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Posts Tagged ‘indian premier league’

The IPL is getting towards the business end now, but who’s going to win it? Cast your vote below.

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Well, that was easier than expected.

England enjoyed a comfortable 10-wicket win over the Windies, mainly thanks to a combination of some fine bowling by the hosts and some awful fielding by the tourists. No doubt this will encourage some people to start dreaming of Ashes success, but that may prove to be a little wide of the mark.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to see an England Test victory – there hasn’t been one since last August, before SStrauss was captain, before Allen Stanford was a wanted man, and before English Test cricketers played in the IPL.

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This season’s IPL has been different from the inaugural edition in a number of ways – it’s in South Africa instead of India, the pool of players available for selection has increased, and the initial surge of runs seems to have calmed down.

Of course, there are a wide range of theories to explain the difference between last year’s run bonanza (11 innings over 200) and this year’s competition (a highest innings of 189 so far). It could be that the change in venue (and the associated change in the time of day matches are played, to ensure prime-time viewing in India) has been the largest factor. It could be that bowlers have had more time to find ways of getting certain big-scoring players out (a number of the big scores last year involved large contributions by big-hitting individuals). It could be, alternatively, that the dynamic of the game has changed now that the best bowlers are developing ball-by-ball strategies more sophisticated than the general approach of bowling yorkers and bouncers alternately that was previously used by some.

Or, finally, it could all be a coincidence. The latter seems counterintuitive to me, though, as I’m fairly sure that there has also been a downward trend (of what degree of statistical significance, I cannot say) in the run-rates of Twenty20 Internationals as the format has ‘bedded down’. In a variation of the sport that is often said to favour bat over ball, it seems the batsmen aren’t having it all their own way.

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There was much excitment in some quarters when it was announced that English players would be available for the second season of the IPL, and Chennai and Bangalore alone spent $3m between them on Flintoff and Pietersen respectively, but how have England’s IPL stars got on so far?

  • Kevin Pietersen has struggled too, getting out cheaply in nearly every innings. His famed aggression hasn’t always been on display for Bangalore (at least not until after he’s out), and the treatment he’s getting from the South African crowds can’t have helped. Having captained his side to four defeats in a row, the Royal Challengers might not be too upset to see the back of him when he returns to England.
  • Dimitri Mascheranhas, the only English player with prior experience of the IPL, made an explosive start to his second season, taking 2 wickets in 2 balls, and batted well against Kolkatta. He seems to have graduated from last year’s bit-part at Rajasthan to the role of front-line bowler, and has taken the wickets of some very good players indeed.
  • Owais Shah has apparently enjoyed practising his Hindi with his Delhi Daredevils team-mates, and has had plenty of time to, with little in the way of cricket to occupy himself with.
  • Ravi Bopara blasted 84 from 59 balls against Bangalore, and claims that he has now learnt how to open in Twenty20 cricket, something that may bring cheer to England ahead of the World Twenty20 in June.
  • Paul Collingwood has made it onto the field, but only as a substitute fielder (would it be cruel to suggest that Delhi signed him with that in mind?), and may not get a chance before England duty calls.

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Much of the talk (in England at least) ahead of Bangalore Royal Challengers against Chennai Super Kings was of Pietersen vs Flintoff, but it was Muralitharan and Hayden who made the biggest contributions as Chennai rolled over Pietersen’s side, claiming victory by 92 runs.

To be fair to Flintoff, he did hit 22 from 13 balls and took 3-11 from 4 overs (including the wicket of Pietersen) to leave Bangalore reeling, finally slumping to 87 all out in pursuit of Chennai’s 179.

65 of those 179 runs were scored by Matthew Hayden off just 35 balls as the Super Kings ran riot.

The second season of the IPL is starting to heat up now, and if the marquee names like Hayden, Muralitharan and Flintoff continue to deliver, then the competition is sure to monopolise cricket coverage for the next few weeks.

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England have delayed naming their Test squad for the series against the West Indies, because the selectors “need more time to assess players who are returning after injury”.

This gives the likes of Ian Bell and Michael Vaughan an extra nine days to impress, an effect which may not be entirely coincidental. The poor showing for the MCC by Vaughan, Bell and Rob Key means that there are few real candidates for the number three spot who are in any sort of form. Although Bell recently made 172 for Warwickshire, it is perhaps felt too soon to bring him back (even if he would clearly disagree). An extra week-and-a-bit may provide an opportunity for someone to play themselves into a ‘selectable’ position.

Another factor involved in the delay may be concerns over players picking up injuries in the IPL. Andrew Flintoff is reportedly already feeling the strain on his ankle after a mere 4 overs for the Chennai Super Kings, and it’s not difficult to imagine something happening to Collingwood or Pietersen in South Africa either (even if, in the latter’s case, the main injury threat may come from angry Saffer spectators).

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Kings XI Punjab
Punjab have been relatively quiet in the transfer market, having added only Jerome Taylor, Ravi Bopara, and the previously obscure Burt Cockley. Sarwan has departed – having apparently only been on a one-year contract – and a number of key players will only play part of the season (Shaun Marsh, Brett Lee and James Hopes are all likely to be called away by Australia).

As with last season, much will rest on the shoulders of Yuvraj, who will be expected to provide batting pyrotechnics every time he plays. If he can find form whilst the Australians are unavailable, and Marsh can continue his impressive form from last year, then the Kings XI are capable of mounting a strong challenge.

Kolkata Knight Riders
The KKRs build-up has been dominated by talk of multiple or rotating captains, but the unusual situation has partly arisen out of the fact that the side has so many top-class players at its disposal. Chris Gayle is made for Twenty20 cricket, as is Brendon McCullum (who should be available for the whole season). David Hussey, Ricky Ponting and Ajantha Mendis will probably only play cameo roles, but home-grown talents such as Cheteshwar Pujara will be available throughout.

Sole auction signing Mashrafe Mortaza probably won’t alter the balance of the side much, but Umar Gul’s bowling will be missed, putting a lot of pressure on Ishant Sharma.

Mumbai Indians
A disappointing start last time around saw Mumbai fail to make the play-offs, and the Sreesanth slapping incident stirred controversy. He’s out with an injury, so discipline may be less of an issue in 2009. Dwayne Bravo’s recent form has been impressive, suggesting that he will be a key player with both bat and ball, and the additions of JP Duminy and Graham Napier should boost the batting.

Zaheer Khan has also come in for Robin Uthappa, whilst a number of the overseas players can offer something with both bat and ball, leaving the side well-balanced in the middle order. Harbhajan has so far failed to impress in Twenty20 cricket, but is likely to feature throughout.

Rajasthan Royals
Rajasthan confounded a lot of people’s expectations with their victory last season, but key player Shane Watson could miss much of the 2009 season due to international call-ups. Tyron Henderson comes in as cover, but the lack of big-name players (Graeme Smith’s recovery from injury may also prove more costly for the Royals now that they have lost the element of surprise.

Rajasthan, of course, are nominally my team, so all the best to them.

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