“The Greatest Cricketing Spectacle” as Mr. Lalit Modi would call it (when he is not proclaiming how IPL has single-handedly revived S Africa’s economy) came to an end last week and for all of us, whose day started as the IPL matches started, it has become difficult to go back and not view the high-octane matches of IPL (Of course, it is a relief that now we do not have to listen to any more of Ramiz Raja’s “insightful” commentary which is nothing but describing anything and everything he see in his sight fully, while hoping that he would get a chance to huddle under the umbrella with Mandira Bedi, but i digress). But what a tournament this has been. Lots of close matches, teams seperated by very few points, a much better balance between the ball and the bat, the IPL had it all (Well not all, the slapgate was missing, though verbal slaps were in plenty, courtesy Fake IPL Player). IPL 2 also helped separate the men from the boys and proved that class, irrespective of age and the version of cricket played, is the bedrock of successful teams. It was refreshing to see retired players (Hayden, Kumble, Gilchrist etc) take on the T20 specialists and trump them roundly and soundly. Deccan Charger, the last placed team of IPL season 1, completed a fairy-tale IPL to win the trophy while Bangalore Royal Challengers nearly completed a fairy-tale of their own. Below are listed the teams and their review in the just concluded IPL 2:
KKR – The laughing stock of the IPL (to put it kindly) due to both their on-field and off-field activities, matters were not helped by the fake IPL blogger. Controversies erupting about multiple captaincy, removal of Ganguly, issues of racism, KKR epitomized the current X-Men series title of “Divided We Stand”. With only Brad Hodge displaying semblance of form, their batting repeatedly flopped and their bowling was not much better. McCullum cut a lonely figure on the field and flopped too frequently. Dada seemed to have lost his spark after the loss against Rajasthan Royals and in some ways seemed to enjoy McCullum’s plight. Ishant Sharma went the Agarkar route with a boundary ball every over while Agarkar resembled a man experiencing multiple nightmares everytime the ball was tossed to him.(Agarkar slid down further on the scale of abysmality if it can be called that) In all, a very disappointing outing considering the potential the team has and SRK must be wondering if it would have been better for him to produce a movie starring Salman Khan & Bobby Deol (as atleast this would run for a few days)
MI – Underachievers of IPL 1 continued their underachieving trend in IPL 2 too. Despite starting off brightly and setting up a hot pace, MI proved to be too inconsistent. MI, in certain ways resembled the Indian team of the 90s where if Sachin gets out, the entire team would give up. Tinkering their batting order, injuries to key players and the innate capacity to choke screwed up Mumbai’s chances and like last year, MI were left ruing on what may have been. JP Duminy provided stability to the batting order and was the brightest star for them. Their bowling was generally handy but Harbhajan was a huge disappointment till the late part of the tournament with his tendency to bowl flat mechanically.
RR – The defending champions,continued to punch above their weight but could not carry on all the way as last year as they were too underweight this year. Last year, they could rely on Shane Watson to break the game with both his batting and bowling as well as weighty contributions from Graeme Smith. With Watson’s unavailability and Smith’s poor form, it was too deep a hole for RR. Yusuf Pathan was hit or miss, while Ravindra Jadeja could not impose himself on the game the same way as Pathan despite plucky contributions. Shane Warne was as inspirational as ever, both as a captain and as a bowler but the decks were vey heavily stacked against RR
KXIP – Oh so near, oh so far was KXIP’s case. While their bowling had variety and sting, it suffered from inconsistency. However, batting was their biggest problem and highly erratic. Yuvraj as a captain looked tactically unsure and losing Jayawardene to an injury mid way furtherworsened the situation. Too many top order collapses screwed up KXIP’s chances and no amount of hugs from Preity Zinta could lift the team up.
DD – Probably, the most balanced team and the table toppers after the league table, DD were unlucky to lose in the semifinals to a whirlwind innings from Gilchrist. An explosive opening pair (which unfortunately misfired throughout), an attacking middle order and a balanced bowling attack meant that DD took the attack to most teams and were able to defeat them quite comprehensively. With AB De Villiers, Dilshan and Dinesh Karthik in good striking form, DD were a dangerous team. Despite not playing McGrath, DD possessed a potent bowling attack in form of the gloriously combative Dirk Nannes, Ashish Nehra and Amit Mishra.
CSK – The runners-up of last time, CSK has a blow hot – blow cold tendency. After starting indifferently, CSK hit a home run and won 5 games on the trot primarily owing to the batting prowess of Hayden & Raina. Appalling fielding and a mediocre bowling not withstanding, CSK had a strong batting line-up with most players in form. However, what really hurt them was the poor form of their all rounders, Morkel, Oram and Flintoff. CSK also had this tendency to go strangely passive when they needed to step up and this hurt them in their semifinal loss.
BRC – BRC epitomized the characteristics of their captain and quite never gave up and fought against the odds. While opening remained a huge problem, they etched wins primarily on the strength of team performances rather than individuals. Kumble started the tournament with a 5-er and ended with a 4-er. Kallis had a much better tournament than the last one, while Roeloef Van der Merwe, slogged merrily and bowled handily. Manish Pandey hit the first Indian century in the IPL and did look a class player in the semifinals. Dignified, gracious and fighter to the core, BRC played brave cricket under their inspirational captain
DC- DC seemed a rejuvenated team from last year and were the early pace-setters. However, they suffered a mid tournament slump and had to eke their way into the knockput phase. But once in, they displayed nerves of steel and ensured that they raised their game. Andrew Symonds joining at the crucial stage of the IPL helped immensely while RP Singh demanded a place in the Indian team on the strength of his performance. With Gilchrist often ensuring a flying start, DC had a strong finishing team with Rohit Sharma and Dwayne Smith performing admirably. Rohit Sharma, while not matching last year’s performance with the bat proved to be a revelation with the ball taking a hat-trick too. DC’s win proved to be the perfect gift for a team which was made hajaar fun on.
Overall in perspective, IPL 2 was a much better albeit a lesser batsman friendly version than IPL 1. Spin proved to be the trump card and there were fewer 200 plus totals than the last time. With the action shifting back to India next year, batsmen can look forward with relief to flat pitches while bowlers can dream on again of having IPL in SA.