From the publishers of THE HINDU
VOL.33 :: NO.12 :: Mar. 25, 2010
M. S. Dhoni...a shrewd skipper.
The much-awaited IPL III got underway smoothly enough after sorting out all the nitty-gritty. The foreign players have arrived to play for their respective teams though the office-bearers of the players’ associations across the world raised serious concerns regarding security. The cricket-loving public is pleased as much as the players that the IPL is back in India and the current edition will be of great importance for teams that have not made their mark as yet in t he league.
The Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) for one will be looking to put up a better performance this year under a new team management. Sourav Ganguly is back at the helm, and along with coach Dav Whatmore, he has an enormous responsibility of convincing KKR and its owners that they are not going to settle for being just graceful participants. Similarly, Mumbai Indians, which also has a new team management, will be keen on changing the trend and it will be interesting to see what its new additions will bring to the team.
On the other hand, the finalists last year, Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers, will be hoping for an encore though the Bangalore team would like to avenge its defeat in South Africa.
However, in a league where the teams are more or less on a level playing field, it will be difficult to predict the outcome, but quite obviously the opening games will at least set some sort of a trend for the teams. Apart from Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers, the other teams in the fray such as Delhi Daredevils will want to go the whole distance this time as they have somehow been unable to cross the last-four stage. Virender Sehwag has handed the baton to Gautam Gambhir, and I for one am curious to see how different the left-hander will be in terms of strategy and man-management.
Talking of captaincy, KKR and CSK (Chennai Super Kings) arguably have the best captains, and both Ganguly and M. S. Dhoni will look to make a huge impact on the fortunes of their sides. Ganguly will be pleased with the start KKR has made in this edition; he will also be aware that it will be quite a while before the fat lady starts singing. At the back of his mind will be the fact that Deccan Chargers won the championship last year after finishing at the bottom of the table in the first edition. And if the first couple of games are anything to go by, Ganguly will be nursing hopes of doing what Deccan Chargers did last year.
The Kolkata side has looked the part in the first two games and the availability of foreign players later on will give it the extra muscle to take on the best of teams. Besides, the inclusion of Manoj Tiwary has definitely enhanced the quality of options available to KKR, and if Ishant Sharma can get his act right, the team is really in with a better chance this year.
While Dada and Whatmore seemed to have at least got their initial strides in the right direction, Dhoni and Stephen Fleming have not got off the blocks smoothly enough. The first game was a disaster for CSK and that too on its home ground. The team, however, will be banking on the fact that it has always eased gradually into the tournament.
CSK has been a major force in the IPL thus far and Dhoni will be keen to get his hands on the silverware at least this time. The Chennai outfit has a formidable batting line-up, but it is the bowling department that has been a cause for concern. Muttiah Muralitharan will need to be at his best this year and the likes of Sudeep Tyagi and R. Ashwin have to graduate quickly enough to make an impact. The absence of Andrew Flintoff will be felt but the inclusion of Justin Kemp will provide some solace to the CSK team management.
The none-too-impressive start will spur CSK to make amends as it knows it will need to win at least this year given its enviable past record. The team is aware that it has the wherewithal to succeed. This is CSK’s best chance to bring home the IPL trophy since the team, apart from having match winners in its ranks, has also gelled well.
In terms of strength, CSK is the favourite. And if one were to go by the think tank and the galloping start, KKR will be looked upon to do the impossible. It will be interesting to see if CSK and KKR will be able to gather momentum and maintain it till the end. The two shrewdest of captains, Ganguly and Dhoni, will be prepared to give their arms for the trophy and it remains to be seen for whom it is going to be a case of third time lucky. Of course, this goes for all the teams except Rajasthan Royals and Deccan Chargers.
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