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…