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Captains and their Theories

It’s Monday morning and as I tuned into cricinfo I realize that IPL 2.0 actually over, boy it would take me some time now to get out of this IPL hangover. Let me just cool off myself by taking a look how captains have fared in this IPL. Not long before the second edition of IPL started Buchannan proposed his unsuccessful multiple captain theory of having different captains for each game; but it ended up being a Ganguly ousting theory. Let’s spend some time on looking at IPL 2.0 from a captaincy perspective.

Cricket is a team game and Jumbo has shown what inspirational captaincy can do to a dull n dying team. A lot has talked about Warne’s captaincy much so because of the glamor he adds. One just can’t stop admiring Gentleman Kumble and his captaincy skills, took RCB from ashes where KP had left and almost struck gold but for drunken batting from their middle order. Kumble’s captaincy doesn’t have the glamor and poise that Warne possess, but it is simple and straight thinking coupled with bold decisions. He has shown what it means by taking the attack to opposition and leading from the front. His tactical move to bowl himself the first over against Gilly was truly sensational. As the saying “It’s all in the mind” and Kumble played with Gilly’s mind; this one among a few decisions that was a hallmark of his captaincy.

Dhoni can actually outplay QuickSort in finding a pivot player in a team and divide the team into young and old; this time blaming young players for their inability to throw the ball from the deep. He can always find a scapegoat but never would take a responsibility for the teams defeat. If Kumble had a depleted team Dhoni a bunch of match winners much like Ponting of Australia, all he had do was put them in order. But Dhoni’s ego coupled with poor team selection cost Super Kings the semis. Only Dhoni can answer why Raina didn’t bat at number three when he has been the best in that spot for the whole tournament, that why Ntini didn’t get a single game when CSK weakest link had been their bowling. And the idea of stuffing team with all-rounder looks too cliched when things don’t work out. Bad news is that he is going to screw up T20 WC because of his ego.

Attack is the best form of defense and this is what Gilly’s used to inspire his team; especially against Delhi in the semis. He tore Nannes apart by scoring 21 run in the first over and within 6 over the match was over atleast psychologically. And being the second highest scorer helped the cause. A year of no cricket had really charged up Gilly this time around, his team selection especially the phoren babas was a balanced one, 2 batsmen, all-rounder and a bowler. His selection of a genuine quick bowler (Edwards / Harris) to compliment RP’s swing saw spot on. With Gibbs, Symonds and Rohit fielding allowed him to use even his part-timers along with Ojha and Rohit to attack the batsman.

Peter Roebuck theory of T20 having no auto-pilots was definitely true this IPL as the Pilots were definitely in control.

Road to T20 World Cup Looks Bleak

I wouldn't brag like Sanjay Jha for the tournament being too competitive, neither would I complain of IPL being a family Entertainer and Test match killer nor would I complain of people getting richer. My only concern as an INDIAN cricket fan would be the abysmal performance of the members of INDIAN T20 quad. One expected Sehwag or Gauti or Yuvraj or Rohit to be in top 10 run scorers, baring Raina others have lost their plot. Hatrick Hero Yuvraj has picked up ball after his father had handed him a Cricket Bat snatching those skating shoes. Dhoni is busy with his Netagiri giving big statements, theories and fundas, he all set for 2014 Elections.

Raina has been in the form of his life, invariably scoring at a strike rate in excess of 150 and consistently, ideal for a number three; can carry on the good work done by the opening pair. But the biggest problem has been Viru n Gauti’s form which is abysmal this IPL. They haven’t had a decent run yet, with both batting like Kal Ho Na Ho (as if there is no tomorrow) making Raina’s role doubly important. With fragile Yuvraj and Dhoni to follow a lot of onus rests on the shoulders of Rohit to give a good finishing touch; who has been a Bevan in the making. In the last couple of games he has shown that he is as good a finisher as anyone else. Yusuf Pathan was a sensation last IPL, he looks out of touch this season with a couple of match winnings knocks here and there hasn’t done justice to his talent and might fight for a spot with his half brother Irfan. Though has been hit for a lot of runs, he has bowled some crucial overs this IPL; Especially the one against Chargers. He continues to be a riddle for the captain.

Bowling looks equally bleak, T20 specialist Harbhajan is neither finding his line nor his length. He has been the worst spinner of this IPL so far. Zaheer didn’t look comfortable even before shoulder injury this IPL, and without Zaheer's prior experience in T20 WC makes RP’s job a touch tougher. RP Singh who currently holds the Purple cap (for the highest wickets) is a find of this IPL, rediscovering his swing and bounce. Our Little John Ishant is a mixed bag so far, being the front line bowler for KKR he has been hit all over he park. Praveen Kumar looked totally lost this IPL not sure where to pitch the ball gets driven of fullers ones and pulled of the shorter ones. Neither has pace nor has a bouncer in his armor and his angry young man attitude doesn’t help either. English weather might come to his rescue.

With Yuvraj, Rohit and Raina having a decent IPL with the ball, it gives Dhoni lot of options when the main bowlers get hammered. Inform Ojha might consider himself unlucky if he doesn’t get play a single game, which is highly likely unless Bhajji fares horribly. He flights the ball, gives it a tweak and has a good temperament. Jadeja a good bad, decent bowl and a great fielder could be a floater filling in if one of the all rounders fails or gets injured.

Munaf and Balaji who have actually bowled well after the squad announcement should feel unlucky to miss the flight and exotic England summer.

Tight Thrilers Leave Some Nailless Some Hairless

The complaint of IPL being a lengthy tournament is getting erased with each of these nail biting and hair plucking matches. After 45 games we just have one of the fantastic four, Delhi Dare Devils heading the table with 16 points. If things go as expected Chennai Super Kings stand in with close second. Third and Fourth spot is still up for grabs, Deccan, Royals, Mumbai, Kings and Challengers are in the hunt. Mumbai’s chances look bleak after today’s hair plucking loss and Challengers chances look good after sneaking a low scoring nail biting thriller.

Captain Kumble has shown the world what it means leading from the front; he literally bowled the first over of the match. Chennai looked puzzled like Abhimanyu of Mahabharata failing to come out of chakra view ha once Hayden departed. Take away Hayden’s 60 from a total of 129, Chennai’s score looks as bad as a sari clad bikini model.

[image source]

Me, My Readers and The World must have been fed up with Bangalore’s opening combination and my ramblings on it, so let’s leave it alone. Dravid was caught between hitting the ball and tapping it, ended up placing it to point. 30 for 3 and you have the two most unreliable batsmen at the crease; this time both had a point to prove. Murli continues to show that he is still a Fattu, who can only bowl between 8th and 16th over. Merwe’s match fees should be docked off for not grounding his bat; that’s basics mait. In the end madness prevails as both the batsmen watch the ball sail towards third man boundary despite a dive from the fielder without bothering to run. Umpire waves his hand in the end to save the blemishes as Bangalore win this tight nail biter.

The saying “The captain is as good a team” is being proven wrong again and again by Warne, as he continues to get best out of his mediocre troop. Who would have thought that Munaf would bowl the last over and pull off a sensational victory for the Royals? Royals have a different hero with the bat every day, today it was Quiney and Jadeja taking them to a defendable 145. Mumbai seem to have followed Bangalore’s failed strategy of trying different openers every time. Sanath and Sachin found themselves battling against the guile of Warne; who eventually out played both of them. Few nasty blows from Nayar saw Mumbai in striking distance and that back away DLF maximum towards covers was simply sensational.

At this point it was a contest between Mumbai Gods Vs Rajasthan Gods as prayers from Shilpa Shetty and Nita Ambani grew deeper and deeper. Bouncer followed with a leg stump Yorker saw the end of Dhaval, direct hit from Pathan sent Nanda back to the where he belonged. A dive and good throw at the stumps from Warne sealed the deal for Royals, which left Mumbai Indians plucking their hair in despair.

In the end faces of silent Nita Ambani and Jumping Shilpa Shetty told the entire story.

Spring Break

For the first time in six months one felt the warmth of Sun rays beating through the clear blue skies, temperature rising to 70 degrees, orange - yellow leaves beginning to add color to the pale and placid life, it felt like the beginning of spring. Indeed it was the last working day before the spring break, the Friday where no grad student worried about his assignments, as they had just finished their midterm exam. Everyone planed for their 9 day vacation called spring break.

Amit wasn’t sure whether he had something called a spring break as he was a Research Assistant; research according to him was searching something which his advisor had hidden somewhere . It was his second spring break; he knew how his previous spring break was foiled by his advisor in the name of research. He was happy as he had a good result - a line graph; something tangible to show, which his advisor expected all the time. At 11 am he reached his advisor’s office, who always believed in impromptu meetings; would send out an email the previous night, he always kept Amit on his toes.

“Can I come in Dr Y?” Amit knocked the door. “Come in” out came a voice. “How is everything going? Do you have any result to show?” was his usual silence breaker. Amit was all charged up, for the first time he had results which he thought were beyond his advisor's expectations; powered his laptop on and presented the demo and the graph. This was the first time his advisor liked his demo and was satisfied with it. With a funny smile came the reply “Good job, I give you two day vacation, START WORKING ON YOUR THESIS FROM MONDAY”.

These are the exact words every research grad student wishes to hear. It translates to “Ja Jeele Apni Zindagi” (read as ‘end of torture period get ready to graduate’). Spring graduation sounded realistic, he was as thrilled as an early released prisoner for his good deeds; but wasn’t sure what his good deeds were!

“Find three people for your thesis committee” his advisor broke the silence again. Amit knew that these three angels play a significant role in converting a grad student status to a graduate status, he had his X, Y, and Z pen down; one of them being his advisor. “I said find three more people, I cannot be part of the committee”, “why because I no longer work at this University!” “I submitted my resignation last month”; “Didn’t I tell you?” those words out of Dr Y were enough to give someone heart attack.

Amit felt like Vijay of “Don”, in the scene where Vijay realizes that the only person who knew about his true identity was dead and only the red diary could prove his innocence. Amit had a red thumb drive. He had heard of thesis being changed at the last minute, but changing advisor was ridiculous.

“Ladkiya Pyar Toh Apni Marzi Seh Karleti Hai, Magar Shaadi Apne Ma Baap Ki Marzi Sey Karti hai” of the movie Kabhi Kabhi lingered in his mind.
“Amit can you tell me something about the research you have done so far?” asked Dr X, his future advisor next day during his meeting. Those words had the power to recreate Khuda Gawah’s scene where Badshah Khan’s imprisonment is extended indefinitely for no fault of his. The thought of defending his Thesis without his advisor was enough to forget about the so called spring break.

Uncertain Winners and a Certain Loser

As the saying goes the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, which has been the nature of this tournament. As the tournament is moving forwards surprises like Royals defeating Kings by a huge margin, Challengers beating Mumbai Indians by 9 wickets are following us. With winter setting in it has affected the fielding (even though there is no correlation) and more matches played in the smaller grounds of northern part of the country bigger targets are being chased with ease, though credit has to be given to the batsman. One of the reasons being the top order of each team that is firing; be it Smith n Ojha for Royals or Kallis n Uthappa for Challengers, Gauti and Warner for Delhi. There is nothing like picking top order wickets to stop the flow of runs, but the opposing teams haven’t done that consistently.
[image source: Cricinfo]

No team is clear favorite’ even though CSK have looked THE team, but they rely heavily on top order i.e. Hayden and Raina, much like the last years Delhi and we all know what happened to them. And all their victories have come batting first. Delhi has a good balance good top order solid middle order and a decent bowling attack; they need Sehwag to click if they want to look formidable. Royals are peaking at the right time, Smith played his best innings so far and Warne is getting best out of his brigand, arrival of inform Watson would be a huge bonus.

Kings again depend heavily Yuvraj to fire, bowling is a mixed bag, Piyush n Abdulla are their stars, Sreesanth inclusion could be dicey. Challengers look a different team after KP’s departure their opening is the surprise each time. Kumble had found two unsung heroes in Dillon n Merwe. Mumbai boasts to have the best bowling attack along with most brutal opening pair; neither of them is winning them matches as expected. They are heavily dependent on Sachin to anchor the innings as it falls apart towards the end. With Sun beating down Chargers need to recharge their solar batteries before it drains out. With openers failing the middle order looks too bleak, without Edwards bowling looks weak.

Only thing that is certain is that SRK isn’t going to come back as Kolkata Kite Riders have found ways lose games. Lack of good match winners in the first place, (sorry if Gayle n McCullum were match winners then WI n NZ wouldn’t be where there are today) compounded with bad breath among the team, they haven’t found winning ways. It looks as if they have a point to prove, that good coach do need good players to perform. The only positives being the humorous FakeIPLPlayer’s blogs; which has bought much interest among the print media. Blame it on Buchanan’s multiple captain theory which was rather a Ganguly sacking strategy or Gayle n McCullum compound debacle or Ishant n co’s inability to take wickets upfront or even on the drop catches KKR don’t look like a team.

As they say there is no I in a team, but there too many I’s in KKR.

Challengers spoil Yuvraj's Party at Kingsmead

Heard about Déjà vu? The experience of witnessing a new situation previously encountered; in today's double header Kings XI found themselves in exact same scenario as KKRs found themselves earlier in the day. Both the teams chasing a score of 149 and 146 fell short of 9 and 8 were undone by Malinga’s and Kumble’s penultimate over respectively. Both the overs yielded just 4 runs and wicket, when 23 and 17 were needed of the last two overs. Both the defeats had a common denominator; leaving too much for little people towards the end. Both the teams could take a leaf out of Dilshan’s batting; in exact similar situation Delhi chasing 149 needed 17 of 2 overs. Penultimate over was bowled by over animated Edwards; but was thrashed for 17 in just 4 balls. All the three scores look similar but Punjab’s match was far more exciting and entertaining as it actually went down to the wire.

The day didn't start well for the new skipper Kumble as yet another opening pair fails to get past the first over, Ryder edged it to Jayawardene. Bishnoi pulled every ball he faced and got some handy runs before yielding to Abdulla, soon Goswami decided let me GO swami. Uthappa and Kallis played well until they decided “Its Durban let’s make it Yuvraj's day”. Uthappa mishit one to Katich, Kallis undone by the skidder which crashed into off, Boucher made sure he was part of history, first hatrick of IPL 2.0. Then came Roelof Merwe with his 'looking London hitting Tokyo shots'. Everything is perfect about his technique high elbow, good foot work, body moving in the direction of the shot just that ball travels orthogonally. Swing towards mid on and ball goes to third man, swing towards square leg and ball going towards long off. Can’t call it ugly but scored crucial 35 and took the score to 145 Abdulla’s did pick up 4 for 36, Pathan managed 2 for 19. Kohli's needs to watch "Anger Management" movie, to cool him down. He is always angry with either his bat or shoes, keeps hitting it to the ground.

Three front line spinners and Yuvraj decides to open the innings; fair call!!!, he briskly moved to 50 of just 33 balls with some of his elegant pulls. He then decides to take Kumble to midwicket finds Kallis on the way, 70 for 1 at halfway stage. Call it either the spin of Merwe or the curse of tactical breaks Kings lose Goel, Australian sexy cricketer of the year Simon Katich soon followed him. The two Sinhalese managed to have a decent partnership but the run rate was hitting the roof. 51 required of 30 you got to back the batting team to win from here, Jayawardene yet again proved that he is King when bowling is mediocre. Merve’s bad over left Kings chasing 17 from 12 balls, exactly the same equation Delhi faced a day earlier. Kumble did exactly what Edwards didn’t do other night, kept his cool and got through the defenses of Sangakkara. 4 runs and a wicket of the 19 over, can’t ask for anything better. It was a brave move to bowl PK after he had been hit for 14 of his previous over. Even after been hit for boundary picked up Pathan and Chawla and sealed an important win for RCB.

Not many people pick up a hatrick, score 50 in 34 balls, get a match of the match award and all in the losing cause, Yuvraj found himself in that position. Probably the Déjà vu theory is either overrated or there aren’t too many Dilshan’s to win you a match out of thin air.

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