Horses For Courses
IPL-2012 is here. Or as we number-crunching folks like to call it, IPL-V.
Not much has changed, but everything has changed.
Chennai SuperKings are Champions (with a tired Dhoni still at the helm), Mumbai Indians are favorites again (with additional strength), the Kochi Tuskers are no more, The Rajasthan Royals are hanging on by the skin of Warne’s neck, Pune have the leader of leaders, the Daredevils may actually live upto their ambitious name and the Royal Challengers might miss a few of their games- what with their airline problems.
Let us take a look at the first FOUR of the NINE teams participating, along with some interesting tidbits of new information and predictions for the long-winding Group Stages:
Chennai SuperKings: (Defending Champions)
News- As usual, they retain most of the core team that have reached 3 out of 4 finals. They might never look favorites on form, but they cannot be underestimated at the crunch moments.
Ravindra Jadeja, the 10 crore man. One expects him to contribute more with his left-arm off-spin than with his faux lusty hitting. Overrated, yes, and may not always merit a place.
MVP (Most Valuable Player)- Albie Morkel. Big-hitter, to end the innings with the calculating Dhoni. Frontline bowler. Enough said.
Prediction- 5 or 6. No top 4 finish this time.
Going, once. Going, twice. Gone.
News- Much improved and balanced lineup that will depend lesser on the openers and Malinga. They begin as favorites, but often falter in the latter stages. Need to pace their tournament accordingly. Chopping and changing may not always be the answer.
Veteran timer Herschelle Gibbs. Blows hot and cold, but might do well to fit into the unstable opener’s slot if needed.
Mitchell Johnson- erratic, but just the support Malinga needed- fast and murderous on his day. Will be available only after the West Indies Test series, though (most of April).
Dinesh Karthik- some Indian wicketkeeping blood after Aditya Tare in the first few editions, handy finisher.
Richard Levi- current blitz record holder for fastest ever T20 International century and maximum sixes in an innings. South African sensation, looking to prove he isn’t just another flash in the pan.
Clint McKay- the Granddaddy of slower balls, and Australia’s limited overs wicket taking specialist. His variation makes him tough to pick. Sure to be one of the highest wicket takers in IPL-5. Playing under Sachin Tendulkar will be poetic justice for most Indian fans.
Pragyan Ojha- This squad just keeps getting better. Left-arm spinner, much needed in the middle overs. But wait…
Robin Peterson- Arrived with a bang onto the scene last year with Shane Warne using him as pinch-hitter and opening bowler. The Royals will be sad to let go of him. Competition for Ojha.
RP Singh- The man with the golden IPL arm. The 4 player foreign rule might get him a lot of games.
MVP- Kieron Pollard. Make or break season for the in-form West Indian hitter. Fresh from an Australian onslaught, he will look to come up higher the order and seal games within 15 overs. Tendulkar needs to be smarter about using Rohit Sharma and Pollard’s services this year. Of course, this is still subject to Pollard’s selection in the West Indian Test Squad.
Prediction- Top 2
News- Chief Ganguly is back where he seems to belong, after being royally ignored by every team last year. The man has a knack for coming out on top in the long run. Needs a Shane Warneisque year to turn things around for this team. Weak from the start, with Hopes, Marsh and Yuvraj out. Still have two foreign slots to fill, with their neighbours Mumbai having a problem of plenty.
Ashok Dinda, Ganguly’s favorite blue-eyed boy. Currently the best fast bowler in India, according to Dada.
Angelo Mathews- Easily the MVP too, and the fortunes of this team will lie on his slender talented shoulders. Finisher par excellence and useful bowler. The problem is- he is injury prone and his future as a bowler remains in doubt. He will also miss the first few games, as part of the Test Squad against England.
Ashish Nehra- Will use this stage to jump back into the spotlight.
Marlon Samuels- Currently the most confused batsman in the West Indies Lineup. Struggling to come to terms with International cricket after a two year ban. Lowest Strike-rate in the top order. He will look to find form in the Test squad, if selected, and then build on his striking skills all over again.
Steve Smith- The Blonde bombshell will be a useful all-rounder. Might just be a surprise.
Luke Wright- Talented English hitter, looking to seal a place in his team.
Michael Clarke- Will play the last 8 games, and look to provide some class in the erratic middle order. Valuable vice captain to Dada.
MVP- Robin Uthappa. He must convince the world that he is not a colossal waste of talent, and rise above his 30-odd starts from last year. He needs to learn the art of not playing daft strokes at crucial times.
Prediction- Surprise pick in top 4.
The Great Bharat Carnival
News- After a horrible two years, the Daredevils- led by ‘injured’ Viru- have made a few smart changes, and will look to bat the enemy out of the gates. Individual brilliance, again, will be their forte. So far, most of their new picks will miss out on most of the opening games due to international commitments, and that includes David Warner. A weak start will need to be converted into a late surge.
Doug Bracewell, one of New Zealand’s most valuable Test bowlers. Will have to acclimatize quickly, and compete with the erratic Varun Aaron for a place.
Mahela Jayawardena- The best Sri Lankan batsman of all time, in silken touch, will look to extend his dominance in the sub continent. Ideal number 3, and inspirational leader. He will miss the first few games, and Delhi will hope to pull through without too many losses until his return.
Kevin Pieterson- On again, after being off for a while. Perfect number 4, and with Viru and Warner at the top, and Mahela following, the DD batting line-up looks set to dare and scare in 2012. Again, will miss the first few games with Jayawardena and probably arrive on the same flight together.
Ross Taylor- The hardest hitter in the line-up, the Daredevils will look to bat the opposition out of every game. The bad news- he has just been ruled out for 4 months with a broken hand.
Andre Russell- easily the best buy, and most consistent West Indian all-rounder currently.
MVP- Andre Russell. Unorthodox, perfect finisher, good temperament and a smart bowler. Will be a handful in these conditions. The bad news is that he is part of a growing injury list.
Prediction- top 4, depending on how BADLY they begin the season without their T20 stars.