From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.32 :: NO.16 :: Apr. 18, 2009
Adam Gilchrist made a lasting contribution last season, scoring 436 runs from 14 matches, with a hundred and three fifties.
If sporting results were decided by pre-tournament buzz, the top and bottom-placed teams in the inaugural IPL season would have switched places. Hindsight tells us that the initial hype around Deccan Chargers’ batting line-up — particularly Herschelle Gibbs, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Shahid Afridi — hid serious systemic flaws.
Most glaringly, the bowling lacked cutting edge. R. P. Singh’s toil fetched him 15 expensive wickets, while fellow left-arm seamers, Chaminda Vaas and Nuwan Zoysa, looked entirely uninspiring. Spinners Afridi and Pragyan Ojha did a decent job without threatening to run through sides.
Adding to the franchise’s plight were the dispiriting returns of its alleged trump card — the ‘made for Twenty20’ batting quartet. Afridi and Gibbs flopped — between them they did not score even one half century. Symonds creamed a 53-ball 117 against Rajasthan Royals, but national duty restricted his IPL jaunt to just four matches. Only Gilchrist made a lasting contribution (436 runs from 14 matches, with a hundred and three fifties) with support from Rohit Sharma (404 from 13 matches) and Y. Venugopal Rao (288 from 11).
Little has changed this time, judging by pre-season activity. The Chargers made just two purchases in the Goa auction, West Indians Dwayne Smith and Fidel Edwards. Smith is an Afridi replacement of sorts — a hard-hitting but inconsistent batsman and useful bowler — and paceman Edwards, though potent on his day, will miss the second half of the season as he will be on tour to England. Neither looks like the proverbial missing jigsaw piece; nor does Australian medium-pacer Ryan Harris, signed before the auction. Symonds, as part of the Australian squad to play Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, will miss the first half of the season.
On the plus side, skipper Gilchrist has been joined in the think-tank by former Australian team-mate Darren Lehmann, an always imaginative character who has taken over as coach from Robin Singh.
Herschelle Gibbs can certainly do no worse than last season, especially in home conditions.
South African pitches might also suit R. P. Singh’s style of bowling — as they did in the Twenty20 World Cup in 2007 — and in Fidel Edwards, he has a genuine wicket threat at the other end. If the Chargers can keep things together for the first half of the season, the arrival of Andrew Symonds at the halfway point might just inspire a surprise semifinal spot. Don’t bet on it though.
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