Category Archives: IPL

A glittering career comes to an end

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It was 1991 and the game was India vs. Pakistan at Sharjah. I had never watched a cricket game before and I thought that Sachin was this young boy who just appeared with Kapil Dev in the Boost advertisement. Pakistan had batted first and score 257 in 50 overs and India was chasing a difficult score against a great bowling lineup. India had a great start but lost their way in the middle when this young boy walks in and plays a beautiful innings getting India close to the target. I still remember Sachin hammering Mushtaq Ahmed for two consecutive sixes and getting out trying to go for the third.

That was the day I got glued to the game of cricket and the reason for the same was the little master. Everyone knew that this young boy is going to be a great player then but even his strongest supporter would not have imagined what this great player went on to achieve in his 24 year career. Sachin Tendulkar gave the Indian fans lots to cheer in a particularly poor decade for Indian cricket. This was the phase where the Indian hopes in every game lay on just his wicket. The opposition knew that and so did every Indian fan. There were lots of fans who would just turn off their televisions as soon as their idol got out.

We need to understand that Sachin was still just a young man and to handle that amount of pressure was truly remarkable. I remember he was the only batsman who always looked at home even on the overseas tours when all his fellow team mates struggled to put bat on ball. The brilliant hundred in Perth and the fantastic innings in Johannesburg as a 19 year old were able testimony to the fact. Sachin had amazing composure for a young man and his balance at the crease was phenomenal. He did not have any noticeable weakness and even if he had he had the ability to iron them out before he stepped out to bat again.

 His child like enthusiasm for the game and his great dedication made him a stand out player of his generation. His achievements are there for everyone to see. In spite of enjoying a god like status in India, he still remains a humble human being. He has achieved everything a cricketer could dream of. The 2011 world cup win for sure completed his cricketing resume and for sure will give him utmost satisfaction. Sachin was also part of the world number 1 test team and his IPL team Mumbai Indians gave him a fitting send off with a CLT20 win.

It will be sad to see Sachin go. I have watched Sachin Tendulkar throughout his career and he has been part of my growing up years. As a cricket fan in the 90’s Sachin has given me lots of fond memories which I would always cherish. The brilliant hundred in Benoni, the desert storm innings, his brilliant performance in the 1996 world cup and many more such performances will forever be etched in my memory. Sachin Tendulkar will be sorely missed by every Indian cricket fan. It will be hard to imagine an Indian cricket team without the little master in the lineup. I hope that he has a great farewell in the final two tests he will be part of later next month.

I wish Sachin remains attached to the sport in some vicinity, imparting the vast cricketing knowledge he has. Thank You Sachin for all the great memories and as a diehard fan of yours I will for sure miss watching you don the Indian colors again.

Champions Trophy – Confusing team selection

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The Indian team for the upcoming Champions Trophy was announced a few days back and there were for sure some surprises. The biggest surprise was the selection of Murali Vijay. Vijay had a great home series against Australia in tests but he hasn’t done anything for India in shorter format to inspire any confidence among the fans. He has struggled for CSK in the ongoing IPL season and does not look like a right candidate for the ODI’s.

The selector’s argument is that Vijay is technically equipped to see off the new ball in England but again is he the right candidate to accelerate in the ODI format is the question everyone has in their mind. This seemed in the lines of Rahul Dravid’s selection in the 2009 Champions Trophy. Gautham Gambhir should probably have been selected in the squad for some experience in the top of the order. Gambhir has struggled in the recent times in all forms of cricket but again in the absence of Sehwag, Gambhir would have been an ideal player to have in those conditions.

Dinesh Karthik’s selection raised little concerns considering his brilliant form in recent times. He has been in excellent form in domestic cricket and also has done brilliantly well for Mumbai Indians in the current IPL edition. Shikhar Dhawan is another expected selection as he has been in wonderful form recently. He has been in brilliant form after returning from injury for the SRH in the current IPL season. Irfan Pathan makes a comeback to the Indian team as the bowling all-rounder. His comeback was expected as the champions trophy is being held in England and a pace bowling all-rounder in the X1 is an asset.

Amit Mishra’s selection raised a few eyebrows too as India already have Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja already in the squad. Mishra has been in brilliant form and his IPL performances this year have probably forced the selectors to include him in the squad. It will be interesting to see how he fits into the overall picture considering India already have two inform spinners in the squad.

The bowling attack is on the expected lines. Ishant Sharma will be leading the pace attack in the absence of Zaheer Khan. Umesh Yadav is back in the squad after a long injury layoff and so is Bhuvneshwar Kumar after his brilliant performances in the home series against Pakistan and England. Ashwin will lead the spin attack with Jadeja taking the spin all-rounder spot. Vinay Kumar is yet another baffling selection. His good performances for RCB notwithstanding, he hasn’t done anything great in the past in Indian colors. Shami Ahmed who impressed one and all with his pace in the home series against England and Pakistan would have been a better choice. It will be a huge disappointment for the youngster to lose out after a good performance in the home series.

The team overall seems to light on experience especially in the batting department. The absence of Gambhir at the top of the order and Yuvraj in the middle will be a huge disadvantage for the team. In the absence of the experienced campaigners the onus will be completely on the trio of Dhoni, Raina and Kohli, since the rest of the batting order is either inexperienced or inconsistent.

The absence of Manoj Tiwary due to injury also played a part in selection but one would have expected Pujara to be selected in the squad to add some solidity. It will be very interesting to see the combination India would play in the tournament. It is going to be a tough tournament for India and it will be a challenging one for Dhoni and Fletcher to get the combination right.

Squad: MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Dinesh Karthik (wk), M Vijay, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar

Can India take care of the new crop of fast bowlers?

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Fast bowlers are a rare breed in India. India haven’t had many world class fast men and have only 3 bowlers in their entire cricketing history who have gone past 200 test wickets. Zaheer Khan is the last fast bowler who has gotten anywhere close to being world class. In the 90’s India struggled to find a decent third seamer to consolidate the good first spells of Srinath and Prasad but at the end of the decade there were some promising additions. Zaheer was the first to emerge in 2000, followed by a plethora of young fast men who promised a lot but faltered to deceive in the long run.

The problem with the Indian pace men over the years has been their fitness. Ashish Nehra, Munaf Patel, Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Sreesanth etc.  All began their career with lots of promise bowling quick and swinging the ball. But none of them were able to convert their earlier promise into performance over a sustained period of time. The trend is extremely disturbing. The emphasis on fitness is something which seems to be lacking in these fast men. Within just a year in international cricket, these bowlers have lost their fitness, pace and ability to swing the ball.

The number seems to be increasing over the years. In 2007 India possessed one of the best pace attack for a long time. Zaheer, Sreesanth and RP Singh bowling in the excess of 135 KMPH and swinging the ball both ways was a great sight for an Indian fan. The joy just lasted for a year before RP Singh lost his way and pace. Sreesanth has been plagued by injuries throughout his career. Ishant Sharma who bowled India’s fastest delivery in Australia and troubled the best batsmen in business with his length and bounce has lost the attributes which made him an instant success in his first year of international cricket.

It is hard to understand how a cricketing board can turn deaf to the problems causing this decline of the fast bowlers. Fitness is an important aspect for a bowler in International cricket. It is also important for the bowlers to keep evolving and learn new tricks as they advance their careers. The Indian pace men have faltered on both counts. The reason can be many and one of the most important reasons in the recent times has been the excessive cricket the bowlers have been subjected to. The IPL/CLT20 followed by countless international games can only break a bowler.

 Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav spend more time recouping from an injury than to play for their country. Playing excessive T20 games also gives no option for the bowlers to work on their bowling. The Indian board has to realize that Zaheer’s stint in county cricket in England was the reason for his evolution as one of the best bowler in the world for about 4 years. The BCCI has blocked that avenue too. The county cricket can be a great learning ground for these bowlers and will be much more beneficial than playing in meaningless T20 games in India.

Now we again have talented new crop of bowlers like B Kumar and Shami Ahmed and it will be interesting to see how the board handles these bowlers. The BCCI have the finances and resources to keep the promising Indian bowlers away from the T20 leagues and keep them fresh for International cricket. It will be great to have Umesh Yadav, Varun Aaron, B Kumar, Sreesanth, Ishant Sharma, Praveen Kumar and Shami Ahmed fit and available for an international series. Constant cricket can only be detrimental to Indian cricket future. If India needs to become a force to reckon with at the international level we need a pool of good pace bowlers and this is the time to preserve the resources we have.

Selectors need to look past Rohit Sharma

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When Rohit Sharma walked into bat in the 2008 Commonwealth Bank Series final in Australia, India were in a bit of strife. Chasing 240 to win India were 87/3 in the 20th over. Rohit Sharma joined a set Sachin Tendulkar in the middle and played one of the most mature innings you would see a youngster play. Rohit was only 20 then and the kind of composure and confidence he showed at the crease made everyone think that here is a guy for the future.

Unfortunately for the Indian cricket team and fans Rohit was never able to consistently replicate that performance in the 5 years he has been part of the Indian set up. The 2007/08 season was probably the best time in Rohit’s career as a player. Rohit Sharma has received unanimous support from the selectors and the team management over the years but he hasn’t been able to fulfill the early promise he had shown. In the last few years he has been able to sparingly remind the Indian cricket fans what he is capable of but has lacked consistency.

Table 1:

Performances of Indian batsmen since Rohit’s debut:

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The above table further emphasizes Rohit’s struggle with the bat. He features near bottom of the table just ahead of Rahul Dravid and R Jadeja. Rohit’s struggle with the bat can be attributed to his lack of temperament. His constant swipes across the line to straight deliveries and playing ridiculous shots to get out after a decent start shows that he does not have the temperament to play at this level.

Rohit needs a break from International cricket and needs to play couple of seasons in domestic cricket. There are lots of players in domestic cricket who haven’t received the kind of chances Rohit has in the past few years and they would be feeling hard done by the selectors. Robin Uthappa, Ambati Rayudu and Manoj Tiwary need long run in the ODI team and it is time we look past Rohit Sharma in the ODI squad.

Rohit is a great talent but talent alone isn’t sufficient to succeed at the highest level. The Mumbai batsman needs to work on the mental aspect of his game to be successful at the highest level. The only way he can do that is to play lot of games away from international cricket. If possible Rohit should consider playing county cricket for a season if he is offered an opportunity. Rohit can still be India’s future middle order batsman in all formats but at this point he is not the answer to our batting woes.

5 years and 86 games is a long time to judge a player and I feel Rohit has been given enough time to succeed and now is the time to reprise the same faith on other youngsters to see how they do.

Indian T20 team needs a revamp

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The Indian team’s performance in the World T20 was not a bad one but the think tank must now think ahead. The biggest problem for India in the championship was their bowling. The next T20 world cup is in 2014 and this is time for India to build for that tournament. The fact that India improved quite a lot from the last two editions should not pull down the wool over the frailties of the bowling attack.

The Indian team was highly reliant on Ashwin and Yuvraj with the ball and the new ball pair of Irfan Pathan and Zaheer Khan was not consistent enough. The rest of spin attack wasn’t given that many opportunities but again the sight of Chawla and Harbhajan with the ball did not instill the necessary confidence among the Indian fans. The Indian batting too struggled with the consistency. The lack of runs from the openers was a huge disappointment and it is time for India to look past Sehwag in the T20 format.

India needs to probably take the queue out of the 2007 T20 world cup. The team was in shambles after the shock exit from the World Cup and the decision to go to South Africa with a young team worked wonders. I am not sure if Dhoni is the right captain for this format either. He is good but probably the time has come to bite the bullet and make Kohli the captain of the T20 team. India also needs to identify a good wicket keeper for this format. The name of Robin Uthappa comes to mind immediately. He did keep wickets for Royal Bangalore Challengers in the IPL and he is pretty good with the bat too. Ambati Rayudu is another player who will be excellent in this format and he kept wickets too for Mumbai Indians in the IPL.

Ajinkya Rahane needs to get a look in as an opener. The bowling too needs a rethink. It is hard to imagine Zaheer and Balaji playing in the 2014 T20 world cup, so I guess India need to unearth some quality pacers suited for this format. Varun Aaron comes to mind and he seems well suited for the shorter format. The spin combination too needs to be rethought too. Piyush Chawla isn’t consistent enough in this format to be a regular, so probably someone like Rahul Sharma can get a look in. He has the bowling style of Anil Kumble and can be more suited to this form of the game than Piyush. Again like Zaheer it is hard to imagine Harbhajan playing for India in the T20 World cup in 2014.

India needs to look to have a young set of players in the T20 format and needs to implement the same starting immediately. Even though people will argue that 4 wins out of 5 isn’t a bad result, the team combination just did not look right. The selection by the team management wasn’t smart either in the individual games but those are just in the hindsight now. India hasn’t been great in this format for a long time now and the selection committee needs to completely revamp this side with some young blood. The selection committee has changed and possibly will have some tough decision to take in the coming months. Let’s hope that the committee comes in with some fresh ideas and gets the right kind of people for this format.

Sehwag, Dhoni, Harbhajan and Zaheer have been brilliant for India over the years but the time has come for them to bid adieu to this format. They are still the key players for India in the other two formats but realistically India needs to look past these legends keeping the 2014 world cup in mind.

Problems galore for team India

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Indian bowling has always been under the scanner. Every premier tournament starts with same concerns for India and this time is no different. In the 2011 World Cup India’s bowling was brilliantly led by Zaheer Khan. He was not only economical but also ended up as the highest wicket taker of the tournament. Zaheer also received great support from Nehra and Munaf in the crucial games.

The biggest issue for Indian in the ongoing T20 World Cup is the lack of form Zaheer has displayed. He has struggled with the new ball and his death bowling has been awful. The important thing to note is that Zaheer has never been a great T20 bowler. He has always struggled even in the IPL to control the flow of runs. The other two pacers have struggled too. Irfan Pathan has gone for runs and so has Balaji. The Afghanistan match was an eye opener where the pace bowlers were largely ineffective with the new ball.

So India currently just relies on Ravichandran Ashwin and the part-time spin of Yuvraj Singh to put the brakes on the scoring. This is surely not an ideal scenario and for sure not a strategy for a team which is considered as one of the favorites to win it all. India does have Dinda in the dugout who probably could get a look in. Even though Dinda hasn’t played too many international games he seems to be someone suited for the shorter formats. He has a decent international record in the few games he has played and his IPL record is impressive. So India should look to play him in the game against England and probably rest Zaheer for a game? This is something which the think tank needs to weigh in before the super 8’s start.

The selectors have ignored Praveen who would have been handful in Sri Lankan conditions and also someone like Munaf Patel would have been an asset. The lack of Yorkers in the bowling armory of the Indian pacers is disappointing. India has more often than not gone at 10-11 runs an over against good sides in the death overs.

The other major issue for the Indian team has been their openers. Sehwag and Gambhir have struggled to put up decent partnership and in the current scenario look completely out of touch. Gambhir especially has been struggling for form and his confidence seems to be really low at the moment. India probably should try and test out Manoj Tiwary in the middle order and possibly move Kohli to open with Sehwag for the game against England to see how he goes. I would have thought the think tank doing something like that for the warm up games but that was not to be. India have won their easy first game and have booked their spot in the Super 8’s and will have to seriously think about their options.

The bowling surely needs to improve and the batsmen need to find form. In the previous two editions India failed to win a single game in the second stage of the world T20 and on the current evidence it seems like this year might be no different.

World T20 – Key players for team India

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The 2012 World T20 is just few days away and the Indian team once again enters the competition with lots of hopes. The team though hasn’t played a lot of international T20 this year and will have to make the most of the two warm up games ahead of the competition. India is about to play first of their two warm up games in few days and let us look at few of India’s main players in this year’s competition.

Virat Kohli (M: 11, RS: 278, Ave: 34.75, SR: 134.29)

There is no doubt that Virat Kohli is India’s best player this year across all formats. He has been in scintillating form throughout this year and will be the key for India’s progress in the world T20. Kohli would be hoping to carry on his good form into this competition and will be hoping to make an impact. It was interesting to see Virat opening the batting against New Zealand and it is unclear if that is what the Indian think tank has in mind for the world cup.

Suresh Raina (M: 27, RS: 658, Ave: 32.90, SR: 137.94)

Raina is probably India’s most experienced player in this format. Considering that he has played in all 5 IPL’s for Chennai Super Kings and hasn’t missed many games, he probably has played the most T20 games by an Indian. His explosive style of batting with his amazing fielding makes him a very important member in the T20 squad. He also has India’s only hundred in the International T20 and will be again a key member in the top order. Suresh Raina also provides Dhoni with an extra bowling option. His strike rate and Average in this format is excellent and he will be a huge impact player for India again in 2012 edition of World T20.

Harbhajan Singh (M: 23, W: 18, Ave: 30.5, ER: 6.44)

Even though Harbhajan Singh hasn’t been seen in Indian colors for almost a year, he is expected to play a very important role in the world T20. Ravichandran Ashwin, who is a key component in the Indian ODI and test squads, surprisingly hasn’t done much in the 20 over format. Harbhajan who was part of India’s winning campaign in 2007 is still probably is India’s best spinner in this format. Harbhajan has the experience and his economy rate of 6.44 is brilliant over 20 games. Harbhajan seemed to be getting back to form in his last few games in county cricket and the warm up games will give us more information about his form. Harbhajan will be an important member in the Indian team and I expect him to play most of the games in this tournament.

Zaheer Khan (M: 13, W: 14, Ave: 25.28, ER: 7.75)

Even though Zaheer’s T20 record is nothing to write home about, he is still India’s premier bowler with the new ball. Zaheer’s presence in the team is for sure a great advantage for the Indian team. He is brilliant with the new ball and the Sri Lankan pitches help bowlers who can swing the new ball. He can be handful bowling under lights and India would be hoping for some early wickets from him.

Irfan Pathan (M: 19, W: 23, Ave: 21.60, ER: 7.88)

The return of Irfan to the Indian team earlier this year was a welcome relief. Irfan has been brilliant with both bat and ball since his comeback. He has got his swing back and has been bowling with decent pace. He was just involved in a series in Sri Lanka and the experience would help him a great deal. He has also been striking the ball beautifully with the bat making him the vital member of the team. He will be sharing the new ball with Zaheer and will for sure cause a lot of problems for the batsmen with his late swing.

Yuvraj Singh (M: 24, RS: 601, W: 8, BTAve: 31.63, BLAve: 26, SR: 150.25)

Yuvraj Singh can be called as the superman of cricket. When last year the news broke out about his cancer people were worried about his career. The man though has great heart and the way he has made a speedy recovery shows his dedication and courage. Even though people called the selection of Yuvraj as an emotional one, his presence in the T20 team is a huge bonus. He batted without much match practice against New Zealand and scored a brilliant 36 and it seemed like he had never been away from the team. He also gives Dhoni an option with the ball and also is a fantastic in-fielder. You cannot go wrong with selecting Yuvraj in any short format and he will be India’s trump card in this tournament.

Others players who could make an impact:

G Gambhir (M: 28, RS: 755, Ave: 30.20, SR: 122.56)

Gambhir was India’s premier batsman in 2007 victorious campaign. Gambhir has been struggling for form recently in all formats. He along with Sehwag has struggled to provide good starts at the top of the order. India would hope that both the openers come back to form in the T20 world cup. Everyone knows Gambhir’s expertise against spin and he can be devastating if he gets going. India would be looking to play both Gambhir and Sehwag in both the warm up games and would hope to see them scoring some runs. Gambhir has an impressive T20 record and would want to turn it on at the biggest scene.

The comeback man:

Lakshmipathy Balaji makes a comeback to the Indian team after 5 years. He would most probably be fighting for the one spot with Dinda in the X1. Balaji makes the squad due to his brilliant performance in the IPL 2012 where he was extremely economical and also picked up wickets for KKR. It will be interesting to see how he goes in this tournament. A good performance in the World Cup might give him a decent run in the Indian team again.

The rookies:

Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane will be the rookies for the Indian team this tournament. Extremely talented neither of them will be first choice pick in the X1. Rahane impressed one and all with his brilliant batting as an opener in England and Tiwary has done extremely well in the middle order in the limited opportunities he has received in the ODI team. Tiwary will be battling for one spot with Rohit Sharma and Tiwary has a difficult task of competing with Sehwag and Gambhir.

Ravichandran Ashwin and Rohit Sharma form the rest of the squad who could make a huge impact. Both these players are extremely talented and have done very well for their franchises in the IPL. For Rohit Sharma though this might be the make or break tournament and would want to make solid contributions to the Indian middle order. Ravichandran Ashwin’s case is pretty confusing as he is India’s premier spinner in ODI’s and his struggle in T20I’s is rather perplexing. He has done extremely well in the IPL for CSK and it will one be a matter of time before he translates that success to T20I’s. For now though I guess Harbhajan might beat him to make the final X1 considering his experience and current form. MS Dhoni will be India’s captain and wicket keeper. He has struggled to make an impact in this format with the bat and would want to correct the same. His leadership in the shorter format this year has been brilliant and his calm demeanor on the field will be extremely important in a high profile tournament like this.

India has a very balanced squad and has a great chance of repeating 2007 success. So I wish the team best of luck and I hope they put up a good show in the World T20.

Time is running out for Rohit

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Rohit Sharma has been an enigma in Indian cricket. When he made his debut in 2007 he was touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket. Extremely talented Rohit had a decent beginning in Indian colors. His wonderful partnership with Sachin Tendulkar in the CB series finals further emphasized his credentials as a fine young player. In 2012, five years after his debut, Rohit finds himself battling for a spot in the ODI team with Rahane and Tiwary who are waiting in the wings.

Even though Rohit Sharma has been preferred ahead of the above two mentioned players, it seems like the time is running out for Rohit. Rohit Sharma’s international stint has been really frustrating for fans. He seems like someone who should be scoring loads of runs but the way he gets himself out will make every Indian cricket fans tear their hair out. It is not like he hasn’t played many games. Rohit Sharma has played 82 ODI’s for India and has scored 1966 runs at a modest average of 32.2.

The series against Sri Lanka will be the biggest test for Rohit. He hasn’t begun the series that well with the scores of 5 and two ducks in three completed innings. The fact that Manoj Tiwary and Ajinkya Rahane are waiting in the wings should be weighing on his mind. Another failure in this series might well mean him being replaced. It is only fair that Tiwary and Rahane get an extended run in the team as Rohit did. The biggest disappointment has been the India A tour to West Indies where Rohit did not fare that well. He just scored 2 fifties throughout the tour and threw his wicket away in the unofficial tests after getting to starts.

It is nice that the Indian think tank has faith in Rohit and they are backing him to the hilt but they have to keep in mind that every player should receive his fair share of chances. India will be playing their fourth game tomorrow and the pressure of selection will once again be back on Dhoni. It will be interesting to see if Manoj Tiwary will get a chance in this series at all. It is only fair to give the youngster couple of games to see how he does. Rohit Sharma is a fine talent but talent alone does not guarantee success at the international level (remember Vinod Kambli?). Rohit has been temperamentally weak and it will be good for him to take a break from international cricket to work on the mental aspect of the game. Rohit is a fantastic player and for sure is the future of Indian middle order but at the moment I just feel that he is blocking the other youngsters from getting a go in the Indian team.

Sachin rested as Zaheer and Sehwag return

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The Indian team for the Sri Lankan tour was selected last week and there weren’t a whole lot of surprises in the squad. Sachin Tendulkar has been rested for limited overs tour of Sri Lanka as per his request. Sehwag and Zaheer who were rested for the Asia cup make a comeback to the Indian team. India will be playing 5 ODI’s and 1 T20 in a short tour to Sri Lanka.

The rest of the team is on the expected lines. The biggest surprise though was the exclusion of Varun Aaron. Aaron who was injured prior to the Australian tour looked in good form in the IPL. Considering he is one of the quickest bowlers India has it is surprising to see him missing out once again. Dinda makes it to the 15 due to his good performances in the IPL and the India A tour to West Indies. Vinay Kumar retains his place in the ODI squad and Umesh Yadav makes a comeback after missing the Asia cup.

Ravindra Jadeja has been dropped after poor performances in Australia and the Asia cup. Jadeja did not have a good IPL either. The spin department will be led by Ravichandran Aswin along with Pragyan Ojha and Rahul Sharma. Irfan and Yusuf have been ignored in spite of the Indian team not having a genuine all-rounder in the squad.

The batting feature the usual suspects with Sehwag and Gambhir returning at the top of the order. Rahane might play at number 3 followed by Rohit, Kohli and Raina in the middle order. Manoj Tiwary makes the squad too but will be interesting to see if he will get a game in this series. MS Dhoni will captain the side and Virat Kohli will be his deputy in this series.

The team is on the expected lines and there hasn’t been much experimentation by the selectors. The bowling department especially will be boosted by the arrival of Zaheer and Umesh. Aswin will most probably play as the lone spinner with Raina and Rohit filling in as the 5th bowling option. The Indians have once again ignored Irfan Pathan who would have lent a good balance to the squad. His presence would have allowed the team an extra option of spin. Overall this is probably the best possible squad at the moment and it looks pretty strong. The series will be interesting and will for sure be a good practice ahead of the World T20 which is supposed to take place in Sri Lanka. This series will give the players a good chance to acclimatize themselves to the conditions in Sri Lanka ahead of the marquee tournament in September.

Squad for the Sri Lanka tour:

MS Dhoni (capt & wk), Virat Kohli (vice-capt), Gautam Gambhir, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina, Manoj Tiwary, R Ashwin, Vinay Kumar, Rahul Sharma, Ashok Dinda, Pragyan Ojha, Virender Sehwag, Zaheer Khan, Umesh Yadav, Ajinkya Rahane

Mid-Table scrum makes IPL V interesting

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The IPL V is nearing the Play-offs and we are yet to determine the 4 semi-finalists. The competition this year has been extremely close and we are still unsure of the two teams who will join Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Delhi Daredevils (DD). KKR and DD are without doubt the two strongest teams in the competition. They have won most of their games and have qualified for the play-offs. Both the teams have been excellently led by their respective captains and have a very good bowling attack. The rest of the teams though have been involved in an absolute fight for the final two spots. Let us look at the teams with a chance to make it to the play-offs.

Mumbai Indians - Mumbai Indians are the other strong team who has had a mixed IPL. They have managed to win 3 of their last 4 games and are probably closest to the play-offs with 5 games in hand. Mumbai Indians have struggled with their batting. They have heavily relied on Rohit Sharma and Sachin Tendulkar to get them over the line on most of the occasions which has been their undoing. Probably the induction of Dwayne Smith in the middle order might give them the required spark.

Rajasthan Royals - Rajasthan Royals are the other team who have risen above their underdog status and have posted a serious challenge to the play-offs spot. Shane Watson and Shaun Tait in the playing X1 have given them the required balance and are currently looking like a strong squad.

Royal Challengers Bangalore – The major issue for RCB this season has been their bowling attack. In spite of having Murali in their squad they have been unable to play him due to the squad composition. They have often conceded 170+ totals this season which has greatly affected their batting performance. Their batting too has been highly inconsistent. The heavy reliance on Chris Gayle and AB De Villiers has been striking this season but with Dilshan stepping up to the plate in the recent games things might finally look up for the 2011 finalists. It will be interesting to see if they manage to play Murali in the squad who in spite of taking 8 wickets in 4 games finds himself in the sidelines.

Chennai Super Kings – The defending champions probably have had their worst season by a distance. The team has struggled to find the right combination throughout. Their batting has failed to find consistency and their inability to finish off close games has been the bane for the team from the south. They still have 4 games in hand and are currently looking at winning all the games if at all they want to make it to the play-offs. Things aren’t looking that rosy for the two time champions.

Kings X1 Punjab – They are yet another team who started as an underdog but have far surpassed the pre-tournament expectations. They are currently place 5th on the table with a very good chance of qualifying for the play-offs. In the absence of their captain Adam Gilchrist, David Hussey has led the team admirably well and with the addition of Azhar Mahmood they look a good squad capable of defeating anyone on their day. They have a good bowling attack and are looking good to challenge the top teams this season. It will be interesting to see what their combination would be when Gilchrist returns.

This has probably been the first season where the competition has been so close. There are just few games to go and we are still not sure of the semi-final line up. All the teams mentioned above have a great chance of making it to the play-offs. The teams cannot afford a slip up anymore and the captains would be aware of that. The next few days will be extremely interesting and could decide the fate of most of the teams.