Monday, April 9, 2012

IPL 2012 - What are the Prospects for Each Team?

By Carl Jaison.
You just can’t write off this league. Amidst boiling controversies, media-frenzy and ever growing build-up of fan bases, this edition of IPL promises to be like a Hollywood action-packed thriller, with just a tinge of Bollywood flavour to spice up. This year will witness teams avenging past defeats, formulating best team compositions to strike the winning mixture and of course, to take home the coveted champions tag, that would wrest for them supremacy in this baby-format of Indian cricket.

Most star-studded teams will be devoid of their famed bumper packages which may sadden their die-hard fans but their absence takes little away from this cash-rich tourney, that hopes to improve on previous years falling TV ratings. Each year, before its commencement, the IPL is seen with scrutinizing eyes but the tourney follows it up with a spectacular gala opening ceremony that would switch every households TV sets to it. The lucrative aspect aside, the teams will gear up to cement their profile in the hearts of their fans. Here is a full-fledged coverage of the 9 teams that will be hoping to pull out a rabbit out of the hat.

1) The Chennai Super Kings:

Captain: MS Dhoni

Coaches: Stephen Fleming, Steven Rixon, and Andy Bichel

Strengths: Their back-to-back IPL triumphs in the previous two years is the very reason why they are first on our list of the prospective title-contenders. CSK is a unit that plays their best cricket when they are under immense pressure. Their ability and knack of securing crucial victories during the crunch junctures will provide them with the confidence heading into what may possibly be a hat-trick of IPL title wins. Their batting line-up is rich with internationally proven talent and add to that Dhoni’s late-night blitzkriegs, it will bring back the energy of their supporters. Speaking of fans, Chennai is well assisted and supported by their passionate followers.

Weaknesses: Has the CSK  think-tank erred in placing undue emphasis on the utility of  the 2 million worth Ravindra Jadeja, with the former Kochi Tuskers Kerala player proving to be a failure in the international arena? Their batting looks mediocre in the absence of Michael Hussey (who is on national duty) and Abhinav Mukund (down with injury-issues). The bowling looks a shade jaded with only Doug Bollinger posing any real substance in their bowling armoury. CSK is also a late bloomer.

Current Form: CSK flattered to deceive in the opening match of this edition by loosing comprehensively to the Mumbai Indians. But the defending champs are back on track with a solid victory against the Deccan Chargers. Dwayne Bravo has been their top performer with the West Indian picking up wickets at regular intervals and has also played the long handle to good effect.

2) Mumbai Indians:

Captain: Harbhajan Singh

Coach: Robin Singh and Jonty Rhodes

Strenghths: Perhaps the most well-balanced team there is in this edition. With the burden of the 100th international ton rid from his shoulders, Sachin Tendulkar, who has relinquished the MI captaincy, may be back in his sublime best. Inclusion of Richard Levi has boosted their opening slot options. Keiron Pollard was spectacular in the series against Australia and the big-hitting West Indian will look to continue his good form.

Weaknesses: With the release of Rajagopal Satish, barring Rohit Sharma, there will be 6 slow Indian fielders on the field which may prove detrimental for the Harbhajan Singh-led team. They also have a pool of phenomenal international talent and providing opportunity to all seems an arduous task. A situation  may arise where Sachin’s early dismissal may peg the team on the back foot much too early.

Current Form: The team stood true to its class by upsetting CSK but their performance has gone abruptly from clinically precise to abysmal after they slumped to a pathetic loss to the Pune Warriors after being asked to chase down a modest target of 129. The team has been aided by new-comer Richard Levi who has looked destructive to say the least. Harbhajan and Malinga, the usual performers are at it again and the duo is being well complimented by Pragyan Ojha and Keiron Pollard. Rohit Sharma has failed in two consecutive games now.

3) Royal Challengers Bangalore:

Captain: Daniel Vettori

Coach: Ray Jennings and Venkatesh Pradesh

Strengths: The sudden rise of the young gun by the name Virat Kohli will enable RCB to scale greater  heights with the Delhi dasher being in ominous touch. Chris Gayle is now a household name with his breath-taking batting display in the previous edition and the popular West Indian will be gearing to bring back a smile on the face of their team owner, Vijay Mallya who has been in dire straits of late. AB De Villiers and Dilshan bolster their batting department. The spin doublet of Daniel Vettori and Muttiah Muralitharan have the quality in them to rattle the best of batsmen.

Weaknesses: With the team owner in disarray, the instability of the team management may haunt the minds of the players. RCB usually cuts a sorry figure during vital games like their feeble performance in last year’s IPL final. The frequent breaking-down of Zaheer Khan, who has been injury-plagued in the last few seasons, may hurt the team balance as there is no other recognised pace-spearhead to lead the attack.

Current Form: The two names that have made Vijay Mallya proud are AB De Villiers and Muttiah Muralitharan as the respective players showcased their temperament beautifully to win the RCB its opening encounter. While AB stroked a match-winning 60-odd, it was the spin wizard, Murali who rattled the stuffing out of a meek Delhi Daredevil batting line-up picking three crucial wickets at a miserly economy rate.

4) Kolkata Knight Riders:

Captain: Gautam Gambhir

Coach: Trevor Bayliss

Strengths: One would be awe-struck and jaw-dropped seeing their batting line-up as right from Jack Kallis to Shakib-al-Hasan, their batting seems in safe hands. Gautam Gambhir’s resilience and Yusuf Pathan’s firepower sums up SRK’s star-studded line-up. Brett Lee has always been spectacular in this version and the return of Brendan McCullum brings in the energy into this ill-fated team. Hope Manoj Tiwary is finally gifted with a chance to take the crease.

Weaknesses: The chokers of the IPL. They are the most-advertised and flashy team in the IPL which may gush in an element of complacency into their nerves. Immensely rich in talent, but flounders in the big match-ups. The high-profile statuses of the individuals may spark a fresh controversy of ego-bites. Like in all other seasons, there has always been that one player who ventilates his personal opinions against the interest of the team.

Current Form: Disappointing has been the cliché attached to this under-performing,  but highly-talented team. Two back-to-back losses have pegged them to a familiar low once again as their top order looked clueless against  relatively inexperienced pace attacks. Gautam Gambhir is the man who should take the blame as the Delhiite hasn’t played any significant knock to motivate his team to come good even though he stresses on the futility of motivating players at such a high level of cricket. Yusuf Pathan looks almost invisible. And Brendan McCullum and Jack Kallis also have “peformed” quick vanishing acts that would envy even the great Houdini as the aforementioned trio has had agonizingly short-stays at the crease.

5) Rajasthan Royals:

Captain: Rahul Dravid

Coach: Rahul Dravid and Monty Desai

Strengths: They are the dark-horses of the IPL and their unexpected victory of the event’s first edition has made all teams wary of this Shilpa-Shetty owned franchise. A charismatic leader in Rahul Dravid will work in their favour and the stylish Shane Watson’s all-round abilities is surely their greatest asset. Johan Botha’s finger-spinning to top his improved batting skills makes RR a lethal opponent to deal with. Domestic talent in Ashok Menaria and Ajinkya Rahane provides the team with varied batting talent.

Weaknesses: Sans Watson, RR looks far from menacing. The top order of Dravid, Rahane and Menaria are natural grafters and may take their time to explode to this version. Non-availability of Shane Watson for majority of the tourney may hamper their prospects. The bowling attack lacks the touch - over infested with domestic players and over-dependence on Shaun Tait is risky  as the Aussie discard is often prone to niggles. Sreesanth hasn’t played competitive cricket since last year and it would be fool-hardy to bank on the pacer’s capabilities without proper analysis of his impending fitness issues.

Current Form: They can proudly claim themselves to be the best team yet as their batting and bowling departments have complimented each other’s efforts superbly. Ajinkya Rahane has played the best innings so far with a stroke-filled 98 and is currently the orange-cap holder. Kevun Cooper has been the player of the week with the Trinidadian muscling impressive cameos at the finish and is also the leading wicket-taker with 7 scalps. Brad Hodge and Owais Shah have played their part so well so much so that the Rajasthani fans have quickly adopted the international discards to the Pink City.

6) Pune Warriors India:

Captain: Saurav Ganguly

Coach: Saurav Ganguly, Allan Donald, Geoff Marsh (on national duty)

Strengths: Their team’s young and fresh look itself is refreshing to the cricket pundits. Right from the exciting Manish Pandey to the promising Ashok Dinda, Pune has a trough of enterprising youngsters they can invest on. The leader himself is a source of inspiration and Dada is the best man to rally an unpredictable unit like the PWI which is devastated after hearing about their icon player, Yuvraj Singh’s absence. Jesse Ryder, Angelo Mathews, Marlon Samuels and Steven Smith make up an ideal combo with all four possessing exemplary all-round abilities. Watch out for the impressive leggie, Rahul Sharma.

Weaknesses: Michael Clarke has been purchased for a whopping amount of money but the talismanic Aussie skipper’s contribution may be limited owing to his national commitments. Another way to put it is that having too many all-rounders is like having too many cooks that ultimately leads to  the broth being spoiled so the team-management will surely be perplexed on who to play. They have an ocean of international players and similar to KKR’s headache they too will have problems plentiful as it looks impossible to play all the stars throughout this long tournament. All in all, because of their sheer unpredictability, the team may succumb to heavy defeats which may upset their fans. Ganguly’s task-master-like attitude may dampen the spirits of the team as he is one individual who gets carried away with progressive victories but even gets irritated and ill-tempered if the team flops big time.

Current Form: Surprising start for the new-comers of the IPL with two shocking victiories over the much-fancied Mumbai Indians and the strong KXIP unit. Robin Uthappa has been their man-for-the-job as the former RCB player has displayed his big-hitting skills in difficult situations. Marlon Samuels played a soothing knock against the KXIP and was instrumental with his bowling against MI. But it is the bowling all-rounder Steven Smith, the young Aussie who has left the opposing teams baffled with his effective usage of the long handle, though he hasn’t chipped in with wickets as yet. Humongous credit should go to Dada for synchronizing his troops efficiently.

7) Deccan Chargers:

Captain: Kumar Sangakkara

Coach: Darren Lehmann

Strengths: Their captain is lead-by-example material and he is easily able to marshal his troops without prior command. Daniel Christian was the find of the season for Australia with his truly remarkable performance in the just-concluded Tri-series Down Under and DC will hope that the big fella pulls off stunning wins. Parthiv Patel’s transfer from Chennai Super Kings has enabled DC to field Kumar Sangakkara without having to don him the wicket-keeper’s role. Their anchor-man man would be the much-talked about Jean Paul Duminy and the South African is also capable of hitting the white cherry out of the park as well. Having a pace-bulldozer like Dale Steyn is so important for a team whose graph is a downward-sloping curve.

Weaknesses: After their heroics in the second edition of the IPL, Deccan have time and again failed to find their right mixture. The loss of Adam Gilchrist has visibly hurt the team who with his incomparable leadership qualities steered the team to a new high. Their domestic batting talents haven’t come out in flying colors. Unnecessary over-reliance on a select few players have led to their dismal downfall so far. Amit Mishra? The leggie has been out of action for quite some time and it is highly unlikely that he may replicate his previous IPL-playing days.

Current Form: From the solitary game that they have played against CSK, nothing looks splendid as far as the DC is concerned. A hapless stand-in captain and an even hopeless bunch of batsmen have taken DC to the bottom pile of the standings. Barring Dale Steyn and Daniel Christian, the domestic bowlers have presented lukewarm bowling abilities. The batsmen were always destined to fail while attempting a suicidal run-chase of 194 and fail they did. That too miserably. Their next game being against the powerful Mumbai contingent, DC has plenty of home-work to do if they want to avoid the past horrors of finishing last in the points tally.

8) Kings XI Punjab:

Captain: Adam Gilchrist

Coach: Michael Bevan

Strengths: He has definitely been the most influential captain in the IPL and Gilchrist’s unsolicited pyrotechnics makes him one of the most dangerous batsman to dismantle. The scintillating Shaun Marsh has been a true Punjabi in all sense with his blistering form for the team from the north in all the seasons he’s played and KXIP would be eager to see their boy strike rich form. David Hussey is surely the best buy for the Punjabi outfit as the Aussie-born is skilful both with the willow and is a more than handy off-spinner. Paul Valthaty is back with a bang and it wont be much of a surprise if he manages to catch eye-balls this time too

Weaknesses: Their bowling lacks venom as they have already lost the services of fiery pacer Stuart Broad to injury so they are bound to heavily depend on swing bowler Praveen Kumar who struggles to imbibe variations into his armoury. Lesser-known Indian talents will find it hard to assert their arrival onto the big picture as their capabilities haven’t yet been put to scrutiny. Early departures of Marsh, Gilly and Valthaty may spell early doom for the KXIP as the batsmen to follow, barring Hussey, are slow-starters. Fielding too is a big question mark.

Current Form: There seems to be hardly any kind of form as the KXIP have looked dismal in both their lost encounters. KXIP had arguably easy first games against PWI and RR so the following games isn’t going to be any fun for the Punjab team either. From the given personnel, Gilly has few varieties especially in the bowling aspect. Their two mainstream bowlers, Praveen Kumar and Faulkner have tasted little success so it would be inappropriate and harsh to criticize the lesser-known talent. They have had to chase down two 150+ targets and their batsmen have failed collectively. KXIP seem to be heading in the wrong direction at such an early stage of the tourney. Harpreet Singh has bowled his leg-spinning variations much better than his fast balls and  in the game against KXIP, the former DC player was even “yellow-carded” from bowling after he sent down two consecutive throat-height deliveries to Manish Pandey, who gifted both to the frenzied crowd.

9) Delhi Daredevils:

Captain: Virender Sehwag

Coach: Eric Simmons

Strengths: Sehwag is their strength and hope. The flamboyant opener is a revelation in this format and his ability to dispatch boundaries at will makes him a force to reckon with. Morne Morkel’s steep bounce and phenomenal accuracy makes this bowler one of the most feared in this format. Umesh Yadav has a splendidly built fast-bowler make and the young lad can be too hot to handle even for the best in the business. Since his fairy-tale return to competitive cricket, Irfan Pathan has surely done his job to perfection. The younger brother of  the hard-hitting Yusuf Pathan, Irfan too is a bombshell if left unattended. His improved swing bowling brings in  utility to the team.

Weaknesses: They have always failed to capitalise on their openers’ blistering starts with the middle order coming a cropper in most instances. Even though the bowling attack looks dependable, it’s waywardness needs to be highlighted as well. If one bowler is taken to the cleaners , the others may follow suit as these pacers hunt in packs. Failure of one leads to failure of the unit. They have relied and over-relied and even ultra-relied on individual brilliance to bail them out of precarious scenarios and DD is yet to play as a whole unit. The ineffectiveness of their middle-order may just become the difference between victory and defeat.

Current Form: They plastered their critics’ voice boxes with a scintillating victory over the KKR but the team succumbed to a tearful loss to the RCB. Noteworthy individual brilliance from Morne Morkel has enabled the team to strengthen it’s bowling unit and the tall South-African has already accounted for 5 wickets upfront. Their profound failure to the spin magic of Murali and Vettori have exposed their inability to challenge tweakers and teams would look to exploit this anomaly. Irfan Pathan has clicked both with the bat and ball and the Baroda and Indian-all rounder has both wickets and runs to his credit. He even bludgeoned his elder brother, Yusuf Pathan’s off-spin ball over the boundary ropes for the so-called DLF Maximum. Now that’s what we call brotherly rivalry.

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