From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.21 :: May. 26, 2011

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CRICKET / IPL/HIGHS AND LOWS

The Ganguly chronicles

The former Indian captain will never recapture his heydays at the crease but the combative fires are still raging and that makes for compelling viewing, writes K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

K.R. DEEPAK

In scoring a crucial run-a-ball unbeaten 32 for Pune Warriors against Deccan Chargers, Sourav Ganguly answered his self-doubts as well as the critics.

Boxed into a corner, he just bounces back with nonchalance. This has been the underlying theme of Sourav Ganguly's life as a cricketer.

A glimpse at his career snapshots reveals a story that will make any script writer proud. The debut and disappearance in 1992 followed by the roaring return in 1996; the journey from captain-supreme in 2000 to making a comeback in South Africa in 2006 and the final bow in 2008 to sporadic exploits for the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League. And when an uneasy silence greeted his name at the base price of $400,000 in the player auction in Bangalore this January, his cricketing obituary was prematurely written.

The ways of destiny move in strange ways for Ganguly and Ashish Nehra's injury gave him an opening with the Pune Warriors led by his former protege Yuvraj Singh. Ganguly bided his time at the nets, skipped two games and finally when he did make his comeback in a winning cause against the Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad on May 10, the cricketing gods held their collective breath.

Ganguly did not disappoint. His fielding, an eternal bugbear, was patchy but when he strode out to bat the old muscle-memory in his feet and hands kicked in. He rolled back the years and charged at Ishant Sharma to ping one past extra cover. Amit Mishra was lofted with panache and in scoring that crucial run-a-ball unbeaten 32, Ganguly answered his self-doubts as well as the critics.

He will never recapture his heydays at the crease but the combative fires are still raging and that makes for compelling viewing.

The bright yellow hue

A squad that retained its core ahead of IPL's latest season continues to march ahead with a royal gait. Chennai Super Kings led adroitly by M. S. Dhoni moved with finesse and fluency through the week as its batsmen held sway and comprehensive victories were chiselled against Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils.

K. PICHUMANI

Chennai Super Kings' Dhone and Badrinath have been consistent with the bat in IPL 4.

Dhoni has been remarkably focussed on the annual Twenty20 bash unlike a few of his India team-mates, who struggled to get over their post-World Cup high, with even Virat Kohli admitting that he was not clued into the atmosphere of the IPL during its first week. Dhoni played the lead role through unbeaten knocks of 41 and 63 in Jaipur and Chennai respectively with his bat bludgeoning bruising arcs over the in-field and past the ropes.

The Chennai outfit has also benefitted from Murali Vijay's (53) classy strokes that bled the Royals and the unjustly under-rated S. Badrinath's (55) efficiency against the Daredevils. The defending champion is on a roll and with a captain who amidst the strife, retains his head with a calm consistency, CSK can be a formidable foe in the play-offs.

Fast and smart

Praveen Kumar and his street-smart ability as a bowler has always evoked praise from Dhoni and Anil Kumble. His aggression and out-of-the-box thinking have helped him carve his own space in limited overs cricket but in a cruel twist of fate, a tennis elbow injury ruled him out of the World Cup. Post-surgery, Praveen has slowly found his way back while playing for King's XI Punjab.

In an upset verdict against the fancied Mumbai Indians in Mohali on May 10, it was Praveen Kumar's twin-strikes upfront that paved the way for the Kings XI triumph. Praveen dismissed Sachin Tendulkar and Adrian Blizzard with balls that whispered swing and movement. Later unheralded left-arm spinner Bhargav Bhatt scythed through the tail and Adam Gilchrist's men had at last snatched a much-needed victory.

Praveen has secured a berth with the Indian squad for the ODIs in the West Indies though former bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad expressed the hope that the seamer was not being rushed ahead of his recovery schedule.

AP

Kings XI Punjab's Praveen Kumar is ecstatic after dismissing Mumbai Indians' Sachin Tendulkar. Praveen, who missed the World Cup due to an elbow injury, is back in the Indian ODI team for the West Indies tour.

Being the wily customer that he is, Praveen will surely find a way to persevere and perform much like R. Vinay Kumar, who on a forgettable Sunday night for the Kochi Tuskers Kerala team in Bangalore's Chinnaswamy Stadium, produced the ball of the day against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Vinay's Lasith Malinga inspired surprise action and the resultant cart-wheeling stumps cut short Chris Gayle's brutal innings that ruined a Prasanth Parameswaran over to the tune of 37 runs, inclusive of a no-ball. Vinay too will be on the plane to the West Indies and it is a just reward for a hard-working smart bowler.

Besides Praveen and Vinay, RCB's S. Arvind also shone bright with his match-winning three for 43 against Rajasthan Royals in Jaipur. The left-arm seamer, who plays the apt foil to Vinay and A. Mithun in Karnataka's pace attack in the Ranji Trophy, has slowly emerged from the shadows with his mix of accuracy and angles.

Karthik's blitz

Dinesh Karthik unleashed a storm in the land of the Holkars and his 69 (33b, 7x4, 5x6) helped Kings XI Punjab defeat Kochi Tuskers Kerala by six wickets at Indore on May 13. Karthik's assault on Vinay, Parameswaran and the other Kerala bowlers, reiterated his dormant talent. Karthik, who impressed a hard taskmaster like Greg Chappell in the past, has often frittered away his starts while trying to play shots that look cheeky. May be the Tamil Nadu player has turned a new leaf.

Big men, low scores

Adam Gilchrist will walk into any all-time limited overs squad. His fame is an assured fact but in the IPL, the Kings XI Punjab captain has remained low key after his earlier bouts of spitfire shots in tandem with Paul Valthaty. Kings XI has marginally turned the corner with victories over Mumbai Indians and Kochi Tuskers Kerala but Gilchrist's last three scores of 9, 28 and 3 along with the slowing down of reflexes behind the stumps, is a cause of worry for Preity Zinta and company.

VIVEK BENDRE

The hard-hitting Kieron Pollard and Adam Gilchrist have not lived up to their reputation, this season.

Kieron Pollard, has plucked blinding catches and has a way with the crowd but the Mumbai Indians player has been a fleeting presence at the crease, indulging in the odd cameo. Against an upbeat Kings XI Punjab in Mohali with the required rate showing inflationary tendencies, Pollard managed a measly 17. With eight wickets and sharp fielding in IPL's season four, Pollard has held his place but his bat needs to assert itself.



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