In an earlier article, we had written about “Winners and Losers” in the first edition of the IPL. In that article, we focussed on Chennai and Rajasthan. In this blog post, we concentrate on Punjab, Delhi and Bangalore.
The Bangalore Royal Challengers was perhaps the team that performed worst of the 8 IPL Teams. If Bangalore did not have the Deccan Chargers bringing up the rear-end of the points table, Bangalore would perhaps feel worse than it must at this point in time. After Mumbai, it was the costliest franchise. And what they got for it was the “opening ceremony” and nothing much else!
In terms of personnel, it had what everyone thought was a “Test Team” look about it. The owner and the CEO had a public spat midway through the campaign. Charu Sharma, its CEO was sacked to be replaced by Brijesh Patel (KSCA official and former Team India player). The season was going horribly wrong by then. After a few subsequent losses it was clear that the sackings and the public-finger-pointing-orgy that was being crassly played out had not stemmed the rot. This soon became a season from hell for Bangalore; an annus horribilis. Martin Crowe perhaps summed it up best when he said that Rahul Dravid had the seventh best team to work with! In our article written here on i3j3cricket, which was penned a day or so after the player auctions had taken place, these were our words on the Bangalore team, “Looks too uni-dimensional, staid and somewhat boring that does not quite fit the dashing Kingfisher brand! Needs a few more attacking middle order batsmen.”
The team composition wasn’t quite right. And that was the start of the problem. However, the team limped to complete the journey with the biggest loser being Vijay Mallya in my view. Unfortunately, however, owners cannot be traded in the IPL system!
As for the players, Bangalore did have some gains and losses. Rahul Dravid was certainly a winner. He was the 12th highest run getter in the IPL (371 runs at an average of 28.53 and a strike rate of 124.49), but he was like Atlas for Bangalore. He could not do everything for the team. Although times, maybe that was exactly what was needed! Mark Boucher had an “ok” season and Zaheer Khan ended up being the 13th highest wicket-taker (13 wickets from 11 games at 27.46).
The “local” boys from the “local catchment area” did not do much to stake their claims. Players like Akhil, Chipli, Arun Kumar, Vinay Kumar, et al, came and went through a strange and magical revolving door! Older (much older) players like Sunil Joshi and Anil Kumble appeared for a while as if they had gate-crashed into the wrong party! And younger national recruits like Wasim Jaffer, Virat Kohli and Praveen Kumar did not fire up at all, although Sreevats Goswami impressed everyone in the few appearances he had. Sreevats Goswami looks like a good package and should have a long and fulfilling reign in Indian cricket!
It looked like the team was trying everything it could to make things happen. All experiments fell flat like aged champagne. The team could not quite work out its overseas recruits and when all of them started to fail, the team management caught the rabbits-in-headlights disease! Although Dale Steyn tried hard till the end, the big losers were Cameron White, Shiv Chanderpaul and Jacques Kallis. One didn’t know what happened to Nathan Bracken. And my view is that Ross Taylor and Misbah-ul-Huq were not used properly. So, all in all, this was a forgettable season for Bangalore.
So what can Bangalore do?
It needs a team overhaul. Players like Sunil Joshi, Anil Kumble have to go. I do also believe that the team needs to trade Shiv Chanderpaul and Jacques Kallis for hard-hitting bowling or batting allrounders. If I were Bangalore, I’d give up the above-mentioned four players and splurge on Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad and Luke Pomersbach!
Punjab had a good season. The team was expected to do well in the bowling department. They played that part of the player auction really well. However, the real wins came from the two amazing overseas recruitments that this team made — both trades were from Western Australia. Shaun Marsh and Luke Pomersbach combined well with the rest of the team to deliver Punjab and Priety Zinta a memorable first season.
The biggest loser, in my view, was Yuvraj Singh — as Captain! He came across as a petulant and irritable leader. Although he had a reasonable season with the bat and although it appeared as though his fielding was getting better with each game to get to the standards that he is probably capable of, his leadership under pressure got exposed quite rudely.
At the time the team was announced, the i3j3cricket comment on the team was: “This looks like a terrific bowling unit! It needs a wicket-keeper and two opening batsmen! If they get good starts, expect this team to go far! An advantage is that this team has only 5 overseas players (4 can play in any game).”
The team went ahead and recruited a few more overseas players (batsmen) and these were good decisions. All the overseas players did well for Punjab. Shaun Marsh, Luke Pomersbach, Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene did really well. Brett Lee bowled with fire in the initial 4 games that he played. James Hopes was steady without setting the world on fire although Ramnaresh Sarawan appeared a bit lost and not with it. The big overseas stories were, however, Marsh and Pomersbach. Both of these will have done their Australia T20 and ODI hopes no harm at all. They are two overseas players who will have gained maximally from the IPL.
The Indians in the team fared really well too. The players who possibly made the biggest strides were, in my view, Piyush Chawla, Sreesanth and Irfan Pathan. Even V. R. V. Singh looked at ease and as though he belonged at the top level. A player that may have slipped under the radar a bit was Wilkin Mota. He looks to be a good player — in the one outing that he actually had a decent go in — and we should watch how he grows over the next year or so.
Overall, this was a well-thought-out and well-balanced team in which more than 9 players had played 10 games or more (and 6 of these had played 13 games or more)! That, in itself, tells a story! Rajasthan had 10 players who played 11 or more games! These teams, therefore, had a more “settled” look from day-dot and that ought to be a take-home for other franchises. Apart from Yuvraj Singh’s captaincy, perhaps the only losers were Tanmay Srivatsa and Karan Goel who did not seem to make enough of the (albeit) limited opportunities that they got. But these are two exciting young players and we should maintain a watching-brief on them.
So what should Punjab do?
Punjab should try their hardest to ensure that their overseas players like Marsh and Pomersbach stay! They could do their chances no harm by trading in Mahela Jeyawardene and Ramnaresh Sarawan to the cash-rich Bangalore! (joke)
Delhi Daredevils had a terrific start to the season. Somewhere down the line, they perhaps got too cute for their own good! Perhaps they thought that they had made it to the finals already at the half-way point. Although they made the semi-finals (just), one would like to think that this team was capable of more than it actually achieved! One of the main problems here was Virender Sehwag’s somewhat misplaced faith on Shoaib Mallik! The Pakistan captain who did not deliver with either bat or ball was, unfortunately, persisted with!
Moreover, because Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Shikar Dhawan were so successful with the bat at the top, the middle order got rudely exposed in some of the games. The big winners were, Sehwag, Gambhir and Dhawan with the bat.
Batsmen like Manoj Tiwary, Dinesh Karthik, Rajat Bhatia, Tilekaratne Dilshan and Shoaib Mallik did not do their form or their potential much good. One expected more from these guys.
The bowling unit, however, was a solid one for Delhi. Led by the ever-strong Glen McGrath, the bowling held up well although it had a sameness look about it. McGrath, Mahroof and Mohammed Asif are bowlers of the same ilk. However, they seemed to gel quite well as a unit. Bowlers like Amit Mishra, Yo Mahesh and Pradeep Sangwan complemented the main bowlers really well. One would like to believe that the stocks of Mishra, Yo Mahesh and Sangwan have risen as a result.
So what should Punjab do?
Delhi would do well to bolster their middle-order batting. Trading Manoj Tiwary for a better and, perhaps, more reliable batsman may not be a totally bad idea. The Delhi bowling unit is excellent and they should try and ward off any poachers!