After a couple of weeks of the IPL in its new avatar in South Africa it is hard not to admit that it is far more exciting than the inaugural version held in India last year. If there is one glaring downside it is the size of the crowds. A match played in front of 20,000 people is very different from one played in front of 80,000+. Barring the size of the crowds IPL 2.0 is definitely far more exciting.
Bowlers Have a Chance
Unlike IPL 1.0 which was played on India’s dead pitches, the pitches in South Africa appear to have plenty in them for the bowlers. This is obvious when you look at the scores. Any score above 160 is huge plus. Besides, spinners have had a terrific run this time around. A veteran like Anil Kumble has become a force to reckon with. The duel between him and the hard hitting Yuvraj Singh was cricket at its best.
Matches Are Down to the Wire
One of the big pluses of this IPL has been the fact that most matches have come down to the wire making it that much more exciting. If you miss the first 15 overs, the last five overs are bound to be worth watching especially in a close game.
While veterans like Sachin, Dravid and Kumble have seen a fair amount of success the IPL, some of the newbies who had a great run last year like Asnodhkar, Dhinda, Gony and others have struggled. It is possible that their lack of success is result of limited exposure and inability to adapt quickly to the South African pitches/grounds. It is also possible that these youngsters will get their act together as the IPL progresses.
Wasted Big Bucks
Pieterson and Flintoff are easily the biggest disappointments among the big stars who were introduced for the first time in the IPL. Pieterson doesn’t recovered from his English captaincy mess and awarding him the BRC captainship was probably a wrong move. Flintoff seems to be eternally plagued by injuries. He never really clicked with the bat and it was embarrassing to seem him tonked around by the likes of Abhishek Nayar, a relative newbie.
KKR’s Downward Spiral
KKR’s damage was done well before the season started – John Buchanan’s blatant attempt to sideline Ganguly, the Fake IPL blogger, SRK’s clash with Gavaskar, the unavailability of Ponting etc. etc. — all contributed to KKR’s poor performance this IPL. SRK has done little to help matters either. A post season clean up seems surely on the cards and seems necessary.
McGrath on the Bench!
Delhi’s decision to bench McGrath is baffling. The best part is that the team has done exceptionally well without him! Perhaps its part of a plan to unleash him in the later games? Nannes, Nehra and Sangwan have performed creditably throughout so its hard to justify dropping any of them. At best McGrath for Nehra perhaps?
An Indian Captain for an IPL Team Makes More Sense
Unless you have a captain known for his captaincy prowess (like Shane Warne), it makes no sense whatsoever to have a non-Indian captain. Firstly, each team can have only four non-Indian players. Many non-Indian players have more experience playing T20 cricket and it makes sense to rotate those players and get the best out of them. KKR is now stuck with McCullum in the playing 11 though he has barely had any success with the bat. Secondly, language and culture has a lot to do with leading the team. Some of the Indian players are not comfortable speaking fluent English. Its hard to imagine how a foreign captain can communicate effectively with them unless he has some gifted captaincy skills like Shane Warne seems to have. Thirdly, an Indian captain is bound to know local players much better. Kevin Pieterson for instance chose to repeatedly use Kallis to bowl at the death. Kumble on the other hand chose to bowl the penultimate over himself. Also, Pieterson barely used Vinay Kumar as a bowler in the match againts Punjab, though he is primarily a bowler, while Kallis bowled his full quota of four overs for a whopping 51 runs!
Ultimately, T20 is a crap shot
In the IPL any team can beat any other team (and this includes KKR, btw). T20 is completely unpredictable. Unlike Test cricket and ODI cricket where performance has to be sustained over a longer period of time, T20 can change in the space of an over or two. There is little or no time to recover after the odd false move. Success in T20 calls for a huge slice of luck more so than in any other form of the game.
Specific strategies (multi-captain theory for instance, opening with a spinner, shot over the keeper) per se are still being worked out as this form of the game gains maturity. Dhoni has so far shown that his capataincy instincts can be equally brilliant in the T20 format. His move to bring in Suresh Raina in the CSK-Punjab was a master stroke. Shane Warne is brilliant as always. His one over to Badrinath on a turning track was an absolute treat from the master of spin bowling. It was confirmation that given the right settings there is still room for sheer traditional cricketing class in T20s. It will be interesting to see RR under Graeme Smith.