Thursday, December 31, 2009

12 Pak cricketers available for IPL players auction

 Eager to participate in the third Indian Premier League despite the many glitches, at least a dozen Pakistani cricketers have made themselves available for the event's players' auction to be held on January 17.

"None of the players have contacted the IPL through the PCB they have done this directly themselves," said Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ejaz Butt.

"We had told these players to contact Lalit Modi the Chairman of the IPL directly instead of going through us or agents. As far as we are concerned we have issued a general NOC from the government and ourselves to the players to play in the IPL if they manage to get contracts," he said.

Sources said most of the Pakistani team members were in touch with Modi and around 12 of them have told him that they should be considered for the auction.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Ready, Steady & Go

Hosts England are ready to get the second ICC World Twenty20 under way at Lord's on Friday.

Paul Collingwood's men open up against the Netherlands in the first of their two Group B matches, with Pakistan set to face England at The Oval on Sunday.

Holders and favourites India open their Group A campaign against Bangladesh while Australia play the West Indies on Saturday in Group C.

The final will be staged at Lord's on Sunday 21 June.

There are four groups of three, with the top two from each group going through to the Super Eights which will be made up of two groups of four.

The top two from each of those groups go into the semi-finals to be played at Trent Bridge and The Oval. India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni led the tournament favourites to an impressive nine-wicket win over fellow 2007 finalists Pakistan in Wednesday's warm-up, but said the formbook should be thrown out of the window when it comes to the shortest format of the professional game.

"I don't think the win against Pakistan underlines our status as favourites," said Dhoni, who played in the final two years ago.

GROUP A: India, Bangladesh, Ireland
GROUP B: Pakistan, England, Netherlands
GROUP C: Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies
GROUP D: New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland

"It's not about being favourites, you have to perform like this throughout the tournament to win.

"You can be thrown out of the tournament easily, especially at the knockout stage.

"We are the side that has done well, but that's all on paper after all that you have to go and do it but we have potential and we will be a tough team to beat."

South Africa captain Graeme Smith is more bullish about his side's chances. The second favourites open their campaign against Group D opponents Scotland at The Oval on Monday, followed by New Zealand at Lord's on 9 June.

"We have an exciting squad with pace, swing and spin in the bowling department and plenty of depth to our batting," Smith said.

"In terms of talent, flair and confidence, this is the strongest Proteas team that I have captained."

He added: "We are very well balanced both in terms of youth and experience and in terms of having all our bases covered regardless of whether the conditions favour swing or spin.

"Most international cricketers have not played a lot of international Twenty20 cricket to date and the 14 matches in the recent Indian Premier League has given them the chance to formulate new ideas and plans for this format of the game."

Australia's challenge was dealt a huge blow on Friday when it was announced that all-rounder and big-hitter Andrew Symonds would be returning home because of an "alcohol-related incident".However, captain Ricky Ponting believes his side have enough strength in depth to cope with the loss."He will be difficult to replace but we have got what we've got now," said the Australian."It is no good worrying about that any more, he's ruled out of this squad and we have to find someone who can have the same kind of impact on a game as what Andrew Symonds can.

With all respect to the Dutch, Pakistan will provide England's toughest test in the group stages.Pakistan suffered heavy defeats to South Africa and India in their two warm-up matches, but the team's coach Intikhab Alam says the results should not serve as a guide to how his team will perform in the tournament."I'm not really concerned," he said. "It's early days and the first match we will come good at the right time."We have lost two games but we will perform when the real time comes."Friday's opening ceremony at Lord's is set to be a low-key affair.

It begins at 1630 BST with the 12 captains of the men's teams and the eight skippers from the women's competition introduced to the crowd during the half-hour ceremony. Pop star Alesha Dixon will also perform at the event.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Threat of 202wenty cricket on ECB

The British and Irish Lions moved into the five star Johannesburg hotel yesterday morning which 24-hours earlier had been the domain of Indian Premier League rulers, players and hangers on.

Kevin Pietersen

As they packed up their party and headed back to Bombay the organisers of the second IPL were setting their logistical minds on making a success of the Twenty20 Champions League tournament, which they will throw on for the first time this October.

That competition, due to last little more than two weeks, has been quietly slipped into the international calendar and already will be etched into the packed diaries of the three England players whose IPL franchises have qualified for the tournament.

If Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood and Owais Shah were hoping for a break between the Champions Trophy and England’s tour to South Africa then they were almost as mistaken as their counties, who will soon discover that IPL teams have first pick in the Champions League.

The Champions League will soon be one of four major Twenty20 tournaments. The England & Wales Cricket Board next year launch their answer to the IPL, the P20, while Australia, New Zealand and South Africa form plans for a Southern Premier League due to begin in 2011.

The demands on time and bodies will take their toll and it appears the English players union are the latest to predict a string of retirements from Test cricket.

“If a player can take $1.5m out of the IPL and then about half again out of the SPL then he can make serious money for just three or four months work and that is a very attractive option for them as well as a massive problem for the game,” Sean Morris, chief executive of the Professional Cricketers Association, told the Daily Telegraph.

“We have a lot of young emerging players, particularly in India, who will be able to play, say, three T20 tournaments a year. They don’t need to get on the international treadmill. They will have three global events a year and they will say 'that will do me'.

“Yes players will retire and players around the world will tell you that. I would not be surprised if an England player went down that road soon.

“That is when it starts to get pretty dangerous for everyone. But it keeps coming back to schedules. We have to work out what the May Test matches are fulfilling. Is it Test cricket scheduled for the sake of it?

"It is common knowledge that the Schofield report said that if you want to improve the quality of the product, which is what we are aiming for, then we have to find a way of limiting the amount of cricket they play. But they are doing the exact opposite. Playing for your country is still the number one priority for players.

"But soon we will have four domestic tournaments squeezed into the schedule over the next three years. At the moment we have real problem just fitting in one tournament (the IPL). Something will have to give.”

Lalit Modi, the commissioner of the IPL, has seemingly given up hope of a window for his tournament. The International Cricket Council know it would set a precedent and could lead to similar demands from other members countries. His vision now is for tournaments to run concurrently and for Test cricket to adapt to survive.

“We get mixed up in the fact,” he said. “Where is the audience? If an England and West Indies series is going, who is watching? People in England and people in the West Indies. Not a global audience. IPL is going on concurrently with the series at the moment and that is fine. We carry on.

“There is a Test schedule and people will want to watch it. In India when there is a Test or one day series going on then we will not run our league but that does not mean that a league cannot be running in Australia and have their players playing in their city based league. That is where the model has not been talked through. When they are talking about the FTP (future tours programme) they are saying everyone should be free at the same time. Why?”

Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Party Time for Deccan Chargers

Adam Gilchrist wins the day as Indian Premier League sends a signal to the world.Such has been the impact of the Indian Premier League in South Africa that you half expected Nelson Mandela to turn up and hand over the trophy over wearing a Deccan Chargers shirt after their six-run victory over Bangalore Royal Challengers in the final.

Plenty to shout about: Adam Gilchrist (left) starts the Deccan celebrations

Instead Jacob Zuma, the new president, provided the seal of stately approval. His speech was booed to the rafters by the crowd, who probably enjoyed that as much as the cricket.

The IPL heads home with a swell of pride in its achievement of persuading the South African public to support a very Indian event. The IPL continues to grow and its message throughout this tournament, "Can You Feel the Heat?" could be a signal to the rest of the game.

Next up on the Twenty20 stage is its World Cup, hosted by an England and Wales Cricket Board that has to hope the fact its tournament actually does matter will be enough to overcome the truth that they can never compete financially with the IPL billionaires.

On Sunday night one of them, Vijay Mallya, had opened his wallet once more to print thousands of Bangalore Royal Challenger flags, T-shirts and clapperboards. All were given away free. They made their impression, but evidence that the IPL is really about a good time rather than partisan support was provided by the sight of fans cheering loudly for both sides. Nobody really cared who won.

On the field it was a different of course. Adam Gilchrist is a campaigner. A winner. He was bowled for a duck as Anil Kumble's four wickets inspired Bangalore. But Deccan, who finished bottom last year, rallied with a Herschelle Gibbs half-century. A target of 144 was tricky on a slow pitch and Gilchrist's stumping of South African power hitter Roelof van der Merwe was crucial as Bangalore made 137 for nine.

Would the Indian Premier League have worked in England?

    It is a small sign, roughly about the length of a cricket bat, but a sizeable symbolic statement of how the Indian Premier League has taken over South African cricket. Lalit Modi's named parking space at Centurion Park was guarded by two heftily built goons on Friday night.

    No matter how important and powerful Modi may currently be, and become in the future, there is absolutely no chance the MCC would have given him a named parking spot outside the pavilion at Lord's if he had chosen to supplant the IPL in England instead of South Africa.

    The decision to choose South Africa as a venue for the second IPL may well go down as one of the most important for the future of Twenty20 cricket. It has been a roaring success built on bums on seats and there is now an air of invincibility around the IPL team that threatens to run out of control. America, Canada, England, Australia, the Moon, Mars... the list of future conquests is Romanesque in its ambition and scale. "It is just a matter of the bandwidth of the mind," said Modi. "I have to think it through."

    But while they feel flush with triumph under African skies, there is no doubt that the IPL has been a non-event in England. Its home on Setanta has perhaps not helped, and neither has the lack of English playing interest nor the fact our most iconic cricketer was injured playing for a team named the Chennai Super Kings. The Twenty20 Cup begins for the final time in its present incarnation on Monday and ticket sales are slow. The World Twenty20 follows a week later and inevitable comparisons will be drawn with the IPL much to the annoyance of various governing bodies.

    Modi is the public face and driving force of the IPL but it is IMG, the sports marketing gurus, who really run the show. They are mightily relieved they did not have to cram the IPL into an English county season. To compete with the Premier League and deal with an ECB scurrying around organising their own game. Here they have clean grounds to show off their flashy plasma screen boundary advertising boards and carte blanche to shower the place with DLF IPL (note the subtle name change from the Indian Premier League) signage.

    They also do not have a sceptical British public to convince. The South Africans love their sport. They ignore the teeth grinding embarrassment of watching local schools being handed wads of cash by Modi, like the Queen dishing out Maundy money. As for the Bollywood Babes competition, and phrases such as "She's a beaut" from the television commentary boxes, even the South Africans have baulked at that.

    But it is the miracle of watching South Africans queue outside Centurion Park to watch a match involving the Deccan Chargers and the Delhi Daredevils, with barely a South African player in sight, that is the crowning achievement.

    The overwhelming majority of the crowds have been Indian. Many of the post-match parties and functions have been Indian. This is still an Indian tournament. The cost of tickets, the IPL hiked the price for the final from 200 rand to 300 rand when they realised they could fill the ground, has put off many from the poorer black community. The Indian middle classes were the target of the first IPL. They remain its patrons here. Perhaps if Modi had diverted his private jet to London rather than Johannesburg an audience that has never felt wanted by English cricket might now be filling our grounds. An opportunity missed? Time will tell.

    Fan,Fireworks & Cheerleaders - The IPL cricket

    When you are a South African who has coached your own national team, you may think you have seen everything cricket has to offer in your homeland.

    But the fast, furious and very noisy Indian Premier League - relocated to South Africa less than two months ago yet now entering its final weekend - is changing that, as fireworks, flame-throwers, cheerleaders and colossal sixes light up the arenas.

    "I am over the moon that South Africa has responded in such an unbelievably positive way to the IPL," says former South Africa coach Ray Jennings, whose Bangalore Royal Challengers side are in the semi-finals.

    "The enormous crowds, basically during the rugby season, have been amazing - especially all the Indians who have supported this."

    As cricket's biggest razzamatazz rolls in, the bevy of cheerleaders showing off their hips and pom-poms to accompany the on-pitch entertainment, South Africans have lapped up the chance to watch Sachin Tendulkar, Matthew Hayden, Muttiah Muralitharan or Shane Warne live.

    Endless fireworks

    "I used to be an armchair fan," admits a beaming Molefe Moko, 28. "But the IPL's drawing my couch potato behaviour out of me.

    "There's a wonderful atmosphere and it is fun - you basically get non-stop action from the start."

    The organisers have definitely fulfilled their promise to deliver entertainment, which has also included a beauty pageant from the crowd, with the winner landing a Bollywood part.

    To a heady background of deafening Indian music, machines pump flames into the sky whenever there is a four, while wickets and sixes are greeted by endless fireworks.

    Of course there have been hiccups, various IPL demands ruffling the feathers of local businesses, but that is hardly surprising when some claim the organisers are protecting an asset worth $2bn.

    While the relocation has undoubtedly damaged the big-spending and marketing-driven IPL financially, as no atmosphere can match a local Indian one, South Africa has not done badly - with the event seemingly inspiring the next generation of Graeme Smiths, Herschelle Gibbs and Makhaya Ntinis.

    Unrivalled promotion

    "To say I am happy about the IPL being here would be an understatement," says Dr Mtutezeli Nyoka, president of Cricket South Africa.

    "It has put smiles on many South Africans' faces, including those who are involved in the game and, most importantly, those who are not.

    "And it has been unrivalled promotion. Lots of parents are now saying to us: 'Our kids want to play cricket', when just a few weeks ago, we were having to approach them."

    Furthermore, all South Africans can be heartened by the nation's ability to stage the event at such short notice as next year's football World Cup looms.

    Cricket fan wearing huge horns
    Policing the games was easy, as there was no animosity between the fans

    "I cannot speak highly enough of the security that's been around this tournament - it has been first-class," says Deccan Chargers coach Darren Lehmann, who represented Australia between 1996-2005.

    "And the crowds have been fantastic throughout which is unbelievable since we have had so many games in so few days, so we have really enjoyed it."

    The circus has another couple of days to run, before moving out of town.

    The first semi-final on Friday pits the Delhi Daredevils against the Deccan Chargers. The second, between the Chennai Super Kings and Royal Bangalore Challengers, takes place the next day. The finalists will meet in Johannesburg on Sunday.

    As they prepare for a kaleidoscopic sunset to a wonderful cricketing summer, which included an enthralling home series against Australia, South Africans are already plotting to stop the IPL permanently returning to its rightful home.

    "It has been a true Indian experience, with a great vibe and everyone seems to have loved it," says local fan Rory Beeden, 28.

    "I would love to see it come back, perhaps with us hosting it one year and India the next!"

    IPL FINAL 2009

    And so, as a blockbuster second season of the IPL reaches its summit, two of its biggest success stories clash in the finale in Johannesburg. They also happen to be the two most unlikely sides given how they fared in 2008. Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers Bangalore were the two bottom-placed teams then, now they've busted out of the basement and made the house their own.

    Not many would have given Deccan or Bangalore a chance this year to get to the top four. But having pulled off amazing turnarounds and tasted difficult periods earlier in the tournament, both teams have undoubtedly deserved to get where they are today.

    Deccan started with four wins, imposed themselves, stumbled, but got it together when it mattered. The manner in which they - rather their captain Adam Gilchrist - crushed Delhi Daredevils in the semi-final was stirring. Gilchrist has led the side well and has been their top run-getter for the second season running. Apart from RP Singh, owner of the purple cap, there haven't been true stand-out performers. Herschelle Gibbs has been inconsistent, Pragyan Ojha has lost some bite in the latter stages, and while Rohit Sharma and Andrew Symonds have contributed they haven't been stunning.

    If Deccan have been inconsistent, Bangalore reached the worst level of desperation. The last match they lost in this tournament was the last they could afford to. And they have won their last five games, much like Australia's victorious campaign in the 1999 World Cup.

    The major factor in Bangalore's rise has been Anil Kumble, who took over the captaincy from a beleaguered Kevin Pietersen. In 2008 Bangalore's selections of a few final XIs raised some eyebrows, but most unflattering was their habit of choking when victory was in front of them. Kumble changed all that by setting an example that the seniors followed.

    Bangalore's younger Indian players didn't start off well at all, but the seniors' performances started to rub off. Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar and Virat Kohli have chipped in with vital contributions to keep the team buoyant in the competition. This has been a team that has paid a lot of attention to preparation.

    On form - they've won five in a row, four of them against semi-finalists - Bangalore are a confident side and will be boosted by the knowledge that they beat Deccan last time. However, after forcefully knocking out the top-ranked side in the semi-finals, Deccan will be confident as they face their southern compatriots. Both Gilchrist and Kumble have handled the captaincy with aplomb, and will not want to let the slightest chance go abegging.

    Form guide (completed matches, most recent first)

    Royal Challengers Bangalore: WWWWW
    Manish Pandey's rise has been exceptional. Hardly given a run last season, he delivered with the first IPL century by an Indian and followed up with another Man-of-the-Match effort in the semi-final. Statistically and psychologically Pandey's form will worry Deccan, because that century came against them. Cameos from Taylor and Kohli have come at right times, and Kumble and Roelof van der Merwe have delivered in pressure situations with their varieties of spin.

    Deccan Chargers: WLLWL
    Deccan rode into the final on Gilchrist's broad blade and shoulders; an encore should seal them the trophy. The bowling got itself together after Tillakaratne Dilshan and Virender Sehwag threatened to run riot, but what Deccan really need is for Herschelle Gibbs and Rohit Sharma to click. Gibbs made a duck after hitting a brisk half-century in the final league match, and Rohit has only one half-century in the tournament. If he can replicate either of the two flawless finishes against Kolkata Knight Riders and Kings XI Punjab, Rohit can be a big threat.

    Watch out for

    Adam Gilchrist v Praveen Kumar: Brutal objective v crafty swing bowling. Cosmic experience v smart head on young shoulders. As it stands, it's 2-0 to Praveen. Surprising as it may sound, Praveen took Gilchrist out, early, in both the finals of the CB Series last year. In two matches this season Gilchrist has taken just 18 runs off 12 balls from Praveen. Gilchrist won't count it as a decisive comeback.

    RP Singh v Manish Pandey: The IPL's highest wicket-taker against the latest young star to emerge. RP hasn't been at his best over the last few games, and Pandey has two Man-of-the-Match awards on the trot. During his century Pandey faced nine balls from RP, and took 20 runs, including a big six over long-on. RP has loads of experience to go with success against better batsmen, so how he varies his craft against an enthusiastic and trigger-happy opener is an intriguing battle.

    Adam Gilchrist cuts loose, Delhi Daredevils v Deccan Chargers, IPL, 1st semi-final, Centurion, May 22, 2009
    A typical big-match knock from Adam Gilchrist could make the final one-sided 

    Anil Kumble v Rohit Sharma and Gilchrist: Kumble has led superbly with the ball in Bangalore's winning streak. In Bangalore's last game against Deccan, Kumble dismissed Rohit first ball and allowed Gilchrist only five runs from eight balls. In their earlier match Rohit hit 24 runs off 10 Kumble deliveries and Gilchrist took 13 from 11. Kumble will need to be at his craftiest best against two of Deccan's sweetest hitters.

    Team news

    With B Akhil injured for the semi-final, Bangalore recalled R Vinay Kumar. His first three overs cost 32, but Vinay picked up Matthew Hayden and then Jacob Oram in the final over, which only cost six runs. He should keep his place, meaning Bangalore are likely to field an unchanged side.

    Royal Challengers Bangalore: (probable) 1 Manish Pandey, 2 Jacques Kallis, 3 Roelof van der Merwe, 4 Rahul Dravid, 5 Ross Taylor, 6 Virat Kohli, 7 Robin Uthappa, 8 Mark Boucher (wk), 9 Praveen Kumar, 10 R Vinay Kumar, 11 Anil Kumble (capt.).

    If D Ravi Teja recovers from a hamstring injury he may come back for Azhar Bilakhia. Ryan Harris should hold his place after that two-wicket first over against Delhi.

    Deccan Chargers: 1 Adam Gilchrist (capt./wk), 2 Herschelle Gibbs, 3 T Suman, 4 Rohit Sharma, 5 Andrew Symonds, 6 Azhar Bilakhia/D Ravi Teja, 7 Venugopal Rao, 8 Harmeet Singh, 9 Pragyan Ojha, 10 Ryan Harris, 11 RP Singh.

    Stats and trivia

    •  Eight batsmen have scored more than 350 in the tournament, but only one of them - Adam Gilchrist - will be on view in the final. Kallis, Bangalore's highest scorer, has an aggregate of 346.

    • Teams chasing have won five out of six times in night games in Johannesburg. In all three games that Bangalore have played here, they've chased and won.

    •  Gilchrist has scored 86 runs off 63 balls in two innings against Bangalore. In contrast Kallis, Bangalore's highest run-scorer, has only scored 20 off 21 balls in two innings against Deccan. Pandey, though, scored 114 in just one game.

    •  Bangalore's five wins in a row equal's Chennai's winning streak earlier in the IPL, and is a record for this tournament.

    Head-to-head record

    The last time these teams met Pandey downed Deccan with a century in Centurion. Prior to that Gilchrist and Rohit's power-hitting ensured Deccan romped to a 24-run win earlier this season, in Cape Town. Bangalore won both their matches last year: the first one a thriller by three runs, and the next comfortably by five wickets.

    Saturday, May 23, 2009

    Discipline vs thrill – who will win?

    Deccan Chargers vs Bangalore Royal Challengers

    Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers face their biggest challenges today in the finals of IPL 2009. It will be a battle between Deccan’s thrilling batting and Bangalore’s discipline on the field.

    The two bottom-placed teams of last year’s IPL now face today to decide who will be the champion of IPL 2009. While Deccan Chargers (DC) relied on their strong batting and fielding, Bangalore Royal Challengers (DC) depended on their disciplined batting and bowling to make a complete turnaround this year.

    DC takes the lead over BRC in every department of the game – batting, bowling and fielding. With Adam Gilchrist in devastating form, Andrew Symonds showing promise and stocky Rohit Sharma in the middle order, DC looks perfectly set to launch an all out attack on BRC in the final. RP Singh has performed extremely well throughout this tournament and it will be a perfect finale if he can bowl to his potential today.

    But with gritty Anil Kumble leading BRC to 7 wins in the last 9 games – 5 of them on the trot before the semi-final – will it be a cakewalk for DC? BRC triumphs over DC in being consistent performer in the last few games. Rahul Dravid could make the difference with his ability to anchor an innings. The bowling department has also tuned perfectly to compliment their batting which has ensured Kumble to stick with his regular bowlers and not venture with his part-timers. But if the match goes to a close finish, DC holds the edge over BRC as is shown by the higher Extreme Pressure Performance (EPP) score in the Castrol Index.

    Can BRC hold their winning momentum or will it be another batting thrill that can bring in the laurels for DC? 


    Kumble;s team outplayed Dhoni Co. to Reach IPL Cricket 2009 Final

    In a interesting match today, Banglore outplyed Dhoni;s company to secure a place in the IPL final.An blastering and fluent innings from Panday supported by Dravid;s responsible innings was finished in a style by Kohli And Tylor. They finished the asked target of 147 with one over remaining and will fight tomorrow with Hyderabad.

    Live Cricket Link IPL



    2nd IPL Cricket Tournament Coming!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Commissioner Lalit Modi is considering plans to stage two Indian Premier League tournaments a year - one in India and another shorter one overseas.

    The IPL was forced to move this year because of security concerns in India.

    But the event in South Africa has been so well received that Modi is exploring the possibility of taking the game into untapped markets across the globe.

    "The IPL will be based in India but a second season will help us see if a market exists elsewhere too," he said.

    "The potential is huge. We have turned the challenges and adversities in moving to South Africa into an opportunity. It is fans who determine if you are successful or not and they have come out in force here.

    "It has shown that the tournament can be in any region, in any country. This opens up many different opportunities for us."

    The USA, where the ICC has advised cricket officials to install an IPL-style Twenty20 league, is one of the countries Modi is considering as a potential host.

    "America throws up challenges but the format we have developed works. That will work anywhere," the IPL commissioner told the Daily Telegraph.

    Modi also revealed he could yet take the tournament to England after they were overlooked in favour of South Africa to stage this year's event.

    "Before this tournament we did not know if we could do it," Modi added. "But we do know now. We have to satisfy an appetite across the world and build a fan base across the world.

    "We will talk to the England and Wales Cricket Board, and South Africa are natural allies who want us to come back every year.

    "The public and the boards want us but it is not realistic to come back to the same place every year."

    The rise of Twenty20 is set to continue with the launch of tournaments in England, and another event involving players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    2nd semi-final -- Chennai still Favourites

    There can be few sights more intimidating in cricket than Matthew Hayden walking in to face the new ball. If the left-hander is on a song, there might as well be a blast. 

    That thought alone will keep Royal Challengers on their toes when the second semi-final of the IPL begins at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Saturday. Hayden, wearing his Orange Cap and carrying the willow that looks like a toy in a truck-puller’s hand, will keep playing on the opposition’s mind. 

    Royal Challengers called for an emergency meeting on Friday that had all players in a huddle in a small conference room at hotel Sandton Sun for close to an hour. Whatever their personal work, the players had been asked to keep it aside until the all-important meeting was over. Captain Anil Kumble, 
    coach Ray Jennings, Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis walked in first, followed by the rest who were still celebrating Manish Pandey’s ton on Thursday. 

    There was an important issue to be discussed and it remained no secret once the meeting ended. All the players walked out of the conference room except for Praveen Kumar, B Akhil, Roelof van der Merwve, Kumble and Kallis. They had an extended half an hour discussion amongst themselves. 

    Kumble knows that stopping Hayden alone will be the key to Royal Challengers making their way to the final. If they can get the belligerent left-hander early, the option of applying pressure on the rest of the line-up will be better than having him out there in the middle. Of course, Suresh Raina and Mahendra Singh Dhoni have been in equally good form, S Badrinath has been impressive and is fit after a slight niggle, Jacob Oram is still waiting to explode and Albie Morkel’s return from injury can make things tougher. But Hayden still remains the key. 

    "He is dangerous and we all know what he’s capable of doing. He’s the tournament’s highest scorer. If we can get him early, fine,’’ says Jennings. 

    In seven out of 11 innings, Hayden has given Team Chennai the right kind of start. His strike rate has been consistent at around 140. He has accumulated five fifties and an individual best of 89, so far, adding to the team’s top-order muscle. If Chennai can once again afford to flex that, Royal Challengers will have a lot of work. Dhoni’s best bet to follow-up on the start given by Hayden is Raina, the tournament’s second best batsman after the giant Aussie. At 414 runs, Raina has been the mainstay in Chennai’s middle-order and should be no less a worry for the Challengers. 

    However, it was interesting to hear Jennings bring Hayden’s name into the discussion whenever the topic of Chennai’s batting came up. Be it mind games or simply a lurking fear, Challengers do know that he’s a bigger threat than anyone else.

    Hyderabad in the Final of IPL Cricket 2009

     Adam Gilchrist is the new Nizam and Hyderabad are a step away from being the champions of India. No, Team Delhi didn’t do anything 
    Adam Gilchrist
     Gilchrist plays a shot against Delhi at SuperSport Park in Centurion
    wrong, just that they were dazzled by an old man’s frenzy that threw them out of the IPL, yet again in the semi-finals. 

    Gilchrist went back in time, probably to March 23, 2003, when he rattled India in an opening burst to help Australia retain the World Cup. There was a sense of deja vu as Ashish Nehra ran into bowl, and Gilchrist put him out of the park with effortless ease, just as he had done some six years back. 

    The assault, though, started with a brutal attack on one of the best bowler of the tournament, Dirk Nannes. Chasing 154, he took 21 off Nannes’ first over, employing all the shots that could have been played. Anything short was hooked or pulled mercilessly, and if the bowler dared to pitch it up, it was driven down the ground. 

    Spinners came on as early as the fifth over, but there was no shift in momentum. Gilly swept Pragyan Ojha and when he hit three sixes in a Virender Sehwag over, the writing was on the wall. 

    Looking clueless and dispirited, Delhi merely hoped that Gilly would play a wrong shot and get out. He edged one to get out in the 10th over, but by then the score was 102, off which the legend had contributed 85 (off 35 balls)! 

    The rest was child’s play and with the likes of Andrew Symonds around, it took Hyderabad eight more overs to reach the target. 

    Earlier, Gilly’s decision to play medium-pacer Ryan Harris paid off as he dismissed Gautam Gambhir and David Warner in the first over. 

    The Hyderabad attack was looking all charged up, but Sehwag knew how important it was for him to stay at the wicket. The Delhi dasher never took a backward step and kept counter-attacking the Hyderabad attack. Standing tall, he carted Harris and RP Singh around the park and Tillekeratne Dilshan (65 off 51 balls), too, gave him excellent support. 

    It had to be the strategy break to break Viru’s rhythm and right after the interval, the skipper missed the line of an Andrew Symonds delivery to be caught plumb in front. 

    But Dilshan carried on with the good work that he had been doing right through the tournament, finding the gaps and keeping the scoreboard ticking. 

    He was joined by AB de Villiers, who attacked right away and it seemed that a score of 170 was on the cards. But RP struck right when the game was drifting away from them, inducing an edge off AB, and Hyderabad were back in the hunt. Both RP and Harris were excellent in the last few overs, pitching it right up in the blockhole and varying the pace, which made it difficult for a well-set Dilshan to give the final push to the innings. 

    But with the kind of form Gilchrist was in, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference either.

    IPL Cricket

    IPL ugly ducklings are sitting pretty

    A recent survey by Brand Finance India suggested that the Indian Premier League's "brand name alone" was worth $311-million.

    The value of the tournament, it suggested, as it approached the end of just its second season, was $2-billion.

    How these figures are reached would, no doubt, include processes well beyond the comprehension of most cricket followers. But one thing we do know, as cricket people, is that the boffins with calculators who put the survey together have a very different perspective on things.

    The Kolkatta Knight Riders are seen as the most valuable franchise, despite coming last in the eight-team league with a single victory from 11 games. They tell us that Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, who bought the franchise for $75,1-million, could expect to fetch $42,1-million should he decide to sell now.

    They reckon that the Mumbai Indians, bought by businessman Mukesh Ambani for $111,9-million, could expect $41,6-million should he sell now, while bargain basement team, the Rajasthan Royals, bought by Manoj Badale and Lachlan Murdoch (son of Rupert) for a mere $67-million, could fetch $39.5-million despite winning the inaugural tournament.

    The greatest loss, however, was reserved for the Chennai SuperKings, who were bought for $91.9-million, but are now valued at just $39,4-million despite reaching last year’s final. And yet the whole shebang is worth $2-billion and the name alone $311-million?

    Make any sense?

    Neither does much of the cricket, but at least there’s a serious element of thrill and desperation now that the scramble for semi-finals has reached its climax. Some franchise owners can measure their success by the amount of television exposure they have received, which makes sense given the tournament's stated aim to "combine sport and entertainment".

    But for others, such as business tycoon Vijay Malya, who invested more than $120-million in the most expensive team, the Bangalore Royal Challengers, it is crunch time. With three games left in the league, one more defeat will probably mean a second season of ignominy among the also-rans. Not what a billionaire who owns airlines and 90% of India’s liquor trade expects.

    The Mumbai Indians must win their three remaining games to be sure of a semi-final spot, while Chennai and the Deccan Chargers can still be caught if they falter in the final rounds.

    The keys to success are mixed. Luck is certainly one of them, but can be overplayed. Runs upfront? Wickets at the death? Economy rates in the middle? Everyone has a theory and most are right.

    But there are two realities that cannot be denied. Big-name players do not win an elongated competition such as this, especially when you're allowed to play only in the starting XI. They may win isolated games, but it is the other seven Indian players in the team — and mostly the four or five "no-name brand" players -- that decide the fate of their teams.

    And second, teams with the least-inflated egos are succeeding far more than those with most attachments of glitz and glamour.

    Among overseas players, the Delhi Daredevils have Tillekeratne Dilshan to thank for their surge to the top of the log, with AB de Villiers and Dirk Nannes. And the king of anti-bling for more than a decade, Glenn McGrath, hasn’t even played a game for them yet.

    Chennai, too, have made do with Albie Morkel, Jacob Oram and the ageless Matthew Hayden.

    All magnificent cricketers, but without an ounce of bling between them. Matter-of-fact and down-to-earth. And when they did lurch into the glam market, Andrew Flintoff beat a hasty retreat back to England after a week -- injured.

    Perchance there is an element of coincidence that the glam franchises are being overpowered by the dull ones. Perchance not. If the King’s XI Punjab make the semis, that would be three out of four ugly ducklings sitting pretty.

    Indians from all over the world have rightly rejoiced in the success of the tournament and the attention it has brought to the country. India
    now "rules" world cricket and has done for the best part of a decade, though we were all (India included) a little slow to recognise the obvious.

    After a century of fielding for its colonial masters and only being given a token bat and bowl when they deemed it appropriate or convenient, India’s cricket-loving masses -- and all Indians, for that matter -- are damn right to be celebrating their ascendancy to the highest seat in world cricket.

    Power, however, as history tells us, in all walks of life is best accepted with large sidedishes of responsibility and humility. The Indian national team were courted and pampered to the point of embarrassment on their recent tour of New Zealand, so desperate is that country to curry favour with the new superpower. Only England and Australia can reasonably be expected to survive comfortably without India's financial clout.

    Which is exactly why India needs to be fair and consistent when handing out fixture gifts and other assorted aid packages and appearances to the hungry cricket-playing nations -- starving in the case of Pakistan and West Indies.

    Otherwise, India will be king -- but of what?

    Indian Premier League 2009 South Africa,

    India's IPL fans miss exiled heroes

    A new shopping mall on the outskirts of New Delhi is the closest that fans of the city's IPL cricket team get to attending a home game this year.

    In an open-air square between fashion shops and chain restaurants, a huge screen shows every Delhi Daredevils match live from South Africa to a few hundred cheering supporters.

    The loss of the Indian Premier League abroad this year has dented public support for the tournament, which in its inaugural season last year attracted massive fan loyalty to its eight city-based teams.

    "Last year was great, and everyone was watching every evening," Shashank Sharma, an 18-year-old student, said. "But this time there is less excitement.

    "It is better when there are Indian crowds in the stadium, they are very noisy."

    Sharma watched the match at the mall with six of his friends, as huge speakers blared out the commentary and loud music.

    Every time the Daredevils -- led by captain Gautam Gambhir -- took a wicket or scored a boundary, four scantily-clad, female dancers jumped on to a stage in front of the screen to lead the celebrations.

    Organisers were forced to move the five-week event out of India due to its clash with general elections, which meant security arrangements could not be made for the cricketers.

    With the action exported to South Africa, interest among India's massive cricket following has not matched last year's event -- even though games have been scheduled in television prime time.

    Viewing figures were down in 18 of the first 27 matches compared with 2008, according to Audience Measurement and Analytics, an independent ratings company.

    Last year the IPL's blend of dramatic, short-format cricket and Bollywood glamour proved irresistible to millions of Indians for whom the games became an evening fixture and the biggest talking point in the country.

    Sponsors hope the teams, including the Mumbai Indians and Bangalore Royal Challengers, will develop passionate fan bases similar to those enjoyed by British football side such as Manchester United.

    SC Vohra, a retired diplomat, watched the Delhi Daredevils beat the struggling Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday evening at the mall with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

    "The big screen makes this a good place for a family evening out, but there is not the same atmosphere with the team playing so far away," he said.

    "In theory it is the same on television wherever you watch it, but the IPL is about entertainment and they will have to be careful that interest doesn't decline year after year. The novelty factor has gone already."

    Also among the crowd was Nani Kapur, a 25-year-old who works in marketing.

    "I went to the stadium to see the Daredevils last year and it was fantastic. The atmosphere around the tournament is less this year," she said.

    "Of course people still watch it on TV but definitely the general mood is down. It can't be same without the team playing here."

    One person counting the cost was Vicky Suri, a manager for Genesis, the official merchandise partner for the Delhi Daredevils.

    "We've lost a lot of sales, we can't deny it,' he said. "We sell replica shirts for 600 rupees ($13) and the games going outside India has been a real blow.

    "We sell a lot of goods at the stadiums and that opportunity has just disappeared. We've been shipping shirts to South Africa, but that very expensive."

    "I just hope there will now be a hunger when the teams finally come back home and play here next year."

    Thursday, May 21, 2009

    IPL CRICKET 2009 South Africa


    It's semifinal time and Team Delhi are on top. Their opening duo hasn't been at its best, but that hasn't stopped them from looking a formidable unit right through the tournament.If the star of the middle-order has been AB de Villiers, there have been two silent performers in the team who have always chipped in with useful performances at the right time to take Delhi out of trouble.

    Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Karthik are not the biggest stars of the Delhi team, they are not used to too much stardom at the national level either. While Karthik is still coming to terms with the fact that he is not in the T20 World Cup team, Dilshan is finally relishing the opportunity to bat up the order, which he doesn't always get while playing for Sri Lanka. "Most of my career, I have batted down the order at No. 5 or 6. But I always prefer going up and I think that has a lot to do with my success in the tournament so far," Dilshan told the TOI. It's the bounce in the South African wickets that the Sri Lankan is also enjoying. "These are the wickets I have always loved batting on. I can play on the backfoot and that has helped me immensely here," Dilshan added. The right-hander, who captained Sri Lanka in a one off T20 game against India, feels his success also has a lot to do with the innovative shots he plays. "To be a good T20 player, you've to play those chip shots here and there. A lot of hard work goes into perfecting those shots and I think it's all paying off now," the Lankan added. It's these innovative shots that has made Karthik a potent customer in T20 cricket as well. "I don't know whether to take it as a compliment when people say I am becoming a T20 expert. I guess I have done well in all forms of the game and I try these shots even when I am playing the longer version," Karthik said. Karthik was a member of the T20 World Cup winning team in South Africa and when the news came that he is not there this time, it did disappoint him. "It obviously felt bad, but I knew my job was to keep performing. It's good that the IPL has gone well for me so far," the Tamil Nadu keeper added. His Team Delhi coach Greg Shipperd, too, believes the secret behind Karthik's success is his "allround skills". "He is easily the best wicketkeeper batsman in the country after MS Dhoni. Coming at No. 6, he is our perfect allrounder, and so is Dilshan. He often comes up with those few good overs which become vitally important. These two have really gone a long way in lending the much-needed balance to our team," Shipperd said. For the duo, it's just a matter of keeping it going for two more games. "We have done everything well in the tournament so far. We're extremely confident that it will be the same in the last two games as well," said Karthik.
    Team Delhi
    Team Hyderabad
    Last year's ranking : 4
    Captain: Virender Sehwag
    Coach: Greg Shipperd
    Record: Matches-14, Won-10, Lost-4
    Last year's ranking: 8
    Captain: Adam Gilchrist
    Coach: Darren Lehmann
    Record: Matches-14, Won-7, Lost-7
    Team form: But for a brief period, they have maintained pretty high standards for themselves right from the beginning of this event. It can be assured that they won't let all their good work be undone with one bad show!
    Team form: They have improved tremendously from the last season, and look a tight, determined unit this time.
    The glitch is, they tend to throw the game away from winning positions.
    Drawing board: Get Gilchrist early. They must somehow get past the dangerous Symonds too.
    Drawing board: RP and Ojha need to be at their best. Get Symonds in early. Let him take out his Ashes ouster frustration!
    X-factor: Gambhir can re-discover his form in a big game.
    X-factor: Pragyan Ojha's left-arm spin can be troublesome.
    Key stars: Nehra, Warner, Sehwag.
    Key stars: Symonds, Gibbs, RP Singh, Gilchrist
    Probable team: Gambhir, Warner, AB de Villiers, Dilshan, Karthik, Manhas, R Bhatia, Sangwan, Mishra, Nehra, Nannes.
    Probable team: Gilchrist, Gibbs, Suman, Symonds, Rohit, Venugopal, Teja, Harris, Shoaib, Ojha, RP Singh

    Sehwag, Gambhir return to form as Delhi thrash Mumbai

    Sehwag and Gambhir marked their return to form with blistering knocks as Delhi Daredevils prepared for the IPL semifinals with a comfortable four-wicket victory over Mumbai Indians in their last league match in Centurion on Thursday.

    After restricting Mumbai Indians to 165 for eight, Sehwag cracked 27-ball 50 while Gambhir blasted 47 off 38 balls to guide their team to victory at Supersports park.

    The Daredevils, who had already assured themselves of a berth in the semifinals, could have won with a bigger margin had they not lost four wickets in quick succession to make it a little tight in the end.

    Chasing 166 to win, Delhi had a rollicking start with opener David Warner (15) and Gambhir clobbering the pacers all over the park, which included a six off Dhawal Kulkarni over long on by Warner.

    However, the Australian was sent packing by Kulkarni when he mishit a raising delivery only to lob it to Ashraful.

    Skipper Virender Sehwag then joined Gambhir in the middle and the duo recreated their old magic by stitching together a 68-run partership for the second wicket to help Delhi score fifty in 5.2 overs and then reached 104 in 11 overs.

    Out of form, Sehwag found his form back and punished the bowlers with disdain. Kulkarni was at his receiving end in the sixth over when he dispatched the lanky pacer three times across the boundary to accumulate 14 runs.

    In the 10th over, Sehwag picked up his first six off Abhishek Nayar and followed it up with two more fours to score 16 runs off the over.

    Gambhir, meanwhile, kept the scoreboard ticking before his mishit skier was caught by Ashraful at third man in the 12th over.

    After cruising along comfortably at 104 for one at one stage, Delhi lost the wickets of Tillakaratne Dilshan (24) and Sehwag in successive deliveries in the 15th over to slump to 144 for four.

    Two overs later, inform AB De Villiers (6) and Rajat Bhatia (2) returned to the hut to reduce Delhi to 153 for six with Harbahjan Singh capturing all the four wickets giving away only 17 runs.

    But by then it was too late as Amit Mishra picked up the winning run to take his team home in 17.3 overs. Earlier, Ajinkya Rahane cracked a brisk 41-ball 56, while Sachin Tendulkar hit a patient 46 as Mumbai Indians posted a competitive 165 for eight.

    Rahane stitched together a 54-ball 73-run partnership with Tendulkar for the fourth wicket to anchor the Mumbai Indians after skipper Virender Sehwag won the toss and decided to field.

    Rahane's innings was studded with five boundaries and two hits over the fence.

    Put into bat, Mumbai made a shaky start, losing three quick wickets -- Sanath Jayasuriya (0), JP Duminy (9) and Mohammad Ashraful (2) -- as they stuttered to 31 for 3 in the first six overs.

    Australian Dirk Nannes in his first legal delivery in the first over trapped Jayasuriya leg before wicket to put Mumbai on the back foot.

    Tendulkar then played two beautiful looking shots at square leg and mid-off to step up the tempo, while new man Duminy also got into the act, greeting Nannes with a flashy hook and a straight drive for successive boundaries.

    However, Nannes had the last laugh as he sent him packing in the next ball, when Duminy nicked his away swinging delivery only to be caught behind by Dinesh Karthik.

    Playing his first match in the IPL, Bangladesh import Ashraful also didn't last long and was sent back into the hut by Pradeep Sangwan in his first over.

    Tendulkar and Rahane then steadied the ship and involved in some copybook shots and quick singles to bring up the fifty in 7.3 overs and then the hundred in 13 overs.

    But three balls later, all-rounder Rajat Bhatia brought Delhi back into the game, as he got rid off Tendulkar. Trying to make room for himself, Tendulkar found his furniture shattered by Bhatia's straight delivery.

    However, Rahane kept the scoreboard ticking and sent Amit Mishra across mid-wicket for a four and then brought up the first six of the Mumbai innings in the 17th over with a flashy strike over extra-cover.

    In the next over, Rahane picked up the second six off Aavishkar Salvi. Pinal Shah (12), Harbhajan Singh (12) also played some useful shots in the end to help Mumbai across the 150 mark.