Saturday, May 31, 2008

THE MEGA-FINALS - Rajasthan Royals v Chennai Superkings

The two best teams in the inaugural DLF IPL will be going head-to-head in what promises to be a mouth-watering, heart-stopping climax. Don't go by the one-sided matches in the semi-finals ! Just think back to the last time these two great teams met in Chennai to remember what a superb game of cricket it was. Here's to a repeat of such a game - with one key difference - the end result !!!

Not only are these the two best teams - they are also the two best-led teams. Warne and Dhoni are the two magicians who will conduct the show. It's one of India's most charismatic and successful limited-overs captain against arguably the greatest captain the World never had !

Rajasthan have truly been a great team - a worthy opponent to face in the finals - unlike say, Punjab, who were more pretenders than anything else. They have given us some wonderful cricket, some delightful memories - the way Shane Warne has led this team has been simply inspiring.

Strengths - Batting order with well-defined roles, Tanvir, Warne, Watson - the best all-rounder
Weaknesses - Will miss Smith, Perhaps the seamers to backup Tanvir and Watson ?

Chennai - we have displayed the one great trait of a champion side - the ability to lift our game when it matters most. We peaked at the start of the tournament, went through a bit of a lean patch but are just beginning to bring our best at the climax. You can rely on the captaincy of Dhoni to handle situations like these.

Strengths - Raina striking some serious form, Dhoni, Morkel - an all-rounder not quite as good as Watson, but a fair competitor, Ntini striking form, Gony
Weaknesses - Opening - remains the Achille's heel of our team, back-up bowling.

League Record 2-0 in favor of the Royals
First game we were blown off by the Sohail-storm, but in the home game we gave a memorable fight. However, Watson did not play that game. But the main backbone of the batting in that game Graeme Smith is out injured, so that could be a huge bonus

Royal Contests
Akmal v Ntini
Asnodkar v Gony
Watson v Morkel
Yusuf v Murali
Raina v Tanvir
Dhoni v Warne

So let's get the party started ! Bring out your drinks, put out your tents and start pouring in your rants and opinions on this mega-blockbuster !

Semifinals - King's X1 Punjab v Chennai Superkings - Review

We have done it guys ! We have inflicted a humiliating defeat upon our favorite opposition and romped through to the finals in style ! What a momentous and glorious win this is for everyone associated with the Chennai Superkings !

So unfairly written off and labeled as the weakest of the four semifinalists, and then, branded as underdogs we have shown the World that they can take us lightly only at their own peril.

Punjab: Shaun Marsh, Sangakarra both failed, as they were due a failure anyway. No one else stood up, weak middle order, Yuvraj couldn't stand up, as expected. Bowling showed no teeth

Chennai: Ntini who was a bit of a worry, came to the party just at the right time. Gony, as predicted, was superb. Parthiv did a decent job. Raina of course was brilliant.

Was this the PERFECT performance ? Does this leave scope for another perfect performance tomorrow ?

The expressions on Yuvraj's face were precious.

We have shown that rather than putting up a false bravado just keeping calm and going about the job quietly works wonders. Just one more step away from justifying our name "Super" Kings !

Friday, May 30, 2008

Second Semifinal - King's X1 Punjab v Chennai Superkings - Preview

Today it is. Do or die day. No more second chances, no more bothering about tables and run-rates and the like. On the opposite side is our favorite opponent - King's X1 Punjab - a team that we like to beat and hold some grudge against. Also a team that is on the up, and supremely confident, a bit too confident if you like. At stake, is a chance to contest in the finals of the inaugural DLF IPL Final !

Favorites ?
What a question !

League Record: 2-0 in favor of Super Kings
In the first game, we totally annihilated them - but those were different days as we had Mike Hussey with us. But more encouragingly we had a very good win in the return game also, despite Shaun Marsh batting well. It seemed Dhoni Raina and Badrinath relished taking on the all Indian bowling attack and then Balaji sealed it off with a super-spell !

Strengths - Shaun Marsh, Sangakarra
Weaknesses - Yuvraj, dicey lower-middle order, part of the bowling can be tonked around

Strengths - Key players are beginning to show form (Raina, Morkel, Dhoni, Gony, Murali)
Weaknesses - Opening combination, Backup bowling, below par performances by Ntini and Murali

Royal Contests
Marsh v Gony
Sangakarra v Murali
Raina v Chawla
Dhoni v Irfan

First Semifinal - Rajasthan Royals vs Delhi Daredevils - Review

A complete royal demolition job ! The devils could not dare !

Terrible as the Devils were, one has to compliment the Royals for a superb performance. Asnodkar was brilliant against McGrath, Smith showed great commitment in playing through the injury, and Watson and Pathan simply dictated the course of the game by their superb play.

With the ball again Watson was just magnificent.

Daredevils have been so reliant on luck and their top-order in this series that they were bound to come apart against a worthy opponent especially considering their main batsman Gambhir is a bit of a hoicker and a flasher.

What It Means For Us
a) This is a good wicket. Good bounce, good carry. So good batsmen as well as good bowlers should do well here. There is very little scope for ordinary players so might as well focus on the specialists

b) Opening partnership is critical. Even if the first 3 overs are quiet it is fine. It is overs 4-6 that need to be capitalized upon.

c) We need to be at our very best to challenge both teams.

Lasting Memories
Warnie exhorting a team having fun with McGrath when the latter was batting, McGrath telling Munaf how to bowl the bouncer even as he was batting.

Gambhir getting frustrated with his inability to strike the boundaries.

Royal Contest Results
Smith v McGrath - Smith has the last laugh
Yusuf v Mishra - Yusuf wins
Gambhir v Tanvir - Tanvir restrics Gambhir
Sehwag v Warne - no contest, but Watson destroys Sehwag

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Team Categorization

1. Rajasthan Royals - Undoubtedly the best team. 3 defeats - one right at the start, when they were yet to find their feet, one right at the end in a game they took lightly and one in the middle which they are entitled to.

2. King's X1 Punjab - Very strong team. 4 defeats - one against the top team, 2 against the No. 3 team (against whom they seem to have a mental block).

3. Chennai Super Kings - The most unpredictable team. 6 defeats - 2 against Rajasthan, but 0 against Punjab and then they have lost to almost every other team once (except Kolkata)

4. Delhi Daredevils - Typical middle of the table team. Did a good job of minnow-bashing, decent against top and other middle of the table teams.

5. Mumbai Indians - Another unpredictable team. 2 losses to Punjab against 2 wins versus Kolkata but against every other team has a 1-1 record, minnows and toppers and middlers alike.

6. Kolkata Knight Riders - Excellent minnow-bashers, pulled off the odd upset against a top team too.

7. Bangalore Royal Challengers - Minnows that caused an upset and a half

8. Deccan Chargers - Minnows that caused an upset and a half.

First Semifinal - Rajasthan Royals v Delhi Daredevils Preview

It's the first knockout. No more second chances. No more opportunities for revenge or comebacks. One of the Royals and the Daredevils will be going home disappointed tonight and the other will be readying for the mega-finals on Saturday.

Favorites ?
I would like to see Rajasthan in the finals - because I believe they are by some distance the better team, although possibly Delhi might be the preferable opponent for us if we go through tomorrow. I do think Rajasthan have the edge despite their loss in the last league game.

League Record 1-1
Delhi had beaten Rajasthan on the second day of the championship at home when Warne's men were yet to get things in order and were written off by all as minnows. However, Warnie returned with interest in the home game - a comprehensive win for the Royals.

Strengths - Top order, McGrath, Fielding
Weaknesses - Middle order, Backup bowling (esp. fifth bowler)

Strengths - Versatile, well-oiled batting, Warne - bowler and captain, Tanvir - best bowler of the series, Watson
Weaknesses - Some of the players rely a lot on Warne's captaincy, these could be individually targeted.

Royal Contests
Smith v McGrath
Yusuf v Mishra
Gambhir v Tanvir
Sehwag v Warne

The Semifinalists

So who is the strongest of them all ?

If you just look at the records of the semifinalists against each other here is how they stand:

Rajasthan 4-2
Punjab 3-3
Chennai 3-3
Delhi 2-4

Which is the exact order in which they line up.

However that does not tell the whole story. For a lot of the teams have evolved since when they played each other.

So who are the favorites ?

I know that in a lot of forums I visit Chennai is described as the weakest of the semifinalists and Punjab is expected to run over them. I do not subscribe to this view however; for the simple fact that Chennai have beaten Punjab twice.

Indeed given a choice between facing Punjab and Rajasthan in the semis I would prefer to face Punjab any day.

Also for some reason people are beginning to look upon Delhi as very strong contenders. I wonder why. I believe luck (and some self-destruction on the part of Mumbai) played a huge role in Delhi getting to this stage. If they continue to rely on luck they might be in for a huge shock.

All in all I still believe Rajasthan is by far the strongest team and the one to beat.

And you ?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

King's X1 Punjab v Rajasthan Royals - Review

A thumping performance by Punjab but clearly, Rajasthan were taking this game lightly, weren't they ?

Definitely a great show of strength for Yuvraj's side and it will be a mammoth challenge facing them in the semifinals.

Marsh was sublime. Hopefully he has exhausted his quota of runs for the tournament. Great to see the second string Rajasthan team take the fight to the opposition though - the innings of Neeraj, Akmal and Yusuf were very heartening.

Punjab beat Rajasthan but still finish at #2.

The league stage is over - Onward to the semifinal !

Revenge Battle Results
Watson v Yuvraj - Yuvraj wins again !
Salunkhe v Yuvraj - Minor win for Yuvi
Pankaj v Yuvraj - Thumping win for Yuvi again
Yusuf v Yuvraj - Draw
Kaif v Sreesanth - Thumping win for Sree again
Chawla v Watson - Close battle Chawla has last laugh, part revenge

Bangalore Royal Challengers vs Mumbai Indians - Match Review

An inconsequential game.

Consolation win for Mumbai.

Only interesting phase of the game was when Steyn was bowling an impressive spell against Jayasuriya.

The campaign ends for the powerhouse of Indian cricket.

Gavaskar, Shastri etal. keep licking your wounds.

Revenge Battle Results
Uthappa v Akhil - Uthappa
Dravid v Pollock - Draw

Young Turks - 8 - Ravindu Jadeja

IPL Team - Rajasthan Royals

Ranji Trophy Team - Saurashtra

IPL Performance - Has been most impressive as a lower order batsman and brilliant fielder.

Features - Confident striker of the ball who has shown he can bat to the situation as well. Excellent fielder and in fact he started off as a left-arm spinner

Concerns - His bowling seems to have taken a back-seat

Suggestions - Can make a great finisher in the future - batting at 6,7 in ODIs. May not find a place immediately but should be part of the plan in 3-4 years' time.

Young Turks - 7 - Pragyan Ojha

IPL Team - Deccan Chargers

Ranji Trophy Team - Hyderabad

IPL Performance - One of the rare positives in the bowling for Deccan Chargers. The way he held Dhoni was very impressive. Can fire the ball in well into the blockhole too. Gets good turn (remember the Kallis dismissal ?) and can stick to a plan. Can vary his line.

Strengths - Smooth Action, Good Turn, Temperament.

Concerns - Hasnt shown ability to flight the ball or the arm ball. But it could just be that he was not wanting to experiment here. Fielding could be an issue.

Suggestions - He could possibly make his debut now that Harbhajan is out with a ban. If not, he should still be in the selector's long term plans. Since he is a left-arm spinner that is good as he will complement the leg-spin of Chawla and off-spin of Harbhajan once Kumble retires.

King's X1 Punjab v Rajasthan Royals - Preview

A dress rehearsal for the finals ? Hopefully not, as a Chennai supporter, but that is how this match is being touted elsewhere. Regardless, this is bound to be a compelling game between two of the best teams in the Championship.

Royals won the battle last time around when both teams were going in having lost their first games and under severe pressure. That was the time when the Royals were already being written off for having such a "weak" team while the captaincy abilities of Yuvraj Singh were being severely questioned.

As we come to the last league game of the inaugural DLF IPL how these self-proclaimed pundits have been left embarrassed. Well, expect a high-voltage clash to round off.

Rajasthan - Smith missed the last game - is he fit enough to be back ? If he is will Akmal miss out or will the unbelievable Tanvir be rested ?

Punjab - It is important to get Sangakkara firing on all cylinders. So also Yuvraj, but I seriously doubt if he can turn it all around at this stage.

Revenge Battles
Hopes v Warne
Trivedi v Sangakkara
Sangakkara v Warne
Jayawardene v Salunkhe
Watson v Yuvraj
Yuvraj v Warne
Salunkhe v Yuvraj
Pankaj v Yuvraj
Yusuf v Yuvraj
Irfan v Trivedi
Warne v Irfan
Watson v Chawla
Kaif v Sreesanth
Akmal v Hopes
Sreesanth v Watson
Hopes v Watson
Chawla v Watson
Sreesanth v Jadeja
Chawla v Jadeja

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bangalore Royal Challengers v Mumbai Indians - Preview

A completely meaningless match thanks to Chennai taking control of their own destiny yesterday. Mumbai have nothing to play for now, perhaps not even pride. I would say Bangalore have the edge in today's game and I hope they put it past Mumbai.

I have no sympathies for Mumbai. Twice they messed up their chances. First they could have beaten Delhi and got into the semifinals themselves while putting us also in. They didn't do that. Then they could have beaten Rajasthan to ensure that they remained in control of their destiny. They didn't do that either in the bargain they prayed for us to lose - and so they do not deserve any sympathy whatsoever.

Bangalore are on a relative high having won their last two games. Hope they finish off on a high.

Bangalore - Royal Challengers have been missing Zaheer Khan with a slight injury. Interesting to see if he returns. Kallis also suffered an injury in the last game, if he is not fit, Boucher might slot in. I would like to see the youngster Bharat Chipli get a chance in place of Jaffer.

Mumbai - Players like Ashwell Prince and Loots Bosman have not got a single game; Luke Ronchi, Dominic Thornely have got very few. Will Mumbai rest their top players like Pollock to give these guys a go ?

Revenge Battles
Jayasuriya v Kallis
Uthappa v Kallis
Uthappa v Akhil
Pinal v Akhil
Nayyar v Vinay Kumar
Nayyar v Praveen
Pollock v Vinay Kumar
Pollock v Praveen
Pollock v Zaheer
Dravid v Pollock
Kallis v Nehra
Kohli v Jayasuriya

And That’s How It’s Done!

For all those doubting Thomases (or Saurabhs or Narayans), hope the Chennai team has proved you guys wrong by marching into the semifinals with a convincing if not emphatic win. The semifinals are here now and from now on it’s down to which team plays better on the day.

This was a match in which, all said and done, we were always going to be favorites. We did everything right in the first ten overs of our bowling – but let it slip away slightly in the second half. This is a bit worrying. I would have liked to see us bowling the opposition out for 120-odd and the performance of Morkel and Balaji yesterday with the ball left a bit to be desired.

In the batting department, the old habit of the openers of throwing away their wickets when there is absolutely no need continues to be a worry. Raina was really encouraging but what was most relieving was seeing MS Dhoni bat. This is perhaps the best and most free I have seen him bat since his fabulous innings against Bangalore 10 games ago. MS coming into his own can only mean great news for us and ominous signs for the rest of the teams. Also, I do think Morkel took a little long to settle down yesterday which made the finish just a little bit more tense than necessary.

So we take on Punjab a team over which we have major psychological advantage, aided by the fact that we have Dhoni who seems to have some psychological hold over Yuvraj. I fancy our chances to make it through to the finals!

1) Gony – Fantastic spell first up

2) Murali – Though not at his best bowled much better than earlier

3) Raina – Finally saw the team through

4) Dhoni – Just the way he was striking the ball today was ominous


1) Morkel – Disappointing with the ball, adequate with the bat, but we can pass this off as just a bad day, he has been great otherwise

2) Fleming – Yet another waste of a start

3) Parthiv – Just when we thought he had turned a leaf in the last game he is back to his old ways.

Do we have a chance to go all the way now? I believe we do, I definitely believe we can beat Punjab, Rajasthan might be slightly tough provided we don’t get a couple of issues sorted out. One, as Dhoni said, we need the bowling to be potent throughout. In every game it is one of the bowlers who is shining while the others are only restricting. We need all our bowlers to fire away. Two, we need Fleming to fire and fire big time – like say score a hundred.

If this can be done, I think we will be able to finish off the tournament like we started it – as the best team! Good Luck Chennai !

The Last Hurrah

It was my last day in Chennai. Tomorrow I would leave for home, perhaps never to return to this lovely city again. Of course, I would wish to, and dearly want to, but who is to say what the future has in store for us? Chennai had given me so many wonderful memories, taught me so many important lessons and generally, offered me a very pleasant stay. But it was all coming to an end, as all good things must. But not before another visit to the Chepauk.

Today, the Chennai Super Kings took on the Rajasthan Royals, the top team in the championship by a long way, in a crucial game. As an added bonus, Shankar Mahadevan was scheduled to perform before the game. Cricket had been the highlight of my stay in Chennai and there was no way I could have given this a miss.

I made my way in, nice and early, mainly to catch in as much of the Shankar Mahadevan performance as possible. It was a bit of a disappointment as the loud-speakers in our stand were not functioning properly. Also, all said and done, a cricket stadium is not acoustically the best equipped arena for a musical performance.

I was initially a bit disappointed at the crowd response. It seemed like an afternoon game would not attract the large crowds that I had seen a couple of weekends ago for the evening game against Punjab. These fears proved to be unfounded though – as people took their own sweet time to make their entry but by the time the toss was done the stadium was already nearly full.

We never really got into the game while we were bowling. From the first over when Makhaya Ntini conceded a free hit that was efficiently put in the stands by Asnodkar, it was just not our day with the ball. Dhoni fielding in the deep did get the crowds going and added spark to the game but in the end we ended up conceding a mammoth 211.

It was only when Fleming deposited Yusuf Pathan into the stands did the match really come alive for us – though he departed soon after with a silly run out. When Raina joined Parthiv we still had no clue that we were about to see something special. In no time Raina had launched a spectacular thrilling attack on Munaf and the whole stadium reverberated to the strokes of Raina’s bat. That ignited spark soon raged into a fire – one that burnt long after Raina departed throwing his wicket away through the Parthiv-Morkel partnership and up until Dhoni was fooled by Tanvir at which point the fairytale finally came to an end.

It would have been a perfect way to sign off had we been able to cross the line. Of course, life is not perfect, but I left the stadium once again with no regrets, as I left Chennai the day after. I shall continue to support Chennai through the rest of the tournament and hopefully, be back again for another season at some point in the future.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Deccan Chargers v Chennai Super Kings - Preview

It has all boiled down to this. Match 54 of DLF IPL 2008 which could decide the fate of Chennai Super Kings, our Chennai Super Kings once and for all - a win here would straightaway put us in the semifinals that too at the No. 3 spot. Defeat would still not mean the end of the road but we would have to rely on a resurgent Bangalore team beating a messy Mumbai the day after.

If we are to hold our destiny in our own hands the task definition is simple - beat Deccan Chargers the team guaranteed to end up at the bottom of the table. When we met them at home earlier, we came up with one of our most disappointing batting shows to concede the advantage and that has kind of put us in the situation we are in today. That win was one of the few high points for the Deccan Chargers. They haven't managed another win in 6 games after that, but Chennai has also been very inconsistent, winning 3 and losing the other 3.

As the table stands Chennai are still in the 4th position with 14 points but face the only challenge from Mumbai who are sixth with 12 and have a game in hand as also a much superior run-rate. The presence of Gilchrist and the law of averages, as also memories of last time's defeat makes tomorrow's game tricky for the Super Kings. Dhoni really needs to be on top of his game to pull it off here.

Super Kings - The batting looks fairly well-settled - possibly Viduyt could come back in place of Abhinav Mukund, the bowling as per Dhoni is also well settled, but problematically completely fell apart in the last game. So the question is whether to stick to this attack or bring in someone out of the blue - Palani Amarnath might not be a bad choice in the situation.

For the Chargers, expect to see Chamara Silva make way for the return of either Afridi or Styris. Ojha, who had tied up Dhoni so well last time is also likely to make a return.

In all seriousness I feel the only man who can stand between Chennai and a semifinals slot is Adam Gilchrist. Get him quick and romp into the semifinals ! Good Luck Chennai !

Revenge Battles
Patel v Vijay (Vijay)
Fleming v Styris (Styris)
Raina v Afridi (Raina)
Raina v Bangar (Bangar)
Badri v Afridi (Afridi)
Dhoni v Ojha (Ojha)
Morkel v Ojha (Morkel)
Gilchrist v Ntini (Gilchrist)
Gilchrist v Morkel (Morkel)
Gibbs v Gony (Gony)

Mumbai Mess It Up - YET AGAIN

For the third time in a row, Mumbai has managed to pull off defeat from the jaws of victory and in the process granting free passage to the semifinals for the Daredevils !

Just how the bowlers and fielders could mess up sufficiently for the two little lefties to take the game away is beyond imagination !

Full credit to the Royals though - esp the miniature Niraj Patel and Ravindra Jadeja !

Initially the much awaited Tendulkar v Warne contest didn't really materialize. While Tendulkar looked like he wanted to wait before launching himself on a difficult pitch he surrendered his wicket just at the wrong time. It was only the heroics of Takawale that took Mumbai to 145 in the first place.

So now Mumbai's destiny is out of their own hands. They will have to hope for a poor performance from Chennai tomorrow. Of course, we are not going to talk about that, are we ?

Revenge Battle Results
Watson v Jayasuriya - Draw
Kaif v Raje - Draw
Uthappa v Warne - REVENGE for Warne

Sunday, May 25, 2008


It will be after 4 years that the great magician Shane Warne will be taking on the player he ranks the best he has ever faced in a battle of any format. This has to be the star attraction in a game that is nevertheless critical for the survival of 3 teams in the IPL !

Shane Warne's Royals are not one of them - they are safely through and most likely assured of the No. 1 spot. But Sachin Tendulkar's Mumbai cannot afford to put a foot wrong from here on - defeat here would not mean the end of the World but it would mean that they would have to rely on last placed Deccan to put it past Dhoni's men in the game tomorrow.

Chennai and Delhi will also be keenly watching the result of this game.

Graeme Smith's absence would be a huge plus for the Indians, but Watson might be back to make a difference with bat and ball. Akmal is striking great form for the Royals too, and the little dynamite Asnodkar is as dangerous as ever. Of course you cannot forget Sohail Tanvir the most dangerous bowler in the IPL so far, alongwith Warne himself.

For Mumbai their success against the Royals in their last game came largely on the basis of their good bowling launched on the performance of the great Shaun Pollock. But he has been a bit off the boil lately and suffering from some niggles. Mumbai must hope that he comes good. As also that Warne's presence in the opposition inspires the Little Master to come back with something special. Otherwise an in-form Jayasuriya might just not be enough given that the team is packed with lazy baby elephants like Uthappa.

Revenge Battles
Asnodkar v Raje (Raje)
Yusuf v Nehra (Nehra)
Watson v Jayasuriya (Tie)
Kaif v Raje (Raje)
Uthappa v Watson (Uthappa)
Uthappa v Warne (Uthappa)

Un-freakin-believable !

I left the Kolkata-Punjab match midway through as I believed it was a match of no-consequence and expected Punjab to romp home ! I hadn't reckoned on the old man turning the clock back again TWICE in the same tournament !

Wow ! What an innings that must have been ! So pissed to have missed it ! Will catch on the highlights soon, though any of you guys who have seen it are welcome to describe it too !

And sends out a strong message to one fat baby elephant who has been shooting off his mouth and making a mess in the field lately. First Dravid has come up with some consistent performances, now Ganguly with two smashing innings ! I think it is time failures like Utthappa and Yuvraj get worried about their limited over spots, let alone think of usurping the ones in test cricket.

Special mention for Man of the Match Gul and a fine effort by Sangakkara.

Revenge Battle Results
Marsh v Dinda - Draw
Marsh v Hussey - Marsh ! Revenge !
Sangakara v Gul - Gul has the last laugh - AGAIN
Jayawardene v Gul - Draw
Ganguly v Sreesanth - Draw
Das v Sreesanth - Sreesanth AGAIN
Shukla v VRV - VRV AGAIN
Saha v Chawla - Revenge for Chawla

Deccan Maintain Stronghold Over Basement

... with another stunning performance. From 101/0 they managed to first be bowled out for 165 and amass a massive 1 run of their last 11 balls. Then when it seemed that things were getting out of hand with the BRC needing over 11 per over, their part-timers like Bangar and Chamara Silva came to the party and sealed what was a well-deserved last spot in the table.

Wasim Jaffer needs to be commended for making full efforts to deny Deccan the coveted spot as he not only ran himself out but was involved in a spectacular effort to run out Jacques Kallis, but his efforts were to no avail. Also, Gilchrist needs to be rebuked for what was obviously a mistake in calling Jaffer out to run for Kallis after the former was dismissed, a mistake that nearly cost Deccan the wooden spoon.

From the BRC side, players like Kallis, Misbah, Dravid threatened to spoil the party for the Chargers also, but just when they looked like sealing the deal, they had unfortunately done enough damage.

In the end a close game but well-deserved reward for the Chargers.

Revenge Battle Results
Dravid v RP Singh - Draw
Kumble v Rohit - Rohit wins AGAIN

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Young Turks - 6 - Vijay Kumar Yomahesh

IPL Team - Delhi Daredevils

Ranji Trophy Team - Chennai

IPL Performance - Has been consistently picking up wickets, most importantly BIG wickets although his economy rate could vary from game to game

Features - seems to have a very good yorker, can get bounce, can move the ball off the seam and decent pace.

Concerns - None, really, except he could perhaps add a yard of pace and work harder to be the finished product

Suggestions - Not quite there yet especially given India's plentiful fast bowling resources at the moment, but should be nurtuted well, so that in 2-3 years he could break into Team India - not only in limited overs cricket but also in Test cricket and play for a long time

Young Turks - 5 - Swapnil Asnodkar

IPL Team - Rajasthan Royals

Ranji Trophy Team - Goa

IPL Performance - Stunned everybody by appearing out of nowhere to thrash all bowlers all around the park. Before the IPL he had a strike rate of about 40-odd in limited overs cricket !

Features - Is unafraid to thrash every ball and has a more than fair range of strokes

Concerns - Has not shown yet a defensive technique, could be vulnerable under seaming conditions.

Suggestions - Keep him in the fray, probably won't quite find a place in India squad for a while at least, but his name should be at the back of the mind of selectors while considering limited overs team

A Meaningless Match ?

The last time these two teams met both had all to play for - Kolkata wanted to arrest a run of 3 consecutive defeats, while King's X1 were only just beginning their ascent. As Buchanan has said, their goal today is to make sure the King's X1 have some worries going into the semifinals and that says it all.

Punjab - Sangakarra was back with a bang in the last game and would want to continue, Yuvraj's form is still a worry and I'd like to see Tanmay being given a chance.

Kolkata - Will Shoaib play this meaningless game ? Will Taibu finally get his chance ? I guess it doesn't matter in any which way.

Revenge Battles
Marsh v Dinda (Marsh)
Marsh v Hussey (Hussey)
Hopes v Agarkar (Hopes)
Sangakkara v Gul (Sanga thrashed Gul but Gul got him out)
Yuvraj v Hafeez (Tie)
Jayawardene v Gul (Gul)
Chawla v Ishant (Chawla)
Hafeez v Irfan (Irfan)
Ganguly v Sreesanth (Sreesanth)
Das v Sreesanth (Sreesanth)
Hussey v Gagandeep (Hussey)
Hussey v Hopes (Hussey)
Shukla v VRV (VRV)
Saha v Gagandeep, Hopes, Chawla (Saha)

ANOTHER Battle For The Basement

I see no reason to come up with a different title than I did for this post. As Rajasthan and Punjab look to the semifinals, and Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai fight it out to get there, Bangalore and Hyderabad will once again fight for supremacy at the bottom of the table.

Bangalore are relying ... oh my God .. would you believe it ? Entirely on Dravid and Kumble to get them through !

Hyderabad - After losing 10 games they continue to remain dangerous purely because of the potential of Gilchrist and Rohit Sharma.

Revenge Battles
Kohli v RP Singh (RP Singh)
Kohli v Ojha (Kohli)
Kallis v Ojha (Ojha)
Misbah v Afridi (Afridi)
Dravid v RP Singh (Dravid)
Dravid v Styris (Dravid)
Boucher v RP Singh (RP Singh)
Praveen v RP Singh (Praveen)
Zaheer v Gilchrist (Zaheer)
Praveen v Gibbs (Praveen)
Rohit v Kumble (Rohit)
Rohit v Kallis (Tie !)
Praveen v Afridi (Praveen)
Zaheer v Styris (Zaheer)

Alive And Kicking !

Delhi have made sure they have kept both Mumbai and Chennai anxious and the innaugural IPL alive and kicking by winning their lost match, albeit things from here on, are out of their control. This was a match that Mumbai had their chances in several times over, yet blew them away. What a fine knock by young Karthik under pressure. He seems such a fine player, yet one wonders why he hasn't been able to cement his place in the Indian team yet.

Meanwhile Mumbai's fielding was so pathetic it would have been a travesty had they managed to win despite that. Uthappa in particular was utterly shocking, terrible and rubbish. He has grown fat and portly and slow and he is shooting off his mouth about fitness to senior players ! Bah !

Revenge Battle Results
Jayasuriya v Yomahesh - Jaysuriya gets REVENGE
Nehra v Gambhir - DRAW
Pollock v Sehwag - Sehwag WINS again !
Nehra v Dhawan - DRAW

A Spirited Fight - But Just Not Enough !

Hmm .. I suppose if you can contrive to throw away a match like this, then sometimes luck can hit you hard in all the wrong places despite coming up with a most spirited and laudable effort like today. The other night against Bangalore, the bowlers came up with a superlative performance that the batsmen wasted and today, when the batsmen finally stood up to the challenge, the bowlers had done just so badly that it proved a mile too far in the end.

So with the sixth loss, and with Mumbai refusing to do us a favor by eliminating Delhi we are locked in a tight battle with the other two for two semifinal slots - a battle that is likely to go down to the wire.

As a game of cricket, today was fantastic. Rajasthan Royals batsmen played really well - Smith, Asnodkar and Akmal in particular, although you have to admit that our bowling was lacklustre. With the reply we gave them it does seem like it was a very true batting wicket. In the end, that man Sohail Tanvir proved the difference yet again with two very miserly spells, most crucially the last one in which he got the wicket of Dhoni.

But before that Raina, Parthiv and Morkel really took the fight to the Royals. Raina's early assault on Mumaf was particularly breath-taking. Mind you, today was a full stadium and it reverberated with every stroke Raina lashed. In the end, one has to say, that yet again, he threw his wicket when there was no need to. Warnie's spell when he got Parthiv also proved to be critical.

1) Fight - I feared that the team might collapse under the sheer pressure of the volume of the runs. To their credit this didn't happen and the challenge brought out the best in the batsmen
2) Raina, Parthiv Morkel striking form - superb batting !

1) Bowling - Though it was a batting track the bowling never looked to have any incision, or worse, even purpose. I would say the likes of Ntini should take major blame for this
2) Fleming - What a meaningless waste of a wicket !
3) Dhoni - I worry that increasingly bowlers are figuring out how to keep him quiet and he is also getting out in the process

Fortunately, we still have our destiny in our own hands, unlike Delhi. We have to beat bottom-placed Deccan Chargers in our last game and we are through. Maybe after we brought shame upon ourselves against Bangalore, and Lady Luck punished us against Rajasthan for that, hoepfully all things should fall into place for this crucial game. In the last two games we have shown that our bowlers and batsmen can do it - they just need to put it together.

Revenge Battle Results
Tanvir v Parthiv - Draw
Tanvir v Fleming - Draw
Munaf v Raina - REVENGE for Raina
Tanvir v Morkel - Tanvir wins !
Warne v Morkel - Morkel wins again !
Asnodkar v Gony - Asnodkar wins AGAIN
Yusuf v Murali - Draw

Friday, May 23, 2008

Delhi Daredevils v Mumbai Indians - Preview

Do-or-die - Yet Again !
For Delhi that is. Lose and they are out. Win, and there is a fair chance they could still be out. Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why ... theirs but to ... - as Lord Tennyson would have happily said. Other than that the main attraction of this game is going to be the resumption of battle between the two greats - Glenn McGrath and Sachin Tendulkar !

Delhi - The middle order has to fire. Will it be Tiwari ? Who wil support McGrath this time ? Mishra could be a key bowler.

Mumbai - Crucial to get back to their winning ways after 1-run defeat to Punjab. Will they continue to show the faith in Uthappa ? Will Kulkarni be back ?

Revenge Battles
Jayasuriya v Yomahesh
Thornely v Bhatia
Uthappa v Sangwan
Nayyar v Sehwag
Pollock v McGrath
Pollock v Yomahesh
Nehra v Gambhir
Pollock v Sehwag
Jayasuriya v Sehwag
Thornely v Sehwag
Nehra v Dhawan
Nehra v Bhatia

Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals - Preview

Cross-posted on Chennai Super Kings

On May 4, in the sands of the Rajasthan desert, a different kind of storm struck. It was in the form of a tiny left-arm fast bowler with a weird action running through the top order of the Chennai Super Kings with a force and guile unmatched. Tomorrow, the battle will resume - the storm will be eager to rebound with a bang - in its path it has destroyed other cities too - and now when it blows down South to Chennai can Dhoni's warriors show the strength to hold their own against it ?

It was around this time that Rajasthan made the leap to the top of the table - and they have managed to hold on to that spot ever since. That was also when Chennai themselves relinquished control over top spot and have been more or less at No. 3 ever since. Rajasthan will be itching to stay on top of course, and continue their momentum. Expect a battle in which fire is fought by fire when these two proud teams take to the field.

Chennai: Does Parthiv get another chance ? Will Dhoni be fit enough to keep wickets ? Will we get our batting order right ? And more importantly will the batsmen be able to show some sense and cool unlike last time ?

Rajasthan: It seems like everything that Warne touches will turn to gold. If he asks any random player, young or old, Indian or foreign, to do a job for him, the player will do it. What will be interesting is to see how he actually sustains the momentun - and how long can he do it ? After all winning 9 out of your 11 matches should take its toll. It is worth noting that the one match in they failed against Mumbai they did not get a start and lost wickets at regular intervals. We would do well to pick up some hint here. Yusuf Pathan is a major threat. Then of course there is the magician Warne himself - who had completely baffled MSD last time around, and the tiny left-armer Sohail Tanvir.

Revenge Battles
Tanvir v Parthiv
Tanvir v Fleming
Tanvir v Vidyut
Munaf v Raina
Trivedi v Raina
Watson v Badri
Warne v Dhoni
Tanvir v Morkel
Warne v Morkel
Asnodkar v Gony
Asnodkar v VIdyut
Yusuf v Murali
Yusuf v Vidyut
Watson v Vidyut

Note: Tomorrow will be my last day in Chennai. I have had a most memorable stay in Chennai. I shall of course continue to support the Chennai Super Kings after I leave. Today I will be at the stadium for one last time to support my team ! Thanks Chennai ! Go Super Kings !

Further Demoralisation

Deccan Chargers finally managed to put up a decent total yet were surpassed with ease. Finally the top order managed to fire all at one go, but again the bowlers could not quite stand up to be counted. Let's not forget another splendid performance by Shaun Marsh and a stunning ominous return for Kumar Sangakarra.

Scott Styris should go back to New Zealand.

Revenge Battle Results
Gibbs v Chawla - Partial revenge for Gibbs
Rohit v VRV - Revenge for VRV
Rohit v Gagandeep - Comprehensive win for Rohit again !
RP Singh v Marsh - Comprehensive win for Marsh again !

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Path For Chennai

Cross-posted on Chennai Super Kings

If we win any one of the next two games, we are THROUGH.

If Mumbai beat Delhi we are THROUGH even if we lose both our games.

Otherwise, (i.e. if we lose both our games, and Delhi beat Mumbai) we can still go THROUGH if Mumbai loses their other two games as well, i.e. to Rajasthan and Bangalore. In short, if Mumbai loses all its games, we are THROUGH even if we don't win any more games. If Mumbai loses to Delhi but wins one of their other two games (either Rajasthan or Bangalore) then we will have to rely on run-rate.

If we lose both our games, and Mumbai loses to Delhi BUT wins the other two games - we are OUT.

The easiest thing for us would be - to just win a game and be happy ! :D:D:D

Young Turks - 4 - Shreevats Goswami !

IPL Team - Bangalore Royal Challengers

Ranji Trophy Team - yet to debut, (from Bengal),

IPL Performance - Got a chance very late, but impressed with a fine fifty but more importantly superb glove work. The stumping off Kumble was awesome but the gather to get the run-out was simply exceptional. Also, importantly, he walked when the umpire gave him not out in the last game. Shows tremendous character for someone so young to walk away like that (he does rate Gilchrist as his idol)

Features - Free-flowing batting, excellent natural keeper, livewire in the field, has great character

Concerns - Not sure about his ability to hit over the top, does play dot balls in between his strokes. In short, not quite the finished product yet.

Suggestions - Let him play first class cricket for 2-3 years grooming him as a back-up keeper for Dhoni. At some point when Dhoni decides keeping is too much for him, we should have a ready replacement. Being 9 years younger to Dhoni he has more of a chance to succeed him than Karthik, Parthiv etal.

King's X1 Punjab v Deccan Chargers - Preview

Inspiration ?
The Deccan Chargers need look no further than a few hundred kilometers west for inspiration - Rahul Dravid's team literally came back from the dead to shock a top team and play spoiler and Hyderabad can hope to play the same tomorrow against an increasingly strong King's X1 Team.

With today's washout Yuvi's boys are guaranteed of a semifinal slot, yet they would want to make sure they end up at No. 2 if not the top and will play with full vigor.

Hyderabad have tried everything and nothing has worked. Expect them to stick to the same lineup as in the last game altho what that guy Das did in the last game I don't quite know. Besides I somehow feel Afridi needs to be dropped and poor Vaas needs to come in.

For the King's X1 this would be an ideal time to experiment. I would like to see Yuvraj promote himself to get a good knock in the middle, as also Jayawardene. Maybe young Tanmay also deserves a knock. Big question - When will Sangakara be fit ?

Revenge Battles (Last time's winners in brackets)
Gilchrist v Pathan (Pathan)
Gibbs v Chawla (Chawla) - Gibbs might not play
Rohit v Sreesanth (Rohit)
Rohit v Irfan (Rohit)
Rohit v Chawla (Rohit)
Rohit v VRV (Rohit)
Rohit v Gagandeep (Rohit) - Gagandeep might not play
Afridi v Gagandeep - (Gagandeep) - Will either play ?
RP Singh v Marsh (Marsh)
Sangakara v Kalyanakrishna (Kalyanakrishna) - Will Sangakara be fit ?
Mahela v Kalyanakrishna (Mahela)

A Damp Squib

Match abandoned without a ball being bowled. Kolkata out. Delhi stay in the hunt. The equation for them still remains the same. Beat Mumbai to stay in with a chance. In fact, it got slightly tougher. Now, even if they beat Mumbai they will reach only 15 points. This means that one more win will see Chennai cruise ahead of them. If Delhi had been able to get to 16, they could have put the extra pressure on Chennai on account of superior run-rate. Another interesting issue is that if the Delhi-Mumbai game also gets washed out, they will be level with Chennai on 14, which means Chennai will still have to play around with their run-rates to be safe.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Young Turks - 3 - Manpreet Gony

IPL Team - Chennai Super Kings

Ranji Team - Punjab

IPL Performance - One of the leading wicket-takers with a decent economy rate

Features - well-built, has a very good strong action, troubled top players, gets good bounce, can bowl yorker, hits the wicket hard

Concerns - Not sure how much movement he can get

Suggestions - Enter into pool of Indian fast bowlers, introduce him to international cricket through limited overs cricket some time next year

Young Turks - 2 - Abhishek Nayyar

IPL Team - Mumbai Indians

Ranji Trophy Team - Mumbai

IPL Performance - Consistent and crucial 30s in the middle of the innings at a great strike rate including clean hits, useful bowler and good fielder

Suggestion - Draft in Indian limited overs team within the next year as a batting all-rounder or even as a pure batsman in the middle order

Delhi Daredevils v Kolkata Knight Riders - Preview

Do or Die
Definitely for the Knight Riders. Very crucial game for the Daredevils too but the defeats of Mumbai and Chennai today may have just given them some breathing space and a chance to advance even if they lose tomorrow. However if the last game was any indication Kolkata looked like a totally dispirited and exhausted team, not to mention highly insufficient in the batting department, so it is highly questionable if they can stand up to be counted in this crunch encounter.

Personally I shall be supporting Kolkata, for not only does it help Chennai, it keeps the tournament open for longer.

The Daredevils will be looking to go in with the same combination except that Mishra might make his way back.

The Knight Riders desperately need Shoaib back. And for God's sake get back Taibu and kick out that good-for-nothing Hafeez !

Revenge Battles
Butt v all bowlers - Butt managed 48, but this was a painstakig innings and never got away, ultimately he was top scorer !
Ganguly v Yomahesh
Hussey v Maharoof
Shukla v Maharoof
Akhtar v Gambhir
Akhtar v Sehwag
Akhtar v Devilliers
Akhtar v Tiwari
Dinda v Dhawan
Mishra v Shukla

An Embarassment

Cross-posted on Chennai Super Kings Fans

There is no other way I can think of to describe today's defeat. It was shocking, stunning, horrible, pathetic, abysmal and inexcusable. Full credit to Bangalore for the way they fought. But that should not take away from the sheer imbecility in our performance. Any team that contrives to lose after restricting the opposition to 127 and then being 85 for 2 in 14 overs surely deserves all the brickbats that it gets.

No batsman can be spared. So here's a lowdown on each.
1) What the hell is Parthiv doing up the order ? Yet again he has thrown away his wicket. Yet again he has proved that even when he comes up with a decent partnership he does not quite look a batsman that any opposition will be afraid of.

2) What the hell was Fleming trying to do ? Complacency oozed out from every shot of his in the later stages of his innings. WHY ?

3) What the hell was Dhoni doing ? All it needed at that stage was for Dhoni to stay till the end and victory would have been assured.

4) What was that shot from Badrinath ? Why would a batsman with his arsenal attempt a ridiculous shot like that on the last ball of Kumble's spell ? Did he get pressurised by the close-in field ? Does he have a mental weakness in that case ? Is that the reason why he has not yet broken into Team India ?

5) Where is Morkel when we need him ? The hook shot is the one shot that is not quite in his toolkit. Why did he have to go for it that too off a quality bowler like Dale Steyn ?

6) At the expense of sounding harsh, why does Vidyut frequently bat like an idiot ?

7) What about Goni ? Forget the way he got out, weren't the hoicks that he played and missed before that ridiculous enough ? And why did he have to get out when 10 runs were scored off that over already ?

8) And finally what about Raina ? He played a couple of glorious cricketing shots and otherwise came up with ugly heaves which he predictably failed to connect. Just earlier in the day Sachin Tendulkar had given a master-class in elegant 2020 striking. Pity this youngster touted as the future of Indian batting didn't quite pick it up.

It was indeed pathetic and pitiable to see him at the end trying to hold on to strike by all means and being unable to connect even a single ball. Praveen Kumar bowled the last over for 1 run !!!

Meanwhile credit to Bangalore. Really heartening to see Dravid smile and get pumped up again. And what a spell by the old warrior Kumble ! The only tragedy is that it came at our expense. Why couldn't they do this to Delhi or Punjab or any other team instead ?

Revenge Battle Results
Patel v Praveen - Draw
Raina v Praveen - Clearly Praveen gets the revenge !
Raina v Akhil - Draw
Dravid v Gony - Draw

The Greatest Game ?

Could this arguably be the greatest game of the IPL so far ? When Yelgati played out VRV Singh's last ball he started out on the single knowing fully well that this run would take the game to a bowl-out. What he didn't factor in was a Jonty Rhodesque-flight from Yuvraj Singh with ball in hand to dislodge all three stumps fraction of milliseconds before he made it to safety. This was only the thrilling climax in what had been a dramatic match full of tense and exhilarating moments.

It all started really when Mumbai began their batting. Up until then it had been a fairly normal T20 game with another good innings by Marsh and some lusty if unattractive hitting by Pomersbach. When Jayasuriya gave Mumbai another flier, that was the first indication that we would have an exciting game on our hands. And when Sreesanth got him completely outfoxed by a slower one, the excitement really began. For a while there was good strokeplay by Smith and some superb batting by SRT. And when SRT and Nair were going well together, in particular Nair hitting those towering sixes it looked like Mumbai would ramp home.

Enter Piyush Chawla - who got rid off the dangerous Nair with a perfect googly. And then, more importantly Utthappa. It is hard to describe exactly what Utthappa was trying to do on the wicket today. It wouldn't be too harsh to say he fairly sucked miserably at whatever he did. Uthappa in the past few months has become fat, developed a most hideous hairstyle, reduced himself to a two-shot wonder and if reports are to be believed is enjoying life and taking his cricket too lightly. Not only did he royally mess up, he showed an astonishing incompetence in handling pressure and in doing so commited the cardinal sin of running out a well-set Sachin Tendulkar !

When Pollock got out one thought that it was over at that stage but then VRV Singh nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. It required some comedy from Nehra and a brilliant combination fielding effort from Srivastava-Jayawardene-Uday Kaul to get the match to a situation where 2 runs were needed from one ball. And then, as mentioned before, Yuvraj took off in flight and finished it.

With this win, Punjab more or less guarantee themselves a semifinal slot. Mumbai will have to slog it out but with 3 more games to go they still have a very even chance. Of course considering what happened later in the day, this tournament may have just blown wide open at the very moment we thought it to be closing in.

Revenge Battle Results
Pathan v Nehra - Draw
Sangakara v Pollock, Kulkarni - No show
Yuvraj v Pollock - No show
Sreesanth v Kulkarni - No show
Sreesanth,VRV v Uthappa,Pollock - No show
Pathan v Nayyar - Draw

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Young Turks - 1 - Yusuf Pathan

Starting a series on the young turks who have featured in the IPL and who hold promise as future India stars. Today, I start off with Yusuf Pathan !

What a series this lad is having ! 3 half centuries and several other crucial innings - coming at a strike rate of about 200 !, the record for the quickest fifty, plus a few wickets, but looking beyond stats, this guy really looks like he can hit the ball a long long way ! And the hitting is clean and straight ! He has played for India in the T20 World Cup final. Definitely a candidate for Team India at least in limited overs cricket in the immediate future.

Who would you like to see listed in the young turks category next ? Let us have your opinions.

Chennai Super Kings v Bangalore Royal Challengers Preview

Don't Relax
The most important message for the team ahead of this game should be to not be complacent. The danger lurks because we are playing the worst team in the competition at home and a win will almost guarantee us a semifinal slot. But there is every chance that Dravid's team by law of averages, if nothing else, might play a decent game and the only prayer is - may that not happen against us !!!

While Dravid's men have nothing to lose, I'm fairly confident that Dhoni will make sure we take this game very seriously. This is where his man-management skill as captain should come into play. For if we guard against that we are far too strong a team for the Royally Challenged to mount any challenge.

We are just about getting our combination right after the Kolkata game. Ntini coming to form has been a huge shot in the arm for us. Badrinath and Dhoni's good form is of course heartening. Fleming is beginning to find his feet. The only thing now that should give the icing on the cake is a match-winning innings from Raina. That would mean our batting will be firing on all cylinders. I had mentioned that the bowling looked a bit lacklustre in the last game and I hope this will be the game in which Murali picks up a few wickets.

For the Challengers, nothing seems to be working. They have tried out all sorts of players in all sorts of combinations, switched roles, and reswitched them but all in vain. What will be interesting is the performance of the youngsters - Praveen Kumar, Kohli (if he plays) and Goswami - who I believe is a fine talent. Misbah showed some signs of return to form in the last game. Dravid is of course a class act, and Steyn can trouble some of our batters - remember the way he harassed Dhoni in the test match at this very venue in March ?

Revenge Battles
Patel v Zaheer - Patel got off to a brisk start
Patel v Praveen - Praveen got Patel eventually
Raina v Praveen, Akhil - Raina had launced into these bowlers before getting run out
Dhoni v Steyn - OHOHOHOHOHO ... who can forget that memorable assault on Steyn ?
Dhoni v Zaheer - Dhoni didn't spare his own bowler either but Zak got him in the end
Gony v Chipli - Gony got the BRC opener "cheaply"
Gony v Dravid - Gony got the wall first ball !

Also read Robin's review on Chennai Super Kings Fans.

Mumbai Indians v King's X1 Punjab - Preview

Big Game
In all likelihood, it is going to be Mumbai, Punjab, Rajasthan and Chennai that are going to make it through to the semifinals, and so this one is a big game - it will give us an idea of which team is stronger going into the last 4. Mumbai have a 6-4 record to Punjab's 7-3 but if Mumbai win tomorrow they can level it up and probably go as high as No. 2 on the table. It will be a really unbelievable run of 7 wins after the first 4 losses. Mumbai is the team with all the momentum, but again, one feels they have got to slip at some point and what better team than Punjab to take advantage of that ? Bravo's departure will be a major blow for Mumbai and Punjab will do well to exploit it. However if the Pollock-Jayasuriya combination fires again, there is little that Yuvraj and his men will be able to do.

Punjab's Outstanding Record
King's X1 Punjab have a splendid 7-3 record but somehow I still feel they are not as good a team as their record suggests. Part of the reason for this could be that Chennai has beaten them, quite comfortably, twice. Three of their 7 wins have come against Bangalore and Hyderabad, one against an out-of-form Mumbai, and one - a bit of a lottery against Delhi thanks to Duckworth and Lewis and Sehwag.

For Mumbai the big question - who will replace Bravo ? They have got Nel and Smith as cover, but Nel is no batter and Smith is no bowler - well, not in the same league as Bravo, anyway. Pollock had a slight niggle - will he be fit enough ? Will Tendulkar find the touch at last ?

For Punjab, what is interesting is whether Sangakarra will be fit - for he will be crucial in negotiating Pollock. Otherwise, the team has a fairly settled look. Interesting to see how Sreesanth goes in this game after what happened the last time the two teams met.

Revenge Battles
Well, the biggest of them is not going to happen, thankfully, because Harbhajan won't be around to take on Sreesanth.
Other than that
Pathan v Nehra
Sangakkra v Pollock, Kulkarni
Yuvraj v Pollock
Sreesanth v Kulkarni
Sreesanth, VRV v Uthappa, Pollock
Pathan v Nayyar

To The Script

The demise of the Knight Riders has turned out exactly as I had foreseen. Do not play Taibu, open with a pathetic batsman like Hafeez, fill your top order with average to past-their-best players, deprive your talented youngsters of time in the middle by pushing them low down and you will get exactly what the Knight Riders did - a far less than adequate total.

Well one might reasonably argue that they still had a fair chance when they got the Royals down to 70/4 but that was when Pathan took the game away and it is precisely the player of the category of Pathan that Ganguly's team missed - or rather their lopsided batting didn't allow the likes of Shukla, Saha and Das to blossom.

The most interesting moment of the day, for me, came when a piece of paper fell out of Ganguly's pocket while running and Warne picked it up and had a good look at it before returning it to Dada ! Ganguly, was, to put it precisely, not amused. At the end of another long night, he looked jaded, tired and in need of some support.

Kolkata's campaign is all but over - another one bites the dust. The Royals bandwagon meanwhile continues to roll on - who can stop them ? Well they do have arguably their toughest games coming up - against Mumbai, Chennai and Punjab. Should be exciting viewing.

Revenge Battle Results
Ganguly v Warne - Ganguly might have struck Warne for a six, but ended up the losing captain, so Warne wins it again
Smith v Sharma - Smith got Sharma away for a couple of boundaries, so got a bit back there
Asnodkar v Sharma - REVENGE for Sharma !
Asnodkar v Gul - No show
Kaif v Agarkar - Draw
Pathan v Agarkar, Hussey, Shukla - No show !
Watson v Gul - Draw
Jadeja v Gul, Hussey - no show
Jadeja v Shukla - No show
Tanvir v Butt - Draw
Ganguly v Trivedi - Trivedi WINS AGAIN !
Agarkar v Watson - Draw
Agarkar v Tanvir - No show
Hussey v Trivedi - Hussey gets partial revenge
Hussey v Warne - Warne completely tied Hussey down - partial revenge !
Das v Tanvir - Tanvir WINS

Monday, May 19, 2008

Kolkata Knight Riders v Rajasthan Royals - Preview

Must-win for The Riders
Just as today was a must-win for Delhi, so also is tomorrow for Kolkata. The only difference being that Delhi had to do it (and did) against bottom-placed Bangalore, while Kolkata have to do it against the mighty Rajasthan. Additionally Delhi's win puts the pressure on Kolkata all the more. Under normal circumstances I would have given Kolkata a fair chance, mainly because playing at home, is a big advantage for them. But with the batting as poor as it is, I don't think even the most lethal combination of Shoaib Akhtar and the Eden factor will be able to bail them out.

Rajasthan Away From Home ?
Warnie's team boast a splendid 8-2 record but when you split it it reads 6-0 at home, and 2-2 away. Tomorrow should be a tester for bigger away battles to come - against Chennai and Punjab as well as the home game against Mumbai.

For Kolkata I don't see how they can get the batting in order - the only hope I see is if Taibu plays and plays a major role. The injury scare to Shoaib will weaken the bowling as well. Will be interesting to see if they draft in the mysterious Mendis straight away.

For Rajasthan, they are spoilt for choices really. I would like to see Kaif bat high up and play an important role.

Revenge Battles
Warne v Ganguly - how can we forget the controversial incidents in the last game ?
Smith v Sharma - Sharma got him early last time
Asnodkar v Sharma, Agarkar - Asnodkar devastated these
Asnodkar v Gul - Gul was the one who got Asnodkar in the end
Kaif v Agarkar - Kaif was one of the few failures in that game, caught and bowled Aggie
Pathan v Agarkar, Hussey, Shukla - Pathan followed up Asnodkar in smashing them around
Watson v Gul - first ball duck for Watson albeit with some help from the umpire
Jadeja v Gul, Hussey - Another one who made merry
Jadeja v Shukla - Shukla was the one who got him
Tanvir v Butt - All Paki battle - Tanvir got the better of his teammate last time
Ganguly v Trivedi, Munaf - Ganguly did well against the young pacers
Agarkar v Watson - Watson was the one who got him
Agarkar v Tanvir - smashed him for a 4 and a 6
Hussey v Trivedi - The youngster got Hussey
Hussey v Warne - All Aussie battle, Hussey did manage to get Warne away
Das v Tanvir
Saha v Trivedi

So What's New ?

Another royal challenge ending up in another royal defeat. So what's new ? Well, there is something new ! And there is something old - old like gold. The new is the arrival of Shreevats Goswami ! Kudos to this bloke ! He looks a fine talent - with the bat, but more impressively, with the gloves. His keeping today was outstanding and was definitely one of the high points of today's game. The old of course is the glorious Anil Kumble ! What a fighting spell of superb leg-spin bowling that was ! If only he could have gotten Shikhar Dhawan - who I maintain was out - he could have conceivably helped Bangalore turn the game around even at that late stage !

Other than that, Misbah (Mr. T20, as I like to call him) finally lived up to his reputation. Well he kind of dawdled in the middle of the innings but what a finish he provided. Unfortunately the likes of White didn't quite support him and BRC ended up with a disappointing total yet again.

Well, a bit perversely, the Royal Challengers vs Deccan Chargers is going to be the big game to watch out for now - between two sides who just can't get anything right.

Revenge Battle Results
Gambhir v Steyn, Zaheer, Kallis - partial victory to Gambhir again, handled them pretty comfortably though did not quite humiliate them like last time
Sehwag v Zaheer - Comprehensive win for Sehwag AGAIN
McGrath v Praveen - McGrath OWNS Praveen ! AGAIN

Rest of the battles were no-shows.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bangalore Royal Challengers v Delhi Daredevils - Preview

An absolutely crucial game for Delhi if they have to make it to the semifinals without relying on major chunks of luck and help from other sides. This should, however be a farily easy walk in the park. Looking at the way the 11 individual challengers performed on the field the other day (there is no team to speak up), Daredevils have a decent chance to keep their campaign alive and regain some momentum before the crucial games against Mumbai and Kolkata come up.

It will be interesting to see how the Bangalore crowd supports their "team" after the shambles they showed themselves to be. Will they still flock to the stadium ? If they do, one has to truly salute their solidarity and patience. For me, the only thing that will keep me interested in this game is seeing how Rahul Dravid performs.

For Bangalore it will be interesting to see how Rahul Dravid performs.

For Delhi, the top trio of Gambhir, Sehwag and Dhawan will be key again. They have delivered more often that not yet their brittle middle order has ensured that they have ended up in a precarious position in this competition. McGrath and Mishra will be the key performers with the ball. I would like to see Dilshan being promoted up the order to 4.

Revenge Battles
Gambhir v Steyn, Zaheer, Vinay Kumar and Kallis - GG thrashed all before getting out to Zak, who can forget his run-in with Kallis ?
Sehwag v Zaheer - Sehwag really took to Zak early
Dhawan v Vinay Kumar and Kallis
Malik v Steyn - Steyn uprooted his stump last time
Karthik v Kallis - Kallis destroyed his stumps last time
McGrath v Praveen - Old fox completely got the better of the young turk
Asif v Kallis - Asif was taken to the cleaners last time
McGrath v Dravid - Got him the first ball he bowled to Dravid
Sehwag v Boucher - Boucher thrashed him towards the end, in vain though

More On Ranjit Fernando

Thirucumaran points me to a couple of interesting resources about Ranjit Fernando in relation to our discussion the other day. Check them out for yourselves.

1) A slightly old blog by a group of Sri Lankans dedicated to the great man.
2) This video on Youtube.

Thanks Thirucumaran for the links.

Another Well-Constructed Hash

The Deccan Chargers completed another well constructed mess to record their impressive ninth defeat in eleven games in the competition. Such performances have become the norm by now for this team and really we should come to expect them every time they play. Mumbai was on a massive winning-streak coming into this game and the Chargers have just given them another shot in the arm by extending that run to 6, the longest by any team in the IPL so far. After having Mumbai in serious trouble at 100/4 in 14 odd overs Deccan Chargers showed off their generous side yet again by allowing the visitors to post an impressive 179. I was lucky I did not invest too much time in this very average game, preferring instead to watch the wonderful final between Nadal and Federer.

I was actually amazed to see Bravo play - I thought he was supposed to leave for the West Indies, but did he come to the party and how ? First, a crucial 30 and then that destructive spell earned him the Man of The Match, although to be fair it was Fernando's early wickets that really set up the collapse.

The Chargers have shown that they are not even capable of playing the role of King-maker or spoilsport and their only chance of notching up another win might come when the equally pathetic Bangalore Royal Challengers visit them later in the tournament.

Revenge Battle Results
Bravo v RP Singh - Looked like Bravo would get his revenge when he hit a 6, but RP bowled him next ball
Jayasuriya v Afridi - No show
Bravo v Gilchrist - Draw
Uthappa v Afridi - Afridi kept Uthappa quite again
Pollock v Bangar - No show
Nayyar v Afridi - Once again Nayyar took to Afridi !
Nayyar v Zoysa - Nayyar gets his revenge, 2 boundaries
Gilchrist v Nehra, Pollock, Jayasuria and Nayyar - Draw/No-show but it was the new man Dilhara who got Gilly !

A Crucial Win

Cross-posted on Chennai Super Kings Fans

Rain and Duckworth and Lewis combined together to make our task much easier today, but it would be fair to say we fully deserved this win the way we played. We must note that we have never lost a game bowling first and that should say something. Of course Kolkata was a weak batting team as I mentioned in my preview but we had to bowl well nevetherless. What was even more impressive was the way our openers batted before the rain. It is conceivable that they knew about the impending weather - and played the perfect game i.e. to keep wickets in hand and not go for too much, because the Duckworth Lewis system can create havoc with the target with every wicket you lose. In the end the 3 run defeat margin did not really reflect the true nature of the contest.

It was an inspired choice to play Ntini - one which I myself wasn't convinced about, but a lot of our readers were and well done to them ! It was even more astonishing to see that no one noticed his hat-trick including himself for a long time ! And this hat-trick constituted three top order players, each breakthrough turning out to be crucial in the context of the game. Well as Ntini bowled, I do think there is more improvement that can be shown on the bowling front by other bowlers - I thought we should have restricted Kolkata to abut 130 today.

With this win, we shall be breathing much easier and would be "quite safe" with regards to making it to the semifinals.

Problem Areas

1) Bowling - With the exception of Ntini, the rest of the bowling still looked toothless, even surprisingly, Gony. Murali is a major worry now, earlier though he was not picking wickets he was economical. Today he was really taken to task.

2) Fielding - The fielding was less than impressive with Vidyut in particular not looking too flash.


1) Ntini - For his splendid performance, but even more so, for the decision to play him
2) Fleming - Finally he is looking like the Fleming we know, the one who can strike the ball crisply and score big at a brisk rate.

Now hopefully an easy win at home against minnows Bangalore, shoud virtually seal the deal for us.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Deccan Chargers v Mumbai Indians - Match Preview

It must be difficult getting up to play after 8 defeats, but that is exactly what the Chargers will have to attempt to do tomorrow. Mumbai are on a roll and are massive favorites, plus they take on an opponent that won't necessarily be up for it but that by no means allows them to be complacent thanks to their slow start. Delhi's loss today might have given Mumbai breathing space but there is still a close battle between Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai for two semifinal slots.

While the Deccan Chargers famed batting lineup has failed miserably (Gibbs, Styris, Afridi have been failures of a titanic nature) it is their bowling and fielding that leaves a lot to be desired. With the exception of RP Singh, there is no quality in their bowling and one has to question how they can leave the likes of Vaas and Zoysa on the bench. With the Indian stars like Rohit and Venugopal doing fairly well with the batting it is probably time to pack up the bowling with foreigners and shed out liabilities like Gibbs, Styris and Afridi.

Bravo's loss will be a blow for the Mumbai Indians, but so long as Pollock and Jayasuriya are firing I don't think they have much to worry about. I also hear that Andre Nel is joining the team and that can be another massive plus. With Tendulkar bound to fire at some stage, it is all looking very rosy for the "Men in Blue". What will be interesting is who replaces Bravo for tomorrow's game.

Revenge Battles
Jayasuriya v Afridi - Afridi got him on his first ball last time
Uthappa v Afridi - Afridi dismissed him cheaply, too
Pollock v Bangar - Polly laid into Bangar before getting out to him
Nayyar v Afridi - Nayyar was one man who got the measure of Afridi
Nayyar v Zoysa - Zoysa got him with the bouncer
Gilchrist v Nehra, Pollock, Jayasuriya and Nayyar, all of whom he shred to pieces !!

Chennai Super Kings vs Kolkata Knight Riders - Match Preview

Cross-posted on Chennai Super Kings Fans.

This is going to be a big game for both teams. While the winner won't necessarily be a certainty (esp. if it is Kolkata) for the semifinals, and the loser won't necessarily be out of contention (esp, if it is Chennai), the fact is that the balance will shift by a big margin depending on the outcome.

The biggest thing that Kolkata have going for them is the Eden Gardens factor. I think along with Shoaib it was the single most important reason for their win the other night against Delhi. The weakest link for them is their pathetic batting lineup and Chennai need to exploit this like Mumbai did yesterday.

For Kolkata Ganguly is the only hope as far as batting is concerned, maybe the odd innings by Hussey. I think it will be prudent to include a technically sound player like Taibu and bench the completely unimpressive Hafeez. The bowling however looks very good - maybe Agarkar will miss out again, and the spinner will get a chance given the nature of the Kolkata wicket.

So what can Chennai do ? Fleming's form continues to remain a worry. Should he be persisted with now that there are only 4 more games in the league to go ? Should he be allowed to come in at 3 or 4 ? Should Kapugedara be pushed up to open ? Will Raina finally play a defining knock ? Will Badri and Dhoni be able to continue their good run. The so-called strong batting is the main worry, though the bowling, as widely known, is thin. Is it worth it to bring back Ntini and sacrifise a batsman like Kapugedara ? All very interesting questions.

Revenge Battles
Ganguly v Joginder - Joginder dismissed Ganguly last time for a low score
Saha v Gony - Gony was hit but got Saha in the end
Saha v Amarnath - (if Amarnath plays), Saha got stuck into him last time
Hussey v Amarnath - Amarnath got him first ball last time
Hafeez v Amarnath - Another player that Amarnath got the better of
Shukla v Joginder
Agarkar v Patel
Shukla, Kartik v Dhoni

What The Hell Was Viru Thinking ?

Virender Sehwag commited yet another momentous gaffe when he brought on himself to bowl the fifth over of the innings in the rain-hit game and conceded 23 - at a time when Punjab were still behind and would have in all probability remained so if not for that over.

As if that was not enough he did not utilize McGrath's full quota of 3 - which meant Punjab went on to win by 6 runs.

These kind of games are always a bit of a lottery but Sehwag should have known that he is used to giving away 20+ runs an over in this competition. As it turns out, it was a last ball 6 that sealed the deal for the King's X1.

Daredevils can justifiably feel hard done by in this game, but truth is that overall, they have failed to lift their game to the next level. Punjab now look poised to qualify for the semis.

Revenge Battle Results
Gambhir v VRV Singh - Draw/No-show
Sehwag v Pathan - No-show
Tiwary v VRV Singh - No-show
Asif v Sangakkara - No-show

How Do You Tolerate Atrocious Commentary ?

Recently I have found a great method myself. I watch the cricket match while listening to music on my iPod. Especially when Ranjit Fernando starts mumbling meaningless, obvious inanities. The way I work is once he starts to mouth something I turn the music on, and turn it off only after the bowler comes in to bowl.

I might soon extend this rule to others as well - Sivaramakrishnan, being the first waiting in line, to suffer this fate, closely followed by Ramiz Raja. What was Ramiz doing today ? When he was talking to Jeremy Snape the number of times he mouthed "you know" in that stupid affected manner which made one pull his ears off ?? AAAAAAAA !!

I had often wished there was some option by which we could apply a filter so as to selectively mute commentary while being able to listen to the sound of the ball on the bat, crowd etc. So far this is the closest I have come to achieving it.

What about you guys ? How do you cope up ? Or do you love Fernando, Raja and Sivaramakrishnan ?

Nipped In The Bud !

The way Sehwag was going today, a first double hundred seemed very much on the cards ! (OK, I like to go over the top, much like Viru himself) but rain has mercilessly cut the innings short. Even if it lets up, I don't think there will be much chance for Viru to go on much longer. What an assault that was though ! He struggled against Sreesanth and then launched into VRV, Chawla and Powar, while the unattractive Gambhir put up another substantial score.

Looks like we might get a game yet ! Complete review, or non, depending on the outcome later.

By the way, it could be a really mad, manic chase ! Of the order of five overs or so ! So get excited about it !

Pathetic, Pitiable, Sad

If you thought Bangalore Royal Challengers had been poor so far in this tournament, today's performance can only be classified thus. What was Praveen Kumar up to ? First he does this, then he follows it up by standing as stationary as the pole star on the field, when an effort at a catch was the minimum that was expected, and then he tries to smash the greatest leg-spinner of all time out of the park the first ball he faces, to be promptly caught on the boundary like.

Despite all this, his bowling remained decent. I sympathize with Praveen Kumar. It must be difficult to play in a team that is losing consistently and miserably especially for a young talented lad full of attitude and a taste for success, as he has clearly had in Australia. Still, this is no way to behave on and off the field.

Dravid's frustration was evident. Clearly he would have felt like pulling his hair off and giving Praveen Kumar a sound telling off but being the gentleman he is and a losing general at that, all he could do was make a mild protest. The whole team today played as if it completely lacked interest, again with the notable exceptions of Dravid, Kumble and Zaheer Khan.

It was soothing to see Dravid's innings though - especially the fight he showed. Not just hitting those sixes, which we know he is well capable of, but first, refusing to take the fielder's word for the catch, and then holding on to the strike in the last over to score as many runs as possible. There was a message there, to the cricket world, but much more so, to his own teammates that said - "You bunch of no-hopers may be going through the motions, but I shall fight out till the end and never give up".

Other than this saving grace, the Bangalore performance was such that they deserve every bit of thrashing that critics, or Mallya might heap upon them.

Rajasthan put in another superb performance. After the heroics of Pollock and Jayasuriya last week, for the Mumbai Indians, another 38-year old, perhaps the greatest of them all produced a truly grand (citi ?) moment of success with a mind-boggling return catch of Zaheer Khan, to become the highest wicket-taker. This after Sohail Tanvir and the other seamers had done a wonderful in job in shattering the top order yet again.

It was indeed a bit of a surprise that despite losing only one wicket, the Royals managed to put up only 197 on the board. In the end, a 65 run defeat was a flattering margin for the royally challenged.

By the way, Asnodkar in the limited overs team for India any one ?

Revenge Battles Results
Dravid v Watson - Draw
Kallis v Watson - Draw
Kohli v Patel - Draw
Boucher v Warne - No show
Praveen v Warne - Warne wins ! REVENGE !
Praveen v Rawat - No show
Zaheer v Pathan - No show
Praveen v Watson - Draw

Friday, May 16, 2008

Delhi Daredevils vs King's X1 Punjab - Match Preview

Delhi have just about got their campaign back on track by eking out a hard win over the Chargers and they take on a very strong Punjab side. Delhi are outside the top 4 and this game is going to be crucial for them. If they win this they will take a big step towards the semifinals. If they don't they put themselves in a very precarious situation. Punjab are relatively more comfortably placed but of course, by no means guaranteed of a semifinal slot.

Daredevils are relying heavily on Gambhir with the bat, and McGrath's efforts with the ball are not being complemented by the other seamers. In such a scenario it might be the little leggie Mishra who might be their trump card.

Punjab had a bit of a hiccup against Chennai but their pace attack is firing on all cylinders and Marsh is in the form of his life. Chawla has had few poor and few excellent games and this would be a great opportunity to see how the two leggies go in the same game from opposing teams.

Revenge Battles
Gambhir v VRV Singh
Sehwag v Pathan
Tiwary v VRV Singh
Asif v Sangakarra

Prediction: Punjab win (but I wish Delhi will win)

Rajasthan Royals vs Bangalore Royal Challengers - Match Preview

Royals vs Royals ! But one at the top of the table the other at the bottom ! Hehe ! Well by all cricketing sense, this should be an easy walk in the park for Shane Warne's team but the IPL has once again emphasized the old adage of it being a game of uncertainties. Dravid's team are again only playing for pride - I would be interested in seeing how Dravid himself goes against Warne here.

On a more sombre note this match takes place in Jaipur which has done remarkably well to shake off the tragic events of a couple of nights ago. It is indeed courageous and brave of all concerned to go ahead with the game especially the foreign stars.

For the Royals, Graeme Smith has had a couple of off games recently, he will be keen to get back into the groove. Dmitri did so well the other day that one wonders whether Tanvir will get a spot - yes that Tanvir who had destroyed Chennai with 6/14 not so long ago. Kaif will also be keen to make a contribution. Will Asnodkar get another game again ? Of course, Watson will be the lynchpin and the master, Shane Warne will be the commander.

For the Royal Challengers, despite all the criticism heaved at him, Dravid has been the one batsman to show some sort of form and class. Boucher is clearly looking like a fish out of water. Misbah has failed to deliver but I think a big innings is around the corner for him. Will the opening partnership continue to let Bangalore down ? Will Kohli continue to throw his wicket ? It seemed Steyn was suffering after the last game - will he be fit ? Will there be a spot for Kallis ?

Revenge Battles
Dravid v Watson
Kallis v Watson
Kohli v Patel
Boucher v Warne
Praveen v Warne
Praveen v Rawat
Zaheer v Pathan
Praveen v Watson

Nearly all the above battles were won by the Rajasthan team last time except for Praveen's duels with bat against Warne and ball with Rawat. Also Zak dismissed the dangerous Pathan early. Can he get his revenge ?

Prediction: Easy win for Rajasthan (but I hope that's not the case, for Dravid's sake)

They said ...

.... it was a young man's game !

.... it was a batsman's game !

Clearly they had not reckoned about these great old warriors - a Lankan and a Protean now playing as "Indians" and producing performances like this and this.

Put in a slightly assisting wicket, and fill the opposition team with batsmen full of suspect technique and that is a classic recipe for Shaun Pollock to create havoc.

It is hard to believe that their respective countries have found these aged warriors redundant !

Seriously speaking, Kolkata's batting lineup is VERY weak. In the last few games the reason they have done so well is their bowling and fielding. In my opinion, Ganguly is easily the best player in the side and that's not saying much. I can't understand why Tatenda Taibu was benched - Mohammad Hafeez has hardly done anything of note at all.

As for the Mumbai Indians, well now they are a serious force to be reckoned with. The only question is how long will Jayasuriya's dream run last ? And will there be another one come semifinals time ?

Revenge Battle Results

Pollock v Ganguly - No show/Draw

Jayasuriya v Hussey - No show

Bravo v Shukla - No show

Jayasuriya v Ishant - Jayasuriya gets the revenge !