Tag Archives: T20

IPL-III: A few early observations…

IPL-III is 11 matches and 1 week old as I write this piece.

Right at the outset, let me state that I will not be surprised if either Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) or Mumbai Indians (MI) or Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) meet in the finals of IPL-III.

And while I am putting my neck at great risk, let me also stick my neck further out and state that I expect so see Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Kings Eleven Punjab (KEP) to bring up the bottom two.

This then leves one of Delhi Daredevils (DD), Chennai Super Kings (CSK), and Deccan Chargers (DC) to join RCB, KKR and MI in the semi-finals.

I believe there are a few too many gaps to fill in the Deccan Chargers team when compared with DD and CSK. This then means a toss up between DD and CSK for one other semi-finals spot. I back CSK purely on the basis of leadership excellence and the presence of a fewer “holes”. Moreover, in my view, the presence of two “game changers” in their midst (MS Dhoni and Matthew Hayden) will swing it for CSK.

KKR have Sourav Ganguly at the helm of affairs this year. More importantly, KKR do not have either John Buchanan or his tomes on Sun Tzu or Zen anywhere near their dressing room! I think we will see — and are alredy seeing — KKR play with much pride and slef-confidence. They will want to put their last two (poor) seasons and leadership experiments behind them for IPL-III. KKR has also started the campaign well with wins against last years’ finalists: Deccan Chargers (DC) and Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). KKR has made a few smart purchaces in the off-season and so has the MI team. While, DD have also commenced their campaign well, I think this year will be about the bouncing back of teams that have had their pride hurt. The teams that have suffered maximal pride-pucture in the last two seasons are KKR and MI.

I also believe that IPL-III will be less about the 4 overseas recruits playing well and more about how well the remaining 7 Indian players will play in the on-field team. One of the reasons for KKR performing poorly in previous seasons was the poor performance of local players. Ajit Agarkar got a few KKR gigs. Enough said! But with the acquisition of Manoj Tiwary in the off-season from DD and with Cheteshwar Pujara available for IPL-III, I think KKR have plugged a few holes in their armoury.

The other difference in IPL-III is the presence of players from the now defunct ICL. Players like Rohan Gavaskar (KKR), Rajagopal Satish (MI), Ambati Rayadu (MI), Sridharan Sriram (RCB), et al, will be seeing IPL action for the first time in their careers. Here again, I think MI has made some good ICL recruitments to strengthen their domestic player content.

That said, let us review each team (in no particualr order):

Royal Challengers Bangalore:

This is a solid team with some dependable competitors like Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble and Jacques Kallis and some young turks like Manish Pandey, Virat Kohli and Robin Uthappa. While Kevin Pietersen was a disappointment in IPL-II, I think he will be a different player in IPL-III. He is coming into form, albeit against a weak Bangladesh! Eoin Morgan has been a good recruit and Steven Smith is, in my view, a poor replacement for the injured Jesse Ryder. However, with a richness of overseas players, I am not sure if Steven Smith will get a game! Sridaran Sriram could add some ICL-lustre. I expect the team to be:

Jacques Kallis
Manish Pandey / Sridharan Sriram /Shreevats Goswami
Virat Kohli
Robin Uthappa
Rahul Dravid
Kevin Pietersen / Eoin Morgan / Ross Taylor
Roelof van der Merwe / Dillon Du Preez / Cameron White
Mark Boucher
Anil Kumble / K. P. Appanna
Praveen Kumar / A Mithun / B Kumar / B Akhil / Vinay Kumar
Dale Steyn / Steven Smith

This is a reasonably well-balanced team, and under Anil Kumble, it has resillience, steel and a stomach for a fight. The key to this teams’ balance is Jacques Kallis. He gives the team tremendous options in both batting as well as bowling. He is, in my view, the most under-rated performer of the last decade in International cricket. Given that Kallis has commenced IPL-III in style, I think RCB will go far.

In IPL-II RCB experimented with Robin Uthappa behind the sticks. This did not quite work. It appears that for IPL-III, the team has dumped that experiment and commited to place its faith in Mark Boucher and Shreevats Goswami. After performing very well in the U-19 championships a few years ago, Goswami cannot even get a game for his State team, in which Wriddhiman Saha ‘keeps wickets!

For RCB to do well though, the “locals” have to do well: Goswami, Kohli, Uthappa, Pandey, Dravid, Kumble, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Mithun, et al. This is not really a bad list of “locals” — Praveen Kumar has already taken IPL-III’s first hattrick!

If RCB’s “young turks” — Kohli, Pandey and Uthappa — do well, RCB can go places. In the past, Kohli and Uthappa have flattered to deceive in the IPL. If they fire, I think RCB should reach the semi finals.

Delhi Daredevils (DD):

This is a really strong team in my view. I expected them to win IPL-II. Barring one bad game when it really mattered, they almost made it to the top of the tree. I expect DD to do really well and perhaps even lift the cup. I expect the team to be:

Gautam Gambhir
Virender Sehwag
Tilekaratne Dilshan / David Warner
A. B. de Villiers / Brett Geeves
Dinesh Karthik
Mithun Manhas / Rajat Bhatia / Kedar Jadhav
Fervez Maharoof / Moises Henriques / Andrew McDonald / Wayne Parnell
Amit Mishra / Sarandeep Singh / Joginder Singh / Shashi Ranjan
Ashish Nehra / Sarabjit Ladda / Aavishkar Salvi
Pradeep Sangwan / Umesh Yadav / Yogesh Nagar / Yo Mahesh
Dirk Nannes

The problem with this team is that the reserve ‘local’ players are not that strong. For example, I do not expect Sarandeep Singh, Joginder Singh and Shashi Ranjan to get a game. Sarabjit Ladda has played a few games already in the first week, mainly because of Ashish Nehra’s side strain. So apart from having a few extra “net bowlers” I do not quite know what these players are doing in the final list! If the team wants to play David Warner, Dilshan and de Villiers, it would be possible if Umesh Yadav or Aavishkar Salvi play instead of Dirk Nannes. However, that would weaken the bowling considerably. So, I do believe that although the overseas recruits are quite strong in this team, the one or two “local” bit-player strength in this team is not that strong. Of course, if Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir fire, given the strong middle order and the decent bowling attack, I do expect DD to do extremely well in IPL-III. It is interesting to note that Daniel Vettori and Glen McGrath have not been named in the initial DD team list.

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR):

This is a team on the rebound. Watch out when Sourav Ganguly’s pride is hurt and watch out when he is mean and hungry. And after the antics of John Buchanan in IPL-II, Ganguly is mean and hungry. He has been given longer rope by his owners as well as his new — more grounded and less publicity hungry — coach, Dav Whatmore. KKR have quietly made some good recruitments in the off-season — particularly Manoj Tiwary from DD. In terms of overseas recruits, the purchase of Shane Bond was a good move from this team. KKR has also acquired Vignesh and Rohan Gavaskar (from the ICL) — the team looks balanced and set for glory in IPL-III. Moreover, with Cheteshwar Pujara available for the whole season, I expect a last-4 (if not a finals) finish from this new-look team. I expect the team to be:

Brad Hodge / Chris Gayle
Manoj Tiwary / G. Vignesh
Sourav Ganguly
Cheteshwar Pujara / Chirag Pathak
Owais Shah / Brendon McCullum / David Hussey / Mushrafe Murtaza
Angelo Mathews
Laxmi Ratan Shukla / Harshad Khadiwale / Rohan Gavaskar / Eklak Ahmid
Wriddhiman Saha
Murali Kartik / Iqbal Abdulla
Charl Langeveldt / Ajantha Mendis / Shane Bond
Ishant Sharma / Ashok Dinda / Ajit Agarkar / Varun Aaron

The attack looks solid IF Ishanta Sharma bowls well in tandem with Shane Bond — but even there, there is some backup for an off-day Ishant Sharma, with Ashok Dinda ready to rock up. MUrali Kartik is an underrated left-arm spinner. He is, in my view, much better than his CV suggests. The overseas recruits are also quite solid. I think this team has been largely lifted by the presence of Angelo Mathews. I expect KKR to do really well.

Chennai Super Kings (CSK):

I rate CSK as a semi-final chance mainly because of performance consistency, leadership excellence and team balance. CSK made the semi finals of the last two IPL editions and made the finals of the first edition. A real could be the non-availability of Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram (both out through injuries). The team has picked Hemang Badani from the ICL — not the most inspired of picks as, in my view, Vignesh (KKR) or R. Satish (MI) may have been better options to go for. Especially given the no-show of Andrew Flintoff and Jacob Oram, Justin Kemp was an inspired auction-pick by CSK. I expect the team to be:

Matthew Hayden / George Bailey
M. Vijay / Arun Karthik / Parthiv Patel
Suresh Raina
S. Badrinath / C. Ganapathy / Hemang Badani
Justin Kemp / Michael Hussey / Jacob Oram / George Bailey
M. S. Dhoni
Albie Morkel / Thisara Perera / Thilan Tushara
R. Ashwin / Shadab Jakati
Muthiah Muralitharan / Makhaya Ntini
L. Balaji
Sudeep Tyagi / Manpreet Gony / Joginder Sharma

For me, the real concern for this team is the seam options. While Sudeep Tyagi has been good in spurts, I do not see him as a natural first-up bowler. His consistency — especially under pressure — will remain a big question mark over this team. Ditto L. Balaji. This team needs a “local” fast bowling option to cover for when Balaji and Tyagi (or Gony) go pear-shaped — and they repeatedly do!. Unless CSK plug this gap, I believe the team will consistently under-deliver after reaching the last-4. Other than that, this is a well balanced batting-dominated team, especially if the openers and Suresh Raina fire. To add to the batting depth is M. Vijay’s recent strong and consistent showing. So, while I expect CSK to do well, I still feel they are one player short of a great team and for them to go the extra mile, a lot will depend on M. S. Dhoni…

Mumbai Indians (MI):

After a few seasons of tinkering, this team — the most expensive IPL team thus far — has started to hit the right notes in my view. Some astute off-season purchases of ICL players including Rajagopal Satish, Ambati Rayudu, IShan Malhotra and Ali Murtaza as well as a smart auction-pick like Kieron Pollard have also helped. After finishing 7th in IPL-II, expect this badly hurt team to do much better in IPL-III. As I indicated at the start, I will not be surprised if MI meets KKR in the finals. I expect the team to be:

Sachin Tendulkar
Sanath Jayasuriya / JP Duminy
Aditya Tare / Chandan Madan
Ambati Rayudu / Shikar Dhawan
Saurabh Tiwary
R. Satish / Abhishek Nayar
Harbhajan Singh
Dwayne Bravo / Graham Napier / Dilhara Fernando / Ryan McLaren
Zaheer Khan / Dhawal Kulkarni / Syed Sahabuddin
Lasith Malinga / Kieron Pollard
Murtaza Ali / Rahul Shukla / Ishan Malhotra

The real problem are with this team is, in my view, the untested middle order and the ‘keeping. Most of the other teams have good, if not excellent wicket-keeping batsmen — Adam Gilchrist, M. S. Dhoni, Kumar Sangakkara, Dinesh Karthik, Wriddhiman Saha and Mark Boucher / Sreevats Goswami spring to mind. Aditya Tare has shown in the first few games that he has got what it takes at this level. But it is fair to say that the batting qualities of Aditya Tare perhaps have not been tested severely at this level. But time will tell whether he is as good a ‘keeping-allrounder as some of the other ‘keepers in the IPL. The middle order depends on two out of the troika of Rayudu, Tiwary and Shikar Dhawan firing. If these gaps are plugged, MI could well be a finals team.

Kings XI Punjab (KEP):

In the off-season KEP quietly changed their captain. We do not know whether Yuvraj Singh was nudged or pushed or whether he stepped down. The fact is, however, that Kumar Sangakkara is at the helm for IPL-III. And that is a good thing for this under-rated team. Yuvraj Singh now has a free license to thrill. Perhaps captaincy wasn’t quite right for him. With that burden lifted, we might see a very different Yuvraj Singh in IPL-III provided he has taken it well and provided he has not launched into a sulk. I think Mohammed Kaif was a smart off-season grab from Rajasthan Royals while Manvinder Bisla’s move will make him a better fit in his (more comfortable) hometown team. Reetinder Singh Sodhi and Salabh Srivastava are good grabs from the ICL list. I expect the team to be:

Karan Goel / Manvinder Bisla / Tanmay Srivastava
Ravi Bopara / Shaun Marsh
Kumar Sangakkara
Yuvraj Singh
M Jayawardene / Adrian Barath
Mohammed Kaif / Reetinder Sodhi / Salabh Srivastava
Irfan Pathan / Amanpreet Singh / Vikramjeet Malik
Piyush Chawla
Bipul Sharma / Ramesh Powar
Brett Lee / James Hopes / Yusuf Abdulla / Juan Theron
S. Sreesanth / Love Ablish

The real problem for KEP is Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth. Like Andrew Symonds, Herschelle Gibbs and Harbhajan Singh how well Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth play on any given day depends on which side of the bed they got up from. Their inconsistency could hurt the team badly. My suggestion to KEP would be to get Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth to share a bed and get up on different sides of it. That way, the chances of at least one of them playing well on a given day becomes considerably higher! Another concern for me for KEP is the mental attitude of Yuvraj Singh, whose MTBEPOS (mean time between extended periods of sulk) is quite short when the chips are down. He is nursing an injured wrist, a dodgy knee, excess weight and hurt pride/ego — all of which might be a bit too much excess baggage for this talented T20 and ODI cricketer. We can expect the dressing room atmosphere to be quite glum, thick and divided. While Priety Zinta will, no doubt, try and uplift damaged spirits, I think IPL-III success may be a bridge too far for KEP. I will be quite shocked if this team does well.

Deccan Chargers (DC):

There are high expectations of Deccan Chargers (DC), after a wonderful IPL-II. However, despite that favourable result and impressive showing, I do think that there are a few gaps that this team has that are unplugged. In Adam Gilchrist, the team has an excellent and inspirational leader. In Andrew Symonds and Herschelle Gibbs, the team has two explosive players in the middle order. And like Jacques Kallis, Andrew Symonds brings much more to the team than his chewing gum and zinc cream! Moreover, in Rohit Sharma, Pragyan Ojha and RP Singh, the team has reliable, if not excellent Indian talent. The real problem for this team lies with VVS Laxman — who in my view is just not suited for this form of the game — and the bits-and-pieces local players (Jaskaran Singh, Anirudh Singh, Tirumalasetti Suman, et al). None of these are likely to set the world alight. Therefore, the pressure to perform consistently might be a bit too much on players like Gilchrist, Symonds, Rohit Sharma, RP Singh, Gibbs and Ojha. In the off-season, Kemar Roach and Mitchell Marsh were a good buys. However, I believe the team erred significantly by letting ICL-escapee Ambati Rayudu go to the Mumbai Indians. They, instead, got players like Monish Mishra. I expect the team to be:

Adam Gilchrist
VVS Laxman / Ravi Teja / Azhar Bilakhia
Herschelle Gibbs / Mitchell Marsh
Andrew Symonds
Rohit Sharma
Anirudh Singh / Bodapati Sumanth / Monish Mishra
Tirumalasetti Suman / Venugopal Rao / Arjun Yadav
Chamindaa Vaas / Ryan Harris / Dwayne Smith
Jaskaran Singh / Harmeet Singh / Ashish Reddy
RP Singh
Pragyan Ojha / Rahul Sharma

There are way too many gaps in this team for me to believe that they will make the last four. Laxman, Suman and Anirudh Singh are, for me, the major gaps. Their “replacements” (Ravi Teja, Sumanth, Monish Mishra, Venugopal Rao and Arjun Yadav) do not inspire me with too much confidence either! And to think that Greg Chappell thought of Venugopal Rao as India captain material — the man could have brought on untold damage to Indian cricket! Anyway, there are way too many gaps in this team for me to readily accept that this team will travel further than a 5th or 6th place finish in IPL-III.

Rajasthan Royals (RR):

The RR IPL-III season was in disarray before it commenced and it got worse within a few games! The suspension of Ravindra Jadeja was a major blow to the teams’ chances. However, what was to follow in the first week of the tournament — the injuries to Graeme Smith and Dimitri Mascarenhas — made the Jadeja suspension look like an ant-bite in comparison! The RR team has started IPL-III badly and despite the pyrotechnics of Yusuf Pathan and the leadership of Shane Warne, I expect the rest of the RR season make the team yearn for the “glory days” of the first week of IPL-III! This team needs a good hard look at itself and this might happen at the end of IPL-III. The off-season purchases of Michael Lumb and Damien Martyn were not the most inspired picks while the pickup of Amit Unyal and Abhishek Jhunjhunwala from the ICL were good, in my view. I expect the team to be:

Swapnil Asnodkar / Faiz Fazal
Graeme Smith / Michael Lumb / Damien Martyn
Naman Ojha
Yusuf Pathan
Abhishek Jhunjhunwala
Paras Dogra / Amit Paunikar
Dimitri Mascaranhas / Johan Botha
Amit Unyal / Sumit Narwal / Srikanth Wagh / Abhishek Raut / Syed Qadri
Shane Warne
Shaun Tait / Morne Morkel
Munaf Patel / Siddharth Trivedi / Kamran Khan / Amit Singh

So there, you have it. As I said at the start, I expect the semi-final lineup to be MI, KKR, CSK and RCB. While, in my view, MI has the best team, the others are there despite a few gaps which can be, I believe, be plugged through a combination of inspirational leadership and the presence of a few game-changers.

— Mohan

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IPL and Indian Domestic T20 Championships on simultaneously…

The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) is the domestic T20 Trophy in India.

For the 2009-2010 season, the SMAT commenced on 25 September 2009 with league games in the South Zone. Meanwhile, the league games in the Central, East, West and North Zones were played from Oct 20 2009 onwards for a 6-day period.

A few observations:

  • Although we have a Super League and Plate League for the Ranji Trophy, why do we still have a Zonal system in place for the domestic T20 championship in India?
  • Why were the SMAT league games in the South Zone and the rest of India played on different dates?

And by the way, while the North, West, East and Central Zones were playing their SMAT league games, the Champions League T20 Cup was on at the same time! Why were the SMAT league games in the Central, North, East and West Zones not played at the same time as the South Zone SMAT league games? I suggest we do not pose that question to the BCCI, for I am not sure we will get a cogent answer! If the North, East, West and Central SMAT League games had been held at the same time that South Zone SMAT League games were held, the SMAT knock-out phase could have, quite conceivably, been conducted in the period Oct 20 to Oct 25.

Now, right after the North, East, West and Central SMAT League games were concluded, the SMAT games took a five-month break. Yes, after 25 October, the Indian cricket calendar got quite crowded, what with the Australian ODI series, Ranji Trophy, Vijay Hazare Trophy, Duleep Trophy, Deodhar Trophy, etc.

So, after a 5-month break until March 12 2010, The Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy quarterfinals stage commenced. In other words, the domestic T20 championship in India commenced on the same day that IPL-III commenced in India.

So, right at this moment, we have two T20 championships on in India: A domestic inter-state championship and a domestic inter-franchise league!

Somethings just make you go “Hmmmm” in India!

— Mohan

IPL Season-3 Preview: A few heartbeats away

Season-3 of the IPL is on us.

We know it the moment we see Lalit Modi’s face and hear his lisp everywhere. The papers, TV Channels and Twitterdom are full of sound bytes from the man who seems to be perpetually in a hurry. He represents the New Age India: an angry, brash, self-confident person, eager to take on the world. The fact that he has managed to take some of Old India along with him on this mysterious journey is a credit to his passion as well as self-belief. If Jagmohan Dalmiya commenced the process of establishment-nose-thumbing, Lalit Modi, more than anyone else, has transformed the face of Indian cricket and the manner in which it is viewed — not only by the cricket world, but also by the world of business and entertainment.

No wonder Sports Illustrated India recently placed Lalit Modi at #2 on the list of “50 Most Powerful People in Indian Sport”, just behind Sachin Tendulkar.

In a short period of time, he has risen to the top of the tree and has left even hitherto powerful sports stars (Sania Mirza is at #50), franchise owners (Shah Rukh Khan is at #28) and cricket administrators in his wake.

What’s more? He has taken a few others along with him in his joy ride. Ravi Krishnan, the President of IMG India kicks in at #27 on this list, just ahead of Shah Rukh Khan! While Ravi Krishnan has been in the India sports scene since IMG’s Chennai Tennis Open days, his appearance on this Power List at #27 (one ahead of Shah Rukh Khan and about 5 ahead of Harsha Bhogle) is in no small measure due to his savvy skills in bringing IMG back to the table as the event management company in charge of the IPL.

No one seems to know — or indeed seems to care — where the IPL will end up 3-4 years from now. For now, everyone seems happy: the franchise owners, players, administrators, broadcasters, advertisers and (most importantly) the fans. The IPL is a happy marriage of cricket, TV, Bollywood, entertainment and advertising.

The IPL fits well with the New India: A in-your-face and in-a-hurry, short, sweet sexy package that is peppy, racy and based on reality drama. Everyone wants it and clamours for it. Oh! And by the way, while talent is a pre-requisite, if you can compensate lack of talent with bling and biff, then bring it on!

The IPL has its cyincs and doubters. Gideon Haigh recently said, “Twenty20 is a TV property masquerading as cricket property,” in a CricInfo conversation with Harsha Bhogle and Sanjay Manjrekar. It is true that Haigh has been a T20-IPL-Modi doubter for a long time. It is true that Haigh does not like the T20 format. He may have also developed a distaste for the IPL. He probably breaks into an allergic rash everytime he hears the name Modi. But in my view, his is not the voice of a doomsday-scenario painter, although it is easy for one to think of him in those terms. In my view, in these times of extreme hype and huge profits, his voice brings balance to the marketing cacophony that surrounds this form of the game.

The point is that T20 has been hugely popular in every market that it has been played in. The IPL has packaged it in an excellent manner as a made-for-TV and a made-for-corporate-India drama. The BCCI has unleashed, through Lalit Modi, a product that has delivered the game some excitement and more respect than it probably deserves. And everyone is happy.

But there are significant challenges with the IPL.

It seems to me to be a journey whose destination is yet unknown.

There is far too much “policy on the fly” and “process refinement through band-aids” at the moment. The 7.5-minute “strategy break” after over #10 — which itself was announced/pronounced/decreed a few days prior to the start of IPL-2 — has been replaced in IPL-3 with two 2.5-minute strategy breaks; one which the bowling team can take between overs 6 and 8 and the other, which the batting team can take between overs 11 and 16.

Is this a “policy on the fly” or is it a “let us suck it and see” approach? Take your pick. Personally, I am not really that fussed with tinkering of this sort that makes the game more interesting and engaging.

What is a bit more worrying is the bullish manner (not to mention “band-aid” and “seat of pants” manner) in which matters like security, safety and the efficacy of the tendering process are handled.

Witness the arbitrary and unexplained delays in the tendering process for IPL franchises 9 and 10 that are set to commence from IPL-Season-4. The arbitrary nature of the process postponement (and the subsequent relaxation of some of the bidding rules) left the bidders that had already submitted valid bids extremely angry and bitter. Fair enough. I would be extremely upset too if I had submitted a valid bid!

The reason for the tender postponement, according to BCCI Secretary, Niranjan Shan, that supreme exemplar and embodiment of professional and ethical communications was, “The [BCCI] president felt a few clauses were too stiff and he wanted some modifications. Since the president’s approval is necessary for going ahead with the process and naming the winning bids, the entire process was cancelled and we asked for fresh tenders, which will now be opened on March 21.”

Surely, the BCCI president knew of the bidding rules and ought to have signed-off on the bidding rules and the process before the tender documents were released and not post-facto?

In my view, “policy on the fly” and “flying by the seat of ones pants” is ok for an organisation in its inception — especially one that is in a tearing hurry to make its mark in the world. Moreover, I think that this “policy on the fly” fits in quite comfortably with India, Inc, where adaptability and nimbleness is the modern matra for success. However, I would like to think that the organisation would need to acquire stability — much more solidity — if it aspires for a global footprint and global respect. A “we are like this only” attitude just will not cut it. That will do when operating in a market that is dominated by scarcity. But global respect requires much more by way of solidity, professionalism, accountability and transparency.

And therein lies a major challenge for the IPL.

Another challenge, in my view is the boredom that is likely to emanate from the “sameness” that this format can bring with it.

Despite these blips, the fact is that the IPL is a force to reckon with.

Fast Company — a company that has its eye on innovation trends and digital media — put the IPL as the 22nd most innovative company in the world — ahead of established blue-chips and brands like Frito-Lay, Samsung, Twitter and Microsoft! The IPL was also labelled the 2nd most innovative sports company in the world! It made 4th place on the Forbes List of the world’s hottest sporting properties.

More power to the IPL and more power to Lalit Modi.

In the meanwhile though, sit back and enjoy the ride for the next 50 days or so and get used to terms like “DLF Max” (and for the uninitiated, that’s the new term for “a six”).

— Mohan

The resurrection of Sreesanth is complete…

It appears as if the new-look Sreesanth is back in the mix of things in Indian cricket! A new-and-improved Sreesanth minus slap-marks on his face and minus the pre-ball cross-my-heart-and-kiss-the-ball routine and minus the many metres of dingly-dangly thread around his neck (therein lies the clue to Ishant Sharma’s resurrection?) is back in Team India’s ODI and T20 teams for the matches against Sri Lanka! What’s more? He is also seeking out Harbhajan Singh for a hug everytime he takes a wicket! Someone please tell me he has turned vegetarian and is also writing a paper for Copenhagen!

Between 9 December and 27 December, India play Sri Lanka in 2 T20s and 5 ODIs.

The last T20 match India played was at the World Championship. The squad then read:

MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Dinesh Karthik, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Pragyan Ojha, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, RP Singh

The team for India’s T20 games against Sri Lanka reads:

MS Dhoni, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Yusuf Pathan, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, Ashish Nehra, Sreesanth, Ashok Dinda, Sudeep Tyagi, Pragyan Ojha.

India’s WC T20 squad squad is sans Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh and Ravindra Jadeja.

And unless my eyes deceive me, Harbhajan Singh also feels the selectors’ axe on his neck! Is that right?

The above in the 16-member WCT20 team are replaced in the 15-member Team India squad for the Sri Lanka T20s squad by Ashish Nehra, Ashok Dinda, Sreesanth, Sudeep Tyagi and R. Ashwin.

Other than the comfortable knowledge that he is from Chennai — which obviously makes a difference in the current set up in Team India — I still do not know what Dinesh Karthik is doing in the T20 team. But he certainly is there in the team!

After the WCT20 debacle in which India exited in the first round, something had to give. Players like Irfan Pathan and RP Singh had to go and re-learn their craft. Zaheer Khan is still not back to peak fitness. So these changes are understandable. But dropping Harbhajan Singh makes sense? I am not convinced that Praveen Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja deserve the chop too.

Having said that, I do think that India’s T20 squad is good and sports a balanced look. I expect the team sheet to read:

Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
MS Dhoni
Yuvraj Singh
Suresh Raina
Rohit Sharma
Yusuf Pathan / R Ashwin
Ashish Nehra
Sreesanth / Ashok Dinda
Pragyan Ojha
Sudeep Tyagi / Ishant Sharma (minus dingly-dangly neck-accessories?)

DRINKS: Dinesh Karthik

India’s squad for the first two ODIs against Sri Lanka has also been announced. Sreesanth makes it to the ODI team too! Munaf Patel has got the chop after the ODI series against Australia. Perhaps he needs to find the neck-accessories that Sreesanth discarded?

Amit Mishra has also been requested to cool his heels somewhere.

And since the selectors could not find a (any) leg-spinner in the whole of Tamil Nadu, Pragyan Ojha replaces Amit Mishra in the team! Further, Dinesh Karthik has been informed that he does not need to carry the drinks and so, loses his spot in the team!

The team for the first two ODIs reads:

Sachin Tendulkar
Virender Sehwag
Gautam Gambhir
Yuvraj Singh
MS Dhoni
Suresh Raina / Virat Kohli
Ravindra Jadeja
Harbhajan Singh
Praveen Kumar
Zaheer Khan / Sudeep Tyagi / Pragyan Ojha / Sreesanth
Ashish Nehra

The absence of Rohit Sharma from this team continues to baffle me. If I were his manager, I might ask him to either (a) wear some dingly-dangly bits around his neck and lose it in a hurry or (b) seek a transfer to Tamil Nadu!

— Mohan

Some observations on the Champions League T20

If Lalit Modi and Dean Kino had added the word “International” to the Champions League T20, the tournament that is currently taking place in India could have replaced the now defunct ICL. Players from the now dead-and-buried ICL have scattered to different teams. Some ICLers, like Shane Bond, are back playing for club and country.

Meanwhile, the tournament that has been christened CLT20 is up and running. After the first edition was scrapped in the wake of 26/11, the CLT20-2009 has been in progress for almost a week now. While the cricket has been ok, CLT20 has certainly been providing air time to Lalit Modi and Bollywood!

Never mind the absence of Bollywood stars like Shah Rukh Khan, Shilpa Shetty and Preity Zinta, whose teams — respectively Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals and Punjab Kings — were not good enough to be featured in CLT20. This despite the largesse — out of the goodness of Lalit Modi’s heart — to accommodate a 3rd team from the Indian IPL in CLT20 (as opposed to only two teams from Australia and South Africa, the trinity of countries that co-started the CLT20 concept).

But no worries! This edition of CLT20 continues its links with Bollywood, thank you very much! I wouldn’t have known that this was a deliberate ploy till I watched an interview with Bipasha Basu who was at one of the early games; I forget which one! Was this yet another Bollywood Super Bod trying to buy a team, I wondered? Alas no! This was just another one of Lalit Modi’s plans to continue the link between Bollywood and masala cricket. What do they call it now? Co-branding?

T20 and Bollywood are made for each other. Each idiom features a lot of dancing, some colour, some great bodies, lots of song, a booty shake or two, celebreties coming out of your ears and nostrils, a few tears, skimpy-glitzy clothes, some acting, loads of emotion (throw in a slap or two!), plenty of rah-rah, LOADS of money and some talent on view — that is, if you can be bothered enough to pay close attention amidst the chaos, the din, the fake drama and the sheer escapism of both idioms! Both idioms are tailor-made for marketing executive boardrooms. The talent is but secondary. The brand, package and product needs to be sized-right, segmented-right, targetted-right and sold-right.

So the nexus between Bollywood and T20 is totally inevitable. And indeed, talking of cross-influencing each other, nowadays there are quite a few Bollywood movies with a cricket theme. In the recent few months, we have seen the release of movies like Victory, Dil Bole Hadippa and 1999! The latter focuses on the betting scandal that rocked the cricketing world that year!

So in the CLT20 product — See! I am getting into the swing of things too! It is not a game or a match or a tournament, but a “product”! Duh! — that features the T20-Bollywood nexus, some matches feature stars from a soon-to-be-released Bollywood movie. Stars from that movie are featured in the crowd and interviewed on the sidelines. Bipasha Basu was there as a cast member from a movie called “All The Best” there! The cast from “Blue” was there a few days back at the Bangalore Royal Challengers must-win game.

Meanwhile, there has been some cricket action worth noting in the CLT20. In particular, J. P. Duminy’s spectacular century for Cape Cobras against Royal Bangalore Challengers — and by the way, one cannot talk/write about T20 games unless one adopts adjectives like “SpecTACular” and “StuPENDous” and “CRACKing” and “SMASHing” from the Ravi Shastri book of adjectives.

It looks like the following teams will make it to the Super-8 stage:
Group-A: Deccan Chargers (provided they beat T&T) and Trinidad & Tobago
Group-B: NSW (already qualified) and possibly Sussex (Piyush Chawla plays for Sussex)
Group-C: Cape Cobras and Bangalore Royal Challengers (already qualified)
Group-D: Delhi Daredevils and Victorian Bushrangers (already qualified)

Disclaimer:

Despite the above, I still do like the T20 format. Like Bollywood films, you watch it, feel good about it, complete your ironing at the same time, remember nothing of it, shake a leg and move on to the next thing. However, I am utterly convinced that it was a terrible shame that

(A) India won the inaugural World T20 Championship,
(B) that (A) above woke up the product-packager in Lalit Modi
(C) that ICL, a pre-cursor to Lalit Modi’s product-package was a flop.

I am also utterly convinced that, with Lalit Modi (and now Dean Kino) and the apparent success of IPL, CLT20 and the Bollywood-T20 package, the T20 format cannot co-exist with Tests and ODIs. Something has to give. Wiser cricketing minds than I have talked about the easy co-existence of these three different “products” (Sic! Get me a bucket, quick!).

I am not convinced. Something has to give.

The recent spate of meaningless ODIs have come at a time when the attractiveness of T20 is on the rise. Witness the meaningless set of 7 ODIs between England and Australia! The Champions Trophy had as much fizz as a bottle of coke left open for a few months in the heat of Chennai! We now face the prospect of 7 ODIs between India and Australia on the conclusion of the CLT20 tournament. I am certainly not looking forward to that series of games. The recently concluded Challenger Trophy in India had an audience of about 25 at most of the games — and that number includes the groundsmen, the cops and those wishing to emulate the SpecTACular Ravi Shastri and invade our living rooms through the ubiquitous idiot box!

The ODI format has to give, in my view. And it is time for our administrators to get their collective heads out of the sand that surrounds said heads!

But then that is another debate for another day!

— Mohan

Crunch time for Team India in ICCWT20C

India is in almost the same situation as it was in the 2007 edition of the ICC World T20 Championships. Back in 2007, having lost her fist Group-E Super8 game to New Zealand, India had to play England in game-2 and then South Africa in game-3 of the Super-8 stage. India are in much the same position now. It is an opportunity for India to re-write the history books or a chance for England and South Africa to exact some revenge!

Stuart Broad, in particular, will want to forget that night at Kingsmead, Durban on 19 September 2007! He got taken to the cleaners by an angry Yuvraj Singh who was made angrier after a sledge from Andrew Flintoff! The repeat of Stuart Broad Vs Yuvraj Singh should make compelling viewing.

There are cries of gloom and doom already in the Indian media. Obituaries are already being written and workers at effigy-making factories have booked in for over-time while their masters are already rubbing their hands in glee!

Someday someone will realise that this is only a game!

India, in my view, is not playing the right team. One can’t do anything about Virender Sehwag’s injury. Them’s the breaks and you can only play with the cards you are delivered.

I can understand the teams’ reluctance to play R. P. Singh ahead of Ishant Sharma because, if R. P. Singh were to play, the team would have Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Irfan Pathan as the pace bowlers. There would, as a result, be a sameness to the bowling. Understood.

However, this analysis is predicated on the presence of Irfan Pathan in the team! I can’t be certain that that is a foregone conclusion.

I’d much rather the team play Zaheer Khan, R. P. Singh and Praveen Kumar instead!

The absence of Irfan Pathan would result in a weakening of the batting though. To make up for this, I’d like the team to play Ravindra Jadeja instead of Pragyan Ojha.

Moreover, I think M. S. Dhoni is wasted at #3. He is a clinical finisher and is a bit of a misfit at #3. I’d like to see Suresh Raina at his more familiar #3 position.

I believe India has defined a hitter/defender role for each player. Rohit Sharma appears to be the designated “hitter” while Gautam Gambhir is a “defender”. So, should Gautam Gamhir fall first, Dhoni walks in as a “defender” replacing another “defender” while, should Rohit Sharma fall, Raina would come in as a “hitter” for “hitter” replacement (as he did in the game against West Indies).

All of this sounds excellent on paper.

This represents another twist in Dhoni’s reading of the game and works well provided, of course, that it doesn’t become an obsession. Some six months back Dhoni was obsessed with the left-right batting combination strategy and ploughed on with it regardless of the situation or the opposition. Formula captaincy does not a Dhoni make though! His strength is his alertness and nimbleness and he should fall back on that rather than a formula.

Although, having said that, having a few set templates in a game as fast and furious as the T20 game is not necessarily a bad thing.

The problem with implementing this strategy blindly is that Dhoni’s form has not been that great lately. Given that, I think he should stick to the knitting and back himself as one of India’s strongest finishers in recent memory. He has this uncanny ability to hold one end up, rotate the strike and score at a run-a-ball without getting fazed. THat ought to be his role in the team.

So, I’d like India to go with the following team (in batting order) in todays’ game against England:

Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, M. S. Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, R. P. Singh

— Mohan

ICCWT20C :: Groupings and Points

Time for a reminder on the ICC World T20 Championship Groups.

Defending champions India is in an easy group A along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Having said that, let us not forget that Bangladesh beat West Indies and Zimbabwe beat Australia in the 2007 edition of the ICCT20C!

Anything is possible in this version of the game. The gap between the best and the rest is narrow and all it takes is a few mistakes for a team to be blown away. India will have to be on her toes.

The groupings do not really make sense to me, but given that they were developed nearly 2 years ago (thanks to an ECB request to boost ticket sales) and given that they were based on the results of ICCWT20C-2007, we have a crazy situation where Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies are in the same group!

For what it is worth, the groups are:

Group A: India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe Ireland
Group B: Pakistan, England, Netherlands
Group C: Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies
Group D: New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland

The preliminary league stage of the tournament will see each team play other teams in its Group. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the “Super Eights”.

Unless there is a miracle or bad-luck through rain-affected matches, I expect the Super Eight line-up to be:

India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, England, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa

Of course, having said that, anything can happen in Group-C the “Group of Death”

In the case of tied points, ranking within the Group will be determined by, in order, (a) the total number of wins, (b) net-run-rate, (c) higher number of wickets taken per balls bowled, (d) winner of the group match between the tied sides, or (e) lots.

Weather could play a crucial role in this particularly since, to the best of my knowledge, points from weather affected games cannot be carried into the Super Eight stage! If all 3 games of a Group are washed out, the original seeding will prevail. In other words, if all three Group C matches are rained out, Australia and Sri Lanka will advance to the Super Eights without any points being carried forward!

In the Super Eight stage, teams will be tagged as A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, D2. These tags follow the teams’ seeding except if A3 knock out A1 or A2, in which case A3 takes on the tag of the team that it knocked out.

Super Eight Stage groups:
S8G1: A1, B2, C1 and D2
S8G2: A2, B1, C2 and D1

This will be followed by two semi-final games and a final.

The warm-up games have commenced. Bangladesh has played a few warm-ups against the likes of Netherlands (won), Scotland (won) and Australia (lost). West Indies beat Ireland. India started its campaign with a loss to New Zealand while South Africa beat Pakistan.

— Mohan Ire