Monday, June 02, 2008

Mr. Modi - What do we watch now?

The Indian Premier League तमाशा is finally over! Before the IPL started, there was a lot of debate on whether it would be a success or a failure, or maybe even a moderate entertainer. All those debates and discussions were put to rest on the first night itself. Bangalore Royal Challengers played host to the Kolkatta Knight Riders. It was an entertainment carnival of sorts, with some excellent fireworks (from the bat of Brendon Mccullum). After the first match was over, the voices of the masses were unianimous: The IPL is going to be a runaway success. It's here to stay!

I don't wish to get into a discussion on the monetary aspect, because that has been discussed to death. Instead, I'd like to stick to the entertainment value that the IPL provided to so many households in India and abroad.

For 44 days, every weekday evening from 8pm to mid-night, and every weekend from 4pm to mid-night households in India came to a stand-still. The IPL provided फटाफट cricket to enthusiasts who don't really have the time to labour through 7 hours of boring test match or 50 over cricket.

The tournament provided a lot of entertainment. There were very few of the 53 matches which could be labeled boring. All through the tournament, the teams strived to provide a lot of fun value to viewers in the stadiums and in front of the television sets. Things got so close, that not untill the end did we know for sure who the four semi-finalists were going to be. For that one surely has to thank the cricketers for playing cricket non-stop for 44 days, to entertain us. They surely earned their bread.

Deccan Chargers
- Name and fame, but no game
Touted to be one of the best teams of the tournament, everyone already had them in their semi-final line up. Their batting line up boasted of big hitters like Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds, Shahid Afridi, Herschelle Gibbs and excellent consolidators like V.V.S. Laxman, Rohit Sharma and Scot Styris. Their bowling line up also looked very solid with R.P. Singh, Chaminda Vaas, Scot Styris, Shahid Afridi. However, they never seemed to click as a unit. Rohit Sharma came up with brilliant knocks through out the tournament, Symonds hit one blistering century and so did Gilly. Venugopal Rao came up with some amazing hitting towards the end of the tournament, but all his notable innings came in lost causes. Barring that there was nothing to write home about at all.
Biggest success - Rohit Sharma
Unknown success - Venugopal Rao
Biggest failure - Shahid Afridi

Bangalore Royal Challengers - Suffered a perpetual hangover
They turned out to be what most had expected them to be। A T20 flop unit, right from the start to the very end, they never seemed to have any idea of how to approach the format। Many fingers were pointed, but Dravid chose the team members and all of them seemed to play with his mentality। Nothing was really expected of this team. After all, this team was stacked with aged test players such as Dravid, Kallis, Boucher, Kumble, Sunil Joshi, Wasim Jaffer and Chanderpaul. There were a few exceptions like Roass Taylor, Cameron White, Misbah-ul-Haq, Virat Kohli and Sreevats Goswami who tried to break the shackles, but just did not have the luck to pull it off. Not a single century was scored by this team!
Biggest success - Rahul Dravid
Unknown success - Ross Taylor
Biggest failure - Cameron White/Misbah-ul-Haq/Jaques Kallis

Kolkatta Knight Riders - Korbo, lodbo, harbo
Prior to the tournament, Shah Ruk Khan seemed to be the most active owner in getting in sponsorship for his team. It was a good all-round unit expected to make it to the semis atleast. Their batting line up looked cracking with Chris Gayle, Brendon Mccullum, Ricky Ponting, David Hussey, Ganguly and Laxmi Ratan Shukla. Their bowling line up was equally strong with Ishant Sharma, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Ajit Agarkar, Ashoke Dinda and Murali Karthik. They started off as expected, thrashing Bangalore in the opening match of the tournament. Mccullum's innings of 158* was the defining moment of the entire IPL. However, they struggled the most with the exodus of the Australian and New Zealand players. Shoaib Akhtar never arrived until late in the tournament. Gayle was perpetually injured and played no part in the IPL.
Biggest success - Saurav Ganguly/David Hussey
Unknown success - Laxmi Ratan Shukla/Ashoke Dinda
Biggest failure - Mohammad Hafeez

Mumbai Indians - The perfect Sine wave
The Indians started off in the worst possible manner. So bad was their start that they lost to the Deccan Chargers and the Bangalore Royal Challengers. Pollock took over the captaincy after the Harbhajjan-Sreesanth Slapgate controversy. Sachin was still injured. The Mumbai faithful's patience was running thin. One win against the Kolkatta Knight Riders changed the team entirely. They were now a unit, playing so well that many called them unbeatable. That run continued for 6 matches, after which they began losing again. Crucial must-win matches were being lost, even though Sachin had returned to the team. The team now had the most lethal opening pair on paper, Sachin and Sanath. They still could not make it to the semis and had to settle for 5th position.
Biggest success - Sanath Jayasuriya/Shaun Pollock
Unknown success - Abhishek Nayar
Biggest failure - Harbhajjan Singh

Delhi Daredevils - Dared to crawl into the semis
The Delhi team was to be the best all-round unit, with fielding being the biggest strenght. They picked some bits and pieces players to form what most called a formidable T20 side. A lethal opening pair (Sehwag and Gambhir) followed by a strong middle order (on paper) and a very experienced and stingy bowling unit. All this was good for Delhi. However, the middle order never seemed to be there. It never seemed like McGrath was away from the game for a year. He was still bowling that immaculate line and lenght, which most found difficult to get away. The middle order of Shoaib Malik, A.B. DeVilliers, Dinesh Karthik, Manoj Tiwari, Tilekaratne Dilshan hardly put a foot right.
Biggest success - Gautam Gambhir/Fervez Mahroof/Glen McGrath
Unknown success - Shikhar Dhawan/Amit Mishra
Biggest failure - Shoaib Malik, A.B. DeVilliers, Dinesh Karthik, Manoj Tiwari, Tilekaratne Dilshan

Kings XI Punjab - Oye aaja Oye
The Punjab team boasted of unknowns, but the biggest known was Yuvraj. Much was expected of him. It's another point that he did not quite deliver. But it is not everyday that one can hit six 6's in an over. The team gelled well right from the start and played excellent cricket. Whether they batted first, or they chased, they somehow ended on the winning side. It's quite a big dampener for them that they played Chennai Super Kings thrice, and lost all three matches! Yuvraj captained the side well, and they always seemed the have the confidence that they would win. A very dissappointing semi-final brought their campain to an abrupt and sad end.
Biggest success - Shaun Marsh/Piyush Chawla
Biggest unknown - Shaun Marsh
Biggest failure - VRV Singh

Chennai Super Kings - EM-ASS-DHONI, Mind it
Dhoni's captaincy is improving in leaps and bounds, and when a veteran like Stephen Flemming says Dhoni is a superb captain, then he certainly must be! On paper a very strong unit (as Krish Srikanth would vociferously point out) boasting of the likes of Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, M.S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Badrinath, Albie Morkel, Jacob Oram and Stephen Flemming. At the start, their bowling looked weak, with only Muralitharan being a bowler of note. But then they posted such huge totals, that the bowlers had little work to do. Once Hayden and Hussey left, Ntini and Morkel joined the party. Manpreet Gony was a real revelation, and a little more domestic exposure would help him get a call to the Indian team. Joginder Sharma got what he deserved, a real thrashing!
Biggest success - M.S. Dhoni/Suresh Raina
Unknown success - Manpreet Gony
Bigget failure - Joginder Sharma

Rajasthan Royals - Halla Bol
Touted as the underdogs of the tournament, everyone expected them to languish at the bottom of the table. People wondered why Shane Warne agreed to play for them and even be their coach. Through out the tournament they played as one single unit and great spirit. Shane Warne did a fantastic job of speaking to each player individually and also gave each player a specific role. Each of his players played their roles to perfection and thats why they did so well. The leg-spin legend returned to the game and proved a champion in a totally new format. The biggest advantage for the team was that they did not lose any player during the 44 days. They played total cricket, always looked like they would win and entertained the crowds very well. Numerous players stood out, especially young indian players.
Biggest success - Shane Watson/Yusuf Pathan/Shane Warne/Shoail Tanvir/Graeme Smith
Unknown success - Swapnil Asnodkar/Niraj Patel/Siddharth Trivedi/Ravindra Jadeja
Biggest failure - Younis Khan/Mohammad Kaif

Now based on the above, heres my pick for the dream team from the IPL, totally based on performance (without any foreign player constraints):
1. Shaun Marsh (Kings XI Punjab)
2. Sanath Jayasuriya (Mumbai Indians)
3. Gautam Gambhir (Delhi Daredevils)
4. Yusuf Pathan (Rajasthan Royals)
5. Rohit Sharma (Deccan Chargers)
6. M.S. Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings)
7. Shane Watson (Rajasthan Royals)
8. Shaun Pollock (Mumbai Indians)
9. Shane Warne (Rajasthan Royals)
10. Sohail Tanvir (Rajasthan Royals)
11. Glen McGrath (Delhi Daredevils)
12. Manpreet Gony (Chennai Super Kings)/Piyush Chawla (Kings XI Punjab)

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