.

As Dhoni rightly said, Chennai has no reason to be unhappy because they played like champions in the last few games. Shane Warne was a gentleman and a winner in his comments sharing this victory with the people of Rajasthan. In the end it was all about two champion leaders. One, who according to Ian Chappell was the greatest captain that Australia never ahead and other who is on his way to becoming the greatest captain that India may ever have. Dhoni’s approach to the game as a player and as a leader is remarkably refreshing. His transparent, straightforward, and “keep it simple” methods combined with very little ego-interference is a great sign for the future of Indian cricket.

I will miss the IPL, miss all the fun and excitement, the intensity and tension, the synergy and bonding amongst players of different nationalities, races, sizes and shapes, and wonderful cricket that was played. I cannot wait for the trades and accquistions for next year, the plans and strategies, the coup by the English players and start of IPL 2009.