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Who did well in the IPL, and who didn't
Srinivas Bhogle, Purnendu Maji and Soumya Hait | May 31, 2008
The IPL league games threw up many surprises. Very few expected Rajasthan Royals [Images] to be the best team (and now a finalist); nobody expected the Deccan Chargers to do so badly.
We'll discuss each team's performance, and identify the five best and three most disappointing players. While doing so we shall italicize what appear to be key pointers.
Deccan Chargers Hyderabad (won 2, lost 12)
Rohit Sharma confirmed that he's perhaps India's finest batting prospect. He scored a lot of runs; stylishly and apparently unhurriedly - that's why his strike rate of 148 seems a bit of a surprise. Adam Gilchrist batted brilliantly once and efficiently most other times, but he isn't used to losing so many matches - and eventually that began to show. He should probably give up wicket-keeping because he didn't seem to enjoy it. Venugopal Rao, who returned after Laxman's injury, completely remodeled his batting - and discovered the joy and virtue of hitting big sixes.
These three Hyderabad batsmen were sending a message: everyone must learn to hit sixes. Curiously enough, someone who could belt the biggest sixes forgot how to do it at the IPL: Shahid Afridi however made up by bowling sufficiently well. R P Singh bowled with verve, and even briefly wore the purple cap, but he will realize that his economy rate of 8.6 is worrying. With a PVI of 3383, R P Singh is also overpriced.
One expected Herschelle Gibbs [Images] to take over the lethal striker's role after Andrew Symonds [Images] left. But Gibbs was simply not there; perhaps he's forgotten to bat on Indian pitches after his long absence. If Gibbs can't strike hard, he's not valuable. In fact Hyderabad must now have realized that you shouldn't pick too many lethal strikers; in 20 overs you'll never need more than two. Scott Styris was in because he could do a bit of everything; but he seemed jaded, aged and bereft of ideas. Chaminda Vaas never seemed sure of his place in the final eleven, because only four foreigners could play. Hyderabad got its foreign player 'mix' wrong: too many batsmen, not enough bowlers.
Royal Challengers Bangalore (won 4, lost 10)
With an MVPI of 361, Rahul Dravid was still the best player. If one had to quibble, one would point to his low strike rate of 124. But Dravid usually came in at 20/2 or 30/3 and his first task was to ensure that his team lasted 20 overs! Bangalore's biggest problem was that they didn't have good opening batsmen. Praveen Kumar, a modest bowling all-rounder, who might have failed to find a place in the final eleven of a team like Punjab Kings XI, was second best. That seems to confirm what everyone has been saying: Bangalore's team selection was horribly wrong.
Mark Boucher too would admit that he didn't do well, but he's still third best. Boucher's strike rate of 127 tells another story. Bangalore's batsmen never attacked the bowling. Dale Steyn kept it tight, but his bowling partner, Zaheer Khan, was expensive. Bangalore didn't have the bowlers to keep good batsmen quiet. Nathan Bracken [Images], with his economical spells, could have made the difference.
Bangalore's big disappointments were Jacques Kallis, Cameron White and Anil Kumble. Kallis was supposed to hold one end up and pick up 1-2 wickets; he failed abysmally. White was expected to score big runs very quickly, but couldn't fathom slow Indian pitches. Kumble should have refused to play; India's greatest test bowler should have realized that this isn't his brand of cricket - if it is cricket at all.
Kolkata Knight Riders [Images] (won 6, lost 7, NR 1)
Sourav Ganguly was Kolkata's best player. On his day he batted with fiery aggression; and he bowled with an excellent economy rate of 6.4. But after Brendon McCullum and Ricky Ponting [Images] left, Kolkata's batting suddenly seemed shallow. David Hussey did what he could but Kolkata's unsettled batting order was always a worry. The Eden Gardens pitch was temperamental, the floodlights tended to misbehave and the team never got into a groove. When Kolkata won it was only because of an exceptional performance by individual players: McCullum, Shoaib Akhtar [Images] and Ganguly.
Prasanta Saha proved to be a very tidy keeper who could also bat adventurously. Umar Gul averaged two wickets per match and hit big sixes; he is a fine prospect when he is fit and happy with his captain. With a PVI of 517, Gul proved to be a great buy; in fact, fast bowlers who can take a couple of top order wickets and consistently hit 20 runs in 10 balls are very valuable.
Ishant Sharma was in some sort of a trance - all that money, and all that hair, seemed to disorient him. He failed to be a strike bowler, and in the later matches he wasn't even economical. Shoaib Akhtar needed just two overs to show what an exceptional strike bowler can do. No one knew what Mohammed Hafeez was doing - or what he was supposed to do. As for Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain closed shop as soon he found some nasty deliveries hitting his gloves. He had a series to win in the Caribbean, and, at a measly $400,000, an injury just wasn't worth it. So he dished out some advice to his captain, posed for a few photographs, dropped a catch and pushed off.
Mumbai Indians [Images] (won 7, lost 7)
Sanath Jayasuriya [Images] seemed strangely listless when the IPL started but soon, especially after his captain's appearance, it started raining sixes. There were 31 in all - and most of them in the right gaps and just a few feet over the rope. Jayasuriya was IPL's most valuable player (Shane Watson has overtaken him after the first semi-final) because he realized that 20-20 cricket is all about hitting sixes - even if they don't win you matches, they bring the crowds in.
Shaun Pollock and Dwayne Bravo were two of IPL's top three bowling all-rounders (the third, Farveez Maharoof, carried his good form to the semi-finals). Bravo conceded more runs, but he also scored a few more. Robin Uthappa made it to the top five because he scored a lot of runs. But his low strike rate of 115 is a puzzle; Uthappa commanded a price of $800,000 because he was seen as a demolition man; he was supposed to take a bow after hitting 60 in 30 balls - not after taking a regulation catch at long-on. Abhishek Nayar struck you as an exemplary team man; his strike rate of 149 was because of his busy and inventive batting.
Sachin Tendulkar's fans were disappointed because they didn't see enough of him first, and, when he did eventually make his appearance, he seemed strangely subdued with a strike rate of just 107. While Jayasuriya's sixes at the other end were good fun, Sachin's sixes would always have been far more special. It's all right in ODI cricket for just one of the openers to fire, but in T20 cricket both the openers must fire together. Harbhajan Singh's slap was disappointing because Mumbai lost its only spinner and a very attacking batsman. Ronchi came with the reputation of being a big hitter, but he never seemed to survive long enough to show his real mettle.
Delhi Daredevils (won 7, lost 6, NR 1)
Virender Sehwag [Images] and Gautam Gambhir always fired together to give Delhi those electric starts. But their early disappearance usually meant big trouble (as Delhi discovered in last night's semi-final). Shikhar Dhawan was durable enough to support the openers, but he was incapable of forcing the pace himself as his strike rate of 118 suggests.
Farveez Maharoof is just the sort of fast bowling all-rounder that we are recommending for T20 cricket; a fast and attacking bowler and a furiously aggressive batsman with a strike rate of 163. This sort of aggression is doubly valuable because it demoralizes the opponent. In fact it is interesting to compare Maharoof with his compatriot Dilhara Fernando: both have similar skills - Fernando would probably be a better bet in a test match - but as the game gets shorter, Maharoof's value rises sharply. Glenn McGrath was a marvel who proved that a bowler with exceptional variety and control can still ride a T20 game with just one skill; but if you lose that control your value drops very rapidly.
It's not clear what was Manoj Tiwary's role in the Delhi team, and indeed why he was bought for $675,000. The uncharitable would call him very lucky; his name was called out at just the right time in the IPL auction - when the bidding was irrational and unsettled. Shoaib Malik came in late and couldn't settle down; Sehwag should have sent him in to bat at No. 3, because the Pakistan captain needs an over or two to get 'unwrapped'. Malik's bowling too didn't get going, so the other foreign player, Maharoof, was seen to offer a much more attractive package. Mohammed Asif failed to fire: either it was some injury, or he might not be the T20 kind of bowler. He was hailed as the next McGrath, but the old boy, bowling from the other end, quickly showed who the real master was.
Chennai Super Kings [Images] (won 8, lost 6)
Two of Chennai's best players, Matthew Hayden [Images] and Michael Hussey, don't figure in the top five because they played just four matches. Albie Morkel took enough wickets, and scored enough runs rapidly, to reach the top of the list. The captain, M S Dhoni, usually scored the runs when they were needed most, but his strike rate of 131 is a little surprising; Dhoni has the capability of having a 150+ strike rate. One could argue that Dhoni paced his innings appropriately, but there would have been serious questions asked if Chennai had been eliminated because of a poorer net run rate.
Suresh Raina rediscovered his fluid batting form and used the IPL as a vehicle to return to the national team. He would become much more valuable in T20 if he worked on his bowling. Manpreet Gony didn't get to bat enough, but he too looks poised to become the sort of explosive bowling all-rounder that T20 cricket needs. The statistics suggest that Badrinath played a good supporting role, but he did more. He assumed the leading batsman's role to contain the collapses Chennai experienced in the aftermath of the Hayden-Hussey departures.
Stephen Fleming spent his first fortnight waiting to replace Matthew Hayden as the 'foreign' opener, but when his time came he didn't appear to be in the zone. Fleming couldn't find those gaps, didn't run fast enough between the wickets (Hayden ran faster with his injured heel) and suggested that he was too old for this game. Muralitharan seemed uncertain and hardly like a bowler whose test bowling record will never be bettered � and as for Joginder Sharma, with a high economy rate of 9.7 one would hesitate to call him in to bowl even one over. It was amazing bravado on Dhoni's part to trust him to bowl the most difficult over in the ICC [Images] T20 World Cup.
Kings XI Punjab [Images] (won 10, lost 4)
Shaun Marsh seemed so composed and capable that one wonders why he isn't opening for Australia instead of Phil Jaques right now. Marsh was the top scorer in the IPL DLF with an excellent strike rate of 140. Any batsman who can sustain such a high strike rate on top of a batting average of about 60 is incredibly special. Irfan Pathan hasn't been required to bat too much, but giving him the new ball was a very smart move.
Yuvraj Singh has exploded when required - and that hasn't been too often. Sangakkara has been equally explosive, albeit with greater subtlety, to earn a strike rate of 163. A good indicator of how well Punjab have played is that four of the top five have a MVPI over 400.
Piyush Chawla makes the top five because he complemented his 17 wickets with some energetic batting. Very few spinners figure in our top five lists; and while it might be wrong to rush to conclusions, the numbers suggest that leg spinners have out-performed off-spinners in the IPL. Sreesanth [Images] topped Punjab's wicket tally with 19 wickets, but his MVPI is only 285 because he's hardly had the opportunity to bat - in fact he may have spent more time crying in the middle than batting.
Vikram Singh got 11 wickets, but they were rather expensive. Punjab may not worry too much about this disappointing performance because Vikram Singh was just a substitute for Brett Lee [Images]. Ramnaresh Sarwan [Images] seemed forlorn and bewildered even though he had just played an outstanding test series. Mahela Jayawardene [Images], who's not unlike Sarwan in batting style, did much better with a MVPI of 209. Karan Goel was just not there; when Shaun Marsh eventually claimed the opener's place, Goel was quickly jettisoned.
Rajasthan Royals (won 11, lost 3)
After his performance in the first semi-final, Shane Watson is certain to become the most valuable player of the DLF IPL (his MVPI is now more than 800; our analysis is based on data after the league phase). Watson has had almost a perfect tournament - although he might have liked a slightly lower economy rate. Yusuf Pathan's clean and big hitting has been magical and Graeme Smith is playing the perfect opener's game: watchful in the first few overs, and brutal once he settles down.
Sohail Tanvir has been the IPL's best bowler claiming the maximum wickets and giving away just a run per ball. His success suggests that in T20 cricket you should incessantly attack the stumps. Shoaib Akhtar does much the same thing when he's fit and in a mood to bowl.
And what can one say about Shane Warne? He has been the most dominating influence at the DLF IPL. His overs are watched with rapt attention; indeed savoured, because the great maestro doesn't have too much time left on the cricket field. Watching him captain, one is often reminded of Imran Khan [Images]. Like Imran, Warne is the only master out there: he holds all the strings, and the others simply dance to his tune. The Rajasthan Royals team too has been chosen so that Warne fits snugly into this Imran-like role: the team is packed with young Indians and Pakistanis who are culturally inclined to be reverential to a great player, a few fellow Australians and a grateful rookie from Warne's own Hampshire. Graeme Smith is the odd man out, but he's doing his job and minding his own business.
The Rajasthan team is playing so well that it was hard to find a "disappointing trio". Mohammed Kaif has been the only real disappointment, failing consistently with the bat, and at different batting positions. Pankaj Singh proved to be unacceptably expensive (notice his negative MVPI - he got no wickets, but lost a lot of points for conceding a very large number of runs). Mahesh Rawat did a fair job (Sunil Gavaskar [Images] praised his neat glove work), but didn't look good enough in a team of exceptional performers.