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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Star-studded Sides Promise Cracking Opener

By: Shrinivas Uppili
Edited By: Ajay Suresh

With the inclusion of new stars, the Defending champions will be looking
 to strike early this tournament and regain their momentum

With the defending champions Mumbai Indians, taking on the glamorous Kolkata Knight Riders in the Sheik Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, the IPL 2014 is expected to begin with a cracker.  Given the track record, it does seem like the advantage is with Mumbai, but with both teams having an equal set of strong players in their squad, the match looks at balance.

Although there have been relatively significant losses for both sides this auction, their owners have managed to grab some brilliant picks which might make up for the losses. Kolkata would certainly feel the heat due to the loss of McCullum, a star who is in ripe form since the Indian tour this February. He’s repetitively proved that he has been a vital asset for any team. The absence of Brett Lee’s stealth would hurt KKR dearly. Mumbai would also face some trouble due to the absence of their legendary icon, Tendulkar. He has been a source of inspiration and motivation for Mumbai. Johnson is another ‘one that went away’. His mercurial rise in the past few months have made him look rough and deadly. But with all said, the teams have acquired a couple of valuable additions who can turn games around. The format of T20 also provides the balance to any match since in this format, absolutely nothing is predictable!

 Ø  Rohit Sharma vs. Sunil Narine: Rohit’s recent show at the World T20 has shown that he is quite mastering the way he
handles spin. His exploits against Narine in the group stage match would’ve certainly fuelled Narine up. However, many still find it difficult to read Narine. The UAE tracks are known to help spin bowlers, and we’ve seen it happening it with Saeed Ajmal. Will Narine be able to make the most out of the pitch or will Rohit get the better of him?

Ø Corey Anderson vs. Jacques Kallis: Two mighty all-rounders. The former yet to forge a mark, while the latter’s retired a hero! Who will emerge victorious in this clash of the titans?
Ø Gautam Gambhir vs. Lasith Malinga: The KKR skipper’s got no better opportunity to redeem himself than this. His composed yet aggressive batting on top of the order will be tested by the suave and offensive bowling of Malinga, another name which every opponent would be wary about.
Ø KKR’s bowling vs. the Mumbai Batting: With a strong bowling line-up that’s second only to SRH, KKR could cause some woes to any batting line-up. But with big names such as Narine and Morkel, can Mumbai still have the last laugh?
Ø Kieron Pollard vsYusuf Pathan: Two great strikers of the ball who can hit any ball out of the park. Both their contributions will be key to their respective teams.
The key lies in Kolkata making the most out of their bowling, especially Narine, who could extract maximum turn from the pitch. Morkel is another key player who would like to bounce the ball as much as possible, and create problems for the opening batsmen. Skipper Gambhir even quoted yesterday that he firmly believes that it’s the bowlers who’ll win them matches. Vinay Kumar, who guided Karnataka to a Ranji win this season, is in prime form, and he could also add to the misery of the batsmen. Piyush Chawla is another good leggie, who could provide some assistance to Narine. Gambhir should make the best out of the occasion, and he should bear in mind the fact that UAE tracks are friendly for batting and spin. Mumbai, on the other hand, have an explosive looking line-up. Big match winners like Mr. Cricket, Pollard, Malinga, Anderson and Rohit; they do pose a grave threat. Rohit Sharma must make use of the two excellent spinners in his team, who are equally good. Ojha and Harbhajan had performed well last season, and Rohit must make sure that they step in bowl at the right time, so as to pick crucial wickets or slow down the run rate. Lasith Malinga is another deadly bowler at the death, and his recent performance as the skipper of the Lankan team this World T20 has certainly earned him laurels. For now, this match certainly seems as a clash of two good bowling units.

Mumbai however, would believe otherwise. They have a tremendous track record against KKR through all seasons of the IPL. Having an
80 % success rate against KKR, they would be holding this as a psychological advantage today. However, given the fact that both the teams have a fairly new bunch of players, this does seem like an even contest. Both Mumbai and KKR must make use of the local pool of talent, such as Jasprit Bumrah and Suryakumar Yadav, to make their team strong and balanced. Jasprit had created problems for the batsmen in the initial stages of the previous season. He has an astounding average of 22.61 in all domestic T20s he’s played, and he would be waiting for an opportunity to get into the limelight. The leadership and manhandling skills would be tested. KKR has been seen as a side with a lot of potential, yet they've failed to utilize it completely. Mumbai on the other hand, is a team that rises to the occasion. However, after the auctions, one could certainly say that their Team Balance has taken a beating. Kolkata has players, but now it’s all in Gambhir’s hands. He must make good use of the players he’s got to swing the chances in his favour.

Looking at team balance and fitness woes, it looks as if KKR has the upper hand in today’s match. KKR does seem to be a stronger side. However, given their poor record against Mumbai, they still need to work a lot and change their tactics.  KKR does have the upper hand in today’s game if one doesn’t look at their past. But hold on, you never know what’s going to happen, because this is T20 cricket, and unpredictability is in the DNA of this format.

Mumbai Indians Expected 11: Rohit Sharma (Capt.), Mike Hussey, Lasith Malinga, Kieron Pollard, Corey Anderson, Ambati Rayudu, Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Jasprit Bumrah, Aditya Tare (WK) and Jalaj Saxena. 

Kolkata Knight Riders Expected 11: Gautam Gambhir (Capt.), Jacques Kallis, Sunil Narine, Morne Morkel, Yusuf Pathan, Manvinder Bisla (WK), Umesh Yadav, Suryakumar Yadav, Robin Uthappa, Vinay Kumar and Piyush Chawla.


Ø Lasith Malinga
Ø Kieron Pollard
Ø Jacques Kallis
Ø Pragyan Ojha
Ø Corey Anderson
Ø Vinay Kumar 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Big Names win big games!

By: Ajay Suresh

The Kings XI Punjab haven’t really done what the title says over the past IPL Seasons although they've had the big names.They will be looking for a massive turnaround this tournament as they progress towards their first match against the Chennai Super Kings against whom, the Kings XI would want a strong start. The previous years have been unlucky for the Kings XI as they weren't able to make the semis often even though they performed brilliantly especially during IPL 6 where they stormed past positions when they were almost about to lose. They also clearly swept past teams like RCB who had a stronger say in the tournament. But somehow, they lost their momentum during the crunch games and hence lost hold of their position at the points table.

This year though, things are expected to be different. The Kings XI look like one of the strongest teams on paper as they march into the tournament with their newly acquired squad. Players like Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson are match winners by themselves, and they will be key during the crunch games where the Kings XI have usually failed. Another couple of key players for the Kings XI will be David Miller and George Bailey around whom the batting revolves. Miller who acquired his title of ‘Miller the Killer’ in the previous IPL season won as he won games almost single-handedly against the oppositions. His ability to contain himself when the ball is seaming around or when the team’s under pressure is a key element the Kings XI will look to. His ability to go berserk as all IPL fans know, is threatening to any team. His Australian counterpart though, hasn’t really had much of an IPL experience. George Bailey has spent most of his time on the bench for CSK and hasn’t really had any IPL Experience. Since Adam Gilchrist has retired, and left a large whole in the KXIP side, all the pressure will be on George Bailey to fit in his shoes! Although he’s a match winner and a strong captain, he’s looked in no comfort during the T20 World Cup where his country steamed out early. But as he said in one of his interviews, T20 isn’t the format where players are “in” or “out” of form. All it takes is a couple of good hits to get going. With all said and done, will Bailey be able to show the big match temperament and win games for his side? We’ll have to wait and watch.

Virender Sehwag. Two words which can make bowlers run off the field. When it’s Sehwag’s day, he can tear an opposition apart with well-timed and powerful shots. He can demolish and demoralize absolutely any attack. Currently, he’s been in a lean patch, but he will be looking to make a big comeback not only for KXIP, but also for a place in the Indian Side. His temperament and persistence will be important as he will look to score a boundary off every ball he faces. The mere presence of a Sehwag can demoralize oppositions as we’ve witnessed in the past. Having a huge reputation of making big scores, Sehwag is an element which puts KXIP as one of the favorites to win this IPL.

You can’t talk about KXIP’s magnificent IPL Auctions without talking about their big buy, Mitchell Johnson. Johnson has been at the top of his game in the past few months and was one of the key player any team would have wanted during the auctions. But KXIP snatched Johnson from the hands of Mumbai to make their side as strong as ever. Johnson’s buy will not only add to the team’s assets, but will also be a boost of morale in the team as they’ll feel safe in the hands of a game changing bowler. Although the UAE pitches aren’t really fast bowler friendly, Mitch is expected to rip the surface with his heavy bouncers which will give batsmen nightmares.

One of the concerns for KXIP this time around though, will be their lack of spinners. On spinner friendly pitches in the UAE, spinners can be a real asset to any team. But KXIP doesn’t seem to have any spinner to rely on except Murali Kartik. Although Murali is a match winner on his day, once he has a bad day, KXIP will have no spinners to look to. This is a major concern which has to be addressed by the team management as they’ll look to balance their side. 

Summing it up, KXIP has one of the best squads in IPL 2014 and will be looking to seal the proceedings on April 18th against CSK. They look strong as a unit and will look forward to race for the cup! It will be a competitive IPL this year as all the teams are well balanced. But KXIP can never be kept out of the race as they will be fancying their chances with the backing of their explosive batting and threatening bowling attack.

Flashy KKR Look to Turn the Tables

Edited By: Ajay Suresh
Article By: Shrinivas Uppili

A few days ago, we all must have come across the TV show ‘Living with KKR’ on the Discovery channel. Watching that program, anyone could tell that it hadn’t been an immaculate journey for the team and it’s celebrity owners. The show threw light on the evolution of KKR, the ups and downs they’ve faced as well as the future prospects of the team. The One-time champions have had an average record through most of the IPL, except for 2012, when they’d pulled out spectacular performances. Would they look for a repeat of 2012 this time around?

Kolkata has always been seen as a balanced team that has failed to use all their potential. Their poor performance last season has seriously garnered quite some criticism, considering the fact that they were the defending champions. However, Jay & Co. have made some brilliant picks this Auction, to bring about the perfect recipe this season.

But you can't say it has been a perfect auction for KKR this year. They've lost a couple of good players like Brendon McCullum who could've made KKR a much stronger side with his current form and unpredictable batting at the top. They've also lost the bowling of Brett Lee who started their previous season with a WICKET! He could have shattered the stumps and contained runs in any situation. KKR would definitely be missing the services of Brett Lees experience.

Nevertheless, they have a very promising set of players this season as well,

Their Batting line-up has been further strengthened with the addition of Manish Pandey, a flamboyant youth who would be remembered as the first Indian to score a century in the IPL. His healthy first-class average of 53.37 talks a lot about the way he carries himself whilst at the crease. He was also a part of the Karnataka team that won the Ranji trophy this year.

Suryakumar Yadav and Robin Uthappa are also two key Indian batsmen to watch out for. Yadav has a good First-class average of 50.97. Manvinder Bisla, a man who famously won the trophy for KKR in 2012, is another player to watch out for in the flat and dry pitches of the UAE.

The KKR also boasts Jacques Kallis, who is undisputedly the best all-rounder at present. His ability to change the game with both the ball and the bat for more than a decade now, has inspired cricket lovers.

Shakib Al Hassan is also an excellent all-rounder whose left-arm spin slows the run rate in the middle overs. However, his performances in the Asia Cup and the World T20 have thrown him out of the spotlight for a while. He will be looking to redeem himself this IPL.

Yusuf Pathan is another talented all-rounder who would like to have a go this season. Known to be a hard hitter of the ball, his performances in the first leg of the tournament is something to be watched out for.

Undoubtedly, KKR has one of the strongest bowling line-ups that is second only to SRH.
Their latest addition, Morne Morkel, is known for being a nightmare for opponents on his day. But can he get the ball to rise in the flat UAE pitches?

Vinay Kumar is another man in great form. His courage and leadership skills helped guide Karnataka to their Ranji win this season. He was in dangerous form throughout the tournament, and his magical spell in the Irani Trophy makes him look deadly, and he would be looking forward to carry on his momentum.

Umesh Yadav is another great talent, and the Vidarbha pacer would help make crucial breakthroughs initially and even in the final overs.

Sunil Narine is another uncanny spinner who would help slow down the opponent’s run rate in the middle overs, and his bowling is still difficult to pick for many batsmen. Piyush Chawla could also prove to be a great asset for the team, and his googlies and leg-break could prove to be useful for KKR.

With all said and done, KKR does have a couple of impact players. On paper, they definitely do look strong. But finally, performances talk. KKR would be looking forward to make an early strike in the tournament with a win in their first match against Mumbai. Their poor record against Mumbai is something they should be wary of. Gautam Gambhir does have a great team under him, but his leadership skills would be tested. Overall, KKR would be hoping to justify their owners’ choices and make sure that they do everything right to repeat their performance in IPL 2012!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Making Hay while the Sun Shines

By: Ajay Suresh

Nobody would’ve thought that the Sunrisers Hyderabad would deliver such performances as a debut franchise in IPL 6. Nobody was warned of the storm-like bowling attack they possessed which ripped apart many teams while chasing low totals last season. Rather unfortunately, the intention they showed while bowling was nowhere close to what they showed as a batting unit. The Sunrisers Hyderabad have risen from the lights of defeat many times with their power packed bowling attack spearheaded by the world class Dale Steyn. Although this is a new beginning for a new squad, SRH’s core team remains the same.

The aspect which was under the scanner last year was Sunrisers Hyderabad’s batting. Their batting consistently failed last season and they needed their bowlers to bail them out in various occasions. Their batting concerns remained at the end of last season as the Sunrisers Hyderabad failed to qualify for the final. Putting the previous year behind, the Sunrisers management marched into the IPL Auctions this year and made sure that their batting wasn’t going to affect them this season. With big buys of David Warner, Aaron Finch, Moises Henriques and Anirudh Srikkanth, the Sunrisers Hyderabad have balanced their squad in a near perfect way. They also managed to buy back a couple of players from their previous squad to maintain the team structure which had done so well last year.

As Sunrisers Hyderabad look potentially threatening this season, they would be hoping that their strength on paper reflects on the field. Their strong bowling line up has also been bolstered with a couple of good buys like Bhuvaneshwar Kumar who can swing the ball at the top. There’s a saying that a captain is only as good as his team. The strength behind the Sunrisers Hyderabad will prove to have a positive impact on Shikhar Dhawan’s captaincy as he awaits the test with eagerness. He has proved to be a brilliant captain for SRH in a couple of matches last season, but can he handle the pressure of a lead batsman along with captaincy?
This season will definitely be a test of quality for the Sunrisers Hyderabad as all the teams look equally strong due to the re-distribution of players in the IPL Auctions this year. Whether they will capitalize on their newly acquired batting strength still remains a question. The Wicket Post wishes Sunrisers Hyderabad the best of luck to put on a competitive performance this IPL.

Key Players

Opening Combination: SRH has a couple of good openers in their squad. It will be up to them to make sure that they select the best combination to succeed at the top. David Warner, Aaron Finch and Shikhar Dhawan are all aggressive openers and possibly, if Aaron Finch and Dhawan open the innings, we can expect some fireworks at the top.

Dale Steyn: Of fast bowlers, the most dangerous one in the world is undoubtedly Dale Steyn. Steyn can rattle batting orders single handedly. He won a game for South Africa when the opposition needed only 7 runs off the last over. Undoubtedly, if Dale Steyn can extract the pace and swing off the pitches in UAE, Sunrisers can run through their opponents easily.

Darren Sammy: Being one of the best finishers in SRH, Darren Sammy can turn games around with massive blows. His ability to strike the ball with immense power can ensure good finishes for SRH even from a weak position. He also keeps things tight with his bowling and can be a handful for other teams to handle.

Amit Mishra: With his ability to extract turn from almost any pitch, Amit Mishra will play the lead spinner’s role for SRH. All his variations and ability to turn the ball will have to come into play if he wants to win games for his team. But can he handle the pressure of the lead spinner? We’ll have to wait and watch.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

‘Red-hot’ entertainment guaranteed!

IPL Team Preview #2: Royal Challengers Bangalore
- Credits: Shrinivas Uppili

With a top-class batting line-up that produces a lot of fireworks, RCB are undoubtedly a leading contender for the IPL.

It seemed so near, yet it was too far for the RCB throughout the IPL. To redeem themselves, they would be looking forward to defy all odds and make themselves seem as one of the lead contenders for this Pepsi IPL. In many ways, they've been seen as an unpredictable yet uncanny team. Will they be breaking their title jinx with a win this season?

When someone talks about the Royal Challengers Bangalore, all that comes into their minds is the great batting potential they hold. With big names such as Kohli, De Villiers, Yuvraj and most importantly, Christopher Henry Gayle, they’re sure to produce a blitzkrieg, and make life uneasy for the opponent bowlers. The conditions in the UAE would favor RCB, as they host dry, flat tracks, like in the sub-continent. However, what’re the problems their own bowlers would be facing?

As easy as you’d like it to be, the RCB is a perfect example of a team where there are a perfect set of batsmen and a not-so perfect set of bowlers. With big names such as Vinay Kumar and Zaheer Khan being sold to KKR and MI respectively this auction, their local pool of pace has certainly taken a beating. However, RCB fans could still breath a little easier. They’ve made a few good buys such as Varun Aaron, and Sandeep Warrier. Sandeep is a brilliant buy, considering the fact that he has good first-class record (35 wickets in 11, with an average of 28.7), and his medium pace would prove to be helpful for the RCB. Then again, they’ve got experience in the form of Ravi Rampaul, Murali and Morkel, and finally, some young stealth in the form of Mitchell Starc. However, RCB’s bowling line-up still remains a big question mark, as they’ve had a handful of instances where the bowling line-up has failed to capitalize on their batting performances. We’ve seen it happening twice against the Kings XI Punjab last IPL. Ashok Dinda would be looking forward to get a chance to prove himself right this season, considering the fact that his poor performances in the shortest format has been overshading his growth.

Speaking of all-rounders, Yuvraj, a clean match winner, Albie, an excellent Middle order batsman, and needless to say, Chris Gayle, could help boost runs and take crucial wickets. Chris Gayle could act as a substitute spinner, in the absence of a main spinner such as Murali. The question here is, was Yuvraj really worth 14 crores, given the fact that he is in a lean patch? Only time will tell. The question of unpredictability comes again. As far as we’ve seen, RCB is the most unpredictable team.

Dynamism and elegance are two great qualities any leader must possess, and Kohli is one of those leaders. His juggernaut of getting runs hasn’t ever had a halt in the past year, and there’s no doubt about him looking very threatening at the crease. He is one of the best batsmen on earth today, and his mercurial growth and rise through ranks is something all opponents have been looking out for. Many would talk ill about his aggression, but there are still many who feel that it’s a plus point for him. Touted to be the next Indian Skipper, the former U-19 world champion is someone everyone would set their eyes on.

Overall, one could definitely expect a lot of fireworks from this team. However, their unpredictability lies with their bowling performance. RCB should make maximum use of the flat & dry tracks in UAE, and also make good use of the local pool of talent such as Sandeep Warrier, who can prove to be a great asset for them. They should be wary of archrivals such as MI, whom they don’t have a good record against. Let’s hope for the best from Kohli & Co!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Yellow Brigade’s Strength hides Behind Controversies

By: Ajay Suresh

Will these two be able to bail CSK out in key moments?
With one of the strongest batting line-ups in the IPL, CSK as always, are one of the favorites to win IPL 2014. Although they have been one of the most controversial teams of the IPL in the past year, they’re inevitable batting strength has been bolstered with well-planned buys of Brendon McCullum, Faf Du Plessis and Dwayne Smith in this year’s IPL Auctions. Chennai has always been the team with the most in-form players over the past few IPL Seasons and it is no different this year. The lights of Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum will look to attack and de-moralize bowlers at the top, something which CSK has failed to do often.  Although CSK has one of the most potent batting line ups filled with variety, their bowling as always remains under the scanner.

The main brain behind CSKs successful IPL Seasons has been the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. By taking CSK to 5 out of 6 IPL finals, MSD has sustained CSKs momentum. His intelligence and sense of calmness on field will continue to be a key factor for CSK this IPL. Mahendra Singh Dhoni almost led the Indian team to another ICC Trophy as they had a flawless season but just lost his spark in the finals. Will Dhoni inspire his Yellow Brigade to march into yet another IPL Finals? Dhoni’s trust in his young bowlers and his Zen attitude on field has added a new dimension towards captaincy. We’ll have to watch how much of magic MSD can recreate on field this year.

Will consistency remain as the core squad remains?

CSKs main trouble over the past few seasons has been its bowling and it continues to look like a problem. Their bowling doesn’t look too impressive on paper but we never know how unpredictable bowlers like Hilfhenhaus and Ishwar Pandey can be. Although the fast bowling department has a big question mark over it, the spin department seems settled with top class spinners like Ashwin, Jadeja and Samuel Badree. Dhoni loves to play around with his spinners, but the question is whether the pitches in the UAE will provide any sort of assistance to the spinners. The Wicket Post wishes all the best to CSK to give a top-notch performance in IPL 2014, leaving behind the controversies it’s been hurt by.

Expected Game Changers:

Brendon McCullum: With his recent form and ability to create immense bat speed, Brendon McCullum will determine how well CSK does at the top. He will look to attack the spinners and also provide the quick starts which CSK will depend on at the top. With a couple of dangerous batsmen alongside, Brendon McCullum will be able to play without pressure and free his arms.

Dwayne Smith: His recent showing in the World T20 has proven that Dwayne Smith can provide a quick boost to the run-rate at any point of time in the innings. Dwayne Smith is likely to open the innings along with Brendon McCullum which would take a huge burden off his shoulders since Baz has that ability to hit the ball into the orbit and provide those quick starts. This will lift a huge weight off Smith’s shoulders and allow him to play his natural game.

Ravichandran Ashwin: His recent performance in the World T20 shows what kind of an asset Ashwin can be for any team. His variations of spin and skill in varying his lines and lengths will keep the batsmen guessing. His specialization in the T20 format will also give Dhoni a trump card to go to when the team’s in trouble.

Suresh Raina: has been in his best of forms as we saw glimpses of what he can do in the ICC World T20. His immaculate ability to strike the ball and his determination on the field can win matches for CSK. Other than being a great fielder, Raina has also been a spinner that Dhoni has turned to often against left handers. His consistency in the T20 format may just have a “Kohliesque” effect on the side.

MS Dhoni: ”Well, you know,” you can never speak of CSK without talking about the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. His calmness on field and massive ability to turn games around with his intelligence and batting has won CSK a couple of IPLs. There’s not much to talk about the obvious ability of MSD, but his presence in the team will send shivers down against CSKs opponents.