Ganeshbabu Venkat | 12:51am gmt 11 Apr 2009
Continuing the detailed two part analysis of the DLF Indian Premier League and how the rest of the teams match-up and how they could fare in the 2009 edition of the tournament. This edition features the Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders, Bangalore Royal Challengers and Deccan Chargers.
Despite being the most expensive team of the league and owning quite a few big names in world cricket Mumbai Indians failed to even make the semi-finals last year. They failed to live up to their favorites tag because of their abysmal start and a limp end to their campaign. Mumbai got off to a nightmarish start with the loss of their captain Sachin Tendulkar to injury and losing their first four games, but the return of Tendulkar and the cavalier approach of Sanath Jayasuriya sparked some life in to their campaign and they went on a six match unbeaten streak, before the wheels came off when they lost three of their last four games and exited the tournament rather unceremoniously. They would be hoping not to repeat their mistakes from last year.
In Tendulkar and Jayasuriya, they have two of the most experienced campaigners in international cricket and we can expect them to give a blazing start every time they open the batting. They have sold the dynamic Robin Uthappa and the energetic Dwayne Smith to the Challengers and the Chargers respectively, but with the purchase of the South African J.P. Duminy, who exhibited great technique and temperament during the tour of Australia and Bangladesh's mercurial Mohammed Ashraful they have found able replacements to offset these losses. The recent return of the effervescent Trinidadian All-Rounder Dwayne Bravo to the West Indies side after a long lay-off showed how valuable he can be in the limited overs form of the game, his flamboyant batting and accurate bowling will be a great asset for Mumbai.
Mumbai suffered a huge blow with the retirement of Shaun Pollock, but the return of India's bowling spearhead Zaheer Khan to his home team and the purchase of the New Zealander Kyle Mills should add some teeth to their attack. Adding further strength to their bowling will be the Indian Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh and the Sri Lankan fast bowlers Lasith Malinga and Dilhara Fernando. With Pollock taking a coaching role to assist the bowlers their attack looks capable of dominating the opposition consistently. With their enormous strengths in the batting and bowling come May 24th, they could very well be the team competing for the title with the Chennai Super Kings.
Players to Watch: Sachin Tendulkar, Sanath Jayasuriya, Dwayne Bravo and Zaheer Khan
Kolkata Knight Riders
Kolkata opened the IPL 2008 with an explosive display of power-hitting by the New Zealand Wicket-Keeper Brendon Mccullum against the Royal Challengers. They did little of note after that match and finished their campaign in a whimper only winning six matches out of fourteen. Their campaign was derailed by Injuries to Chris Gayle and Shoaib Akthar. Another high-profile player the Australian captain Ricky Ponting did not take part in the entire competition which compounded their problems. This year with Chris Gayle declaring his availability, he should form a blistering opening partnership with McCullum. With their eccentric coach John Buchanan having abandoned his idea of having captains by rotation, they will have India's most successful captain Saurav Ganguly leading them again for the entire duration of the tournament. With such a destructive opening pair and a captain who knows a thing or two about winning matches they could be a force to reckon with this year.
Gayle is the only player to have hit a century in an international T20 game and McCullum holds the record for the highest individual score in the IPL T20 tournament. If those two innings are any indication the South African spectators could be in for a royal entertainment from Kolkata's opening batsmen. Ricky Ponting's withdrawal owing to Australian commitments leaves their middle order hugely dependent on the shoulders of Saurav Ganguly, Australian discard Brad Hodge and young Indian batsman Cheteshwar Pujara. Pujara is highly rated by the critics after scoring three triple hundreds in domestic cricket and this will be a great opportunity for him to show case his phenomenal talent in the big stage. Australian David Hussey was a useful contributor with the bat last year and with his international career taking off during 2008 he should provide solidity to the middle order.
Mashrafe Mortaza of Bangladesh is their new signing this year and with the Pakistani players de-barred from participating, Kolkata will be counting on him and Ajantha Mendis of Sri Lanka to deliver the goods. Mendis got to play just one match last season and has baffled quite a few world-class batsmen with his mystery spinners it will be an interesting battle when teams face Kolkata. Mashrafe Mortaza has been one of Bangladesh's heroes in helping them win ODI matches last year with his all-round skills. With Murali Karthik and Ishant Sharma retained in their line up their bowling ammunition looks as strong as ever. It would be a great surprise if they do not reach the semi-finals.
Players to watch: Chris Gayle, Brendon McCullum, Ajantha Mendis and Cheteshwar Pujara
Bangalore Royal Challengers
Bangalore Royal Challengers resembled a Test team last year with cricket's technically accomplished batsmen trying to come to terms with the shortest form of the game. Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Shiv Chanderpaul and Wasim Jaffer did not set anyone's pulse racing and challengers paid the price literally by being the second most expensive team and by winning just four games throughout the tournament and they finished one better than the Deccan Chargers. Their record was so dismal that not even a single batsman managed an average of forty. Their owner Vijay Mallaya seems to have learnt from that experience and went on to buy Kevin Pietersen for a whooping US$1.55 Millon dollar. Pietersen has also been entrusted with the captaincy for the beleaguered Bangalore Royal Challengers.
Pietersen having lost his England captaincy recently due to disagreements with the ousted coach Peter Moores would be itching to captain an international side and prove a point or two to the ECB. He should also be able to inject some much needed energy to the side with his innovative stroke play which was desperately missing last year. With Robin Uthappa traded from the Mumbai Indians back to his home team and the enterprising New Zealander Jesse Ryder making his IPL debut they should have an attacking left hand-right hand opening combination which they lacked last year. Veteran South Africans Jacques Kallis and Mark Boucher along with the New Zealander Ross Taylor can shore up their middle order. The unavailability of Rahul Dravid owing to personal commitments and the retirement of Anil Kumble would actually be a blessing in disguise for the challengers since these two are not really suited to T20 cricket.
Challengers' bowling looks real impressive with the South Africans Dale Steyn and Jacque Kallis, Indian All-Rounder Praveen Kumar and the new face in the IPL, Australian Nathan Bracken, Who has been in the ICC's top 5 bowlers for some time now. With the presence of a large number of South Africans in the squad they have players who have had firsthand experience of the local conditions. Kevin Pietersen in his short stint as England captain has showed that he is very imaginative, and it would be a fairy-tale if he can inspire the challengers with the South African contingent to the title. Challengers could be the dark-horse of the tournament and it would not be a surprise if they pip one of the favorites for a semi-final or even a final spot.
Players to watch: Kevin Petersen, Robin Uthappa, Jesse Ryder and Nathan Bracken
Boasting two of the most expensive players during the last year, Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist, Deccan Chargers were so poor throughout the series that they could not even muster a home win. In fact they were beaten convincingly in every home game and they managed just two away wins against Chennai and Mumbai in their entire campaign and promptly finished as the last placed team in the league. Their batting was the key in winning even those two games and their bowling was inept and lacked penetration and depth. Left arm fast bowlers Chaminda Vaas , Nuwan Zoysa and R.P.Singh failed to impress and there was no one else to lean back.
Chargers don't seem to have learnt from their debacle last year and they have again failed to strengthen their bowling. Their new signing Fidel Edwards of the West Indies is an excellent pacer for Tests, but in ODI's and T20's he has been rather inconsistent and has expensive bowling figures and does not inspire any confidence that he can be effective in South Africa. Given their bowling woes they might have missed a trick by not romping in the ICC's # 1 ranked All-Rounder Shakib-Al-Hasan of Bangladesh who was available for a very low price of US$ 75000. Their Batting is over-reliant on the Aussies Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds and India's Rohit Sharma. These three were the top-performers for the chargers last year. Venu Gopal Rao was another lone-performer for them last year along with Herschelle Gibbs. Both of them are in decent form and should be able to replicate their last year's performance.
Dwayne Smith of West Indies has been purchased from the Mumbai Indians and he should be competing for the all rounder's spot with Scott Styris. With Smith's penchant for hitting big sixes and his useful medium pace, added to the fact that he is a live wire on the field which was evident in a few games he played last year for Mumbai, he should take that spot. Even with the new signings Chargers have not given any reason for their fans to be optimistic this year. There would too much pressure on Gilchrist and Symonds to deliver every time and their bowling attack would struggle to even defend high totals. It will take a bold man to write off a team consisting of Gilly and Symonds but Chargers will again be condemned to the bottom of the table and they could very well be fighting off with the Royals to avoid the wooden spoon.
Players to Watch: Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Dwayne Smith and Rohit Sharma