Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Pierre Goes Subcontinental – The IPL, What’s It All About?

The IPL is back this week (Wednesday) and Pierre’s nearly excited about it because he’s sick to the back teeth of focussing all of his predicting energies on just the Premier League and its overpaid dandy charlatans. So, he’s decided to take a closer look and see what’s what. Here’s what he found out.

The IPL starts again on Wednesday when the Chennai Superkings host the Mumbai Indians in the season opener, how thoroughly exciting is that? Well we’re excited at the Cold Ghetto Roost and so we’re taking a look at the IPL, having a gander at the teams, players, cities and the whole palaver and trying to make sense of all the Twenty20 chaos and generally immersing ourselves in all things IPLish, good stuff. Here’s a run down.

This will be the fifth season of the IPL, I know, time flies right, and the nine teams involved will spend 76 games and nearly 8 weeks playing each other to decide which of them is the best come the 27th of May.

Can Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Chennai Superkings win their third straight IPL title? Can twice beaten finalists, Royal Challengers Bangalore, make it third time lucky and exact revenge for their defeat in the IPL-IV grand final? And the defeat they suffered to the Hyderabad Deccan Chargers in IPL-II? Or will the Deccan Chargers themselves bounce back and take the title? It could be the inaugural winners, Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals? In fact, it could be any of the nine sides who win it. Who will? Well let’s see who’s playing where and whether we think they’re any good.

The Teams

Chennai Superkings

The Chennai Superkings are back to back winners of the IPL, winning in the last two finals, beating the Mumbai Indians in IPL-III and Bangalore Royal Challengers last year in IPL-IV, they also lost the inaugural final to Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals so Chennai are very much the Barcelona of the IPL and they look like being the team to beat this year. MS Dhoni, India’s talismanic captain, returns to lead the team and New Zealander Steven Fleming takes hold of the coaching reigns.
Chennai Superkings Essential Facts

Home City: Chennai
Home Venue: M.A. Chidambaram Stadium (Cap – 50,000)
Coach: Steven Fleming
Captain: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

Star Players: Suresh Raina (Ind) – Doug Bollinger (Aus) – Albie Morkel (S.A) – Michael Hussey (Aus) – Ravi Jadeja (Ind) – Dwayne Bravo (WI) - Scott Styris (Aus)

Best Season: Two times champions
Last Season: Winners (2nd in the league)
Record: Gp – 14 -- W – 9 -- L - 4 -- pts – 18

IPL-V Forecast: Good chance to win it again, pre-season favourites, strong in all departments, especially batting, any side that has Dhoni and Mike Hussey in it have chances to win games of cricket in any form. They’ll be the team to beat.

Deccan Chargers

Won IPL-II but finished a lowly and disappointing 7th of the 10 teams from last year and lost more games than they won. They do have the excellent Sri Lankan batsman Kumar Sangakkara leading them this season and are being guided through this campaign by stalwart Aussie Darren Lehmann. They’ll be hoping to turn last season’s disappointment around but they face a tough start as they host Chennai Superkings first up, in Match 6 on Saturday, although I suppose it does get it out of the way early on in the campaign and there is always a chance that Dhoni & Co will start the season cold.

Deccan Chargers Essential Facts

Home City
: Hyderabad
Home Venue: Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium (Cap – 55,000)
Coach: Darren Lehmann
Captain: Kumar Sangakkara

Star Players: Amit Mishra (Ind) – Dale Steyn (SA) – JP Duminy (SA) – Cameron White (Aus)

Best Season: Winners (IPL-II)
Last Season: 7th – Record: Gp – 14 -- W – 6 -- L – 8 -- Pts – 12

IPL-V Forecast: They don’t look that strong, although they probably do have the best fast bowler in world cricket in Dale Steyn and decent batsmen in Sangakkara & Duminy, may do better than last year but will struggle to make the top four and the play-offs.

Delhi Daredevils

Delhi Daredevils had a terrible season in IPL-IV finishing dead bottom and only managing 4 wins in the whole of their arduous campaign, with five games to go it could have gone either way but they lost four of those games, including the last three and by the time the very last game versus Pune Warriors was called off they were dead last, it’s surprising because they did have some heavy-hitters, including one Kevin Pietersen and Virenda Sehwag but sometimes the sum of the parts don’t add up to much in the way of results.

Delhi Daredevils Essential Facts

Home City
: Delhi
Home Venue: Feraz Shah Kotla Stadium (Cap - 48,000)
Coach: Eric Simmons
Captain: Virenda Sehwag

Star Players: Irfan Pathan (Ind) – Ajit Agarkar (Ind) – David Warner (Aus) - Morne Morkel (SA) – Mahela Jayawardene (SrL) – Kevin Pietersen (Eng) – Ross Taylor (NZ) – Roelof Van Der Merwe (SA)

Best Season: Semi Finals (IPL-I & IPL-II)
last Season: 10th – Record: Gp – 14 -- W – 4 -- L – 9 -- NR – 1 -- Pts – 9

IPL-V Forecast: They will be looking to put a truly dreadful IPL-IV campaign behind them with a far improved performance this year, and they do have the players to do that, at least on paper, they have very big hitting in Pietersen, Sehwag, Jayawardene and Ross Taylor and a couple of useful bowlers. That may be where the prospects on paper differ from results on the pitch though, the batsmen are gong to need to “go big” to give their bowlers something to cling to when they try to take 10 wickets.
Kings XI Punjab

The unlucky fifth placed team last time out, finishing just a single win behind Kolkata Knightriders for a place in the top four play-offs. Captain, all-round nice guy and acceptable face of Aussie cricket, Adam Gilchrist was probably looking forward to having Stuart Broad turn his arm over for his team, but a troublesome ankle injury has sent him home from England’s tour of Sri Lanka and so that dents their bowling unit which includes fast Aussies Ryan Harris and Shaun Marsh. If they’re going to go one stage further than last year they’ll probably need some batting from someone who’s name isn’t Gilchrist and looking at their line up it’s hard to see how they stand up to the likes of Chennai, Mumbai or even the Delhi Daredevils.

Kings XI Punjab Essential Facts

Home City
: Mohali
Home Venue: Punjab Cricket Association Stadium (Cap - 30,000)
Coach: Michael Bevan
Captain: Adam Gilchrist

Star Players: David Hussey (Aus) – Dimitri Mascarenhas (Eng) – Shaun Marsh (Aus) – Ryan Harris (Aus) – Stuart Broad (Eng (unlikely to play))

Best Season: Semi Finals (IPL-I)
Last Season: 5th – Record: Pl – 14 -- W – 7 -- L – 7 -- Pts – 14

IPL-V Forecast: Can the Aussie duo, coach Michael Bevan and Captain Adam Gilchrist, take them one step further than last season? They have a largely unheralded squad of players with no real world stars but Gilchrist has been around the track at least twice and if he can find some of his old form then there isn’t a bowler in the league who’d want to try to take him on. But so much relies on the likeable Aussie that I get the feeling that it won’t be quite enough to push them one step further, mid table finishers.

Kolkata Knight Riders

The Knight Riders did very well last season, they finished fourth, made the play-offs and mostly kept up with the big three teams in the league, not bad at all really. They have Gautam Gambhir leading them this season and have decent overseas players in Brett lee, Brendon McCullum and England’s Irish Twenty20 phenomenon Eoin Morgan who’ll be looking to put being dropped by the England test team selectors to the back of his mind.

Kolkata Knight Riders Essential Facts
Home City: Kolkata
Home Venue: Eden Gardens (Cap – 90,000)
Coach: Trevor Bayliss
Captain: Gautam Gambhir

Star Players: Brett Lee (Aus) – Brad Haddin (Aus) – Eoin Morgan (Eng) – Ryan Ten Doeschate (Ned) – Brendon McCullum (NZ) – Yusuf Pathan (Ind)

Best Season: Semi Finals (IPL-IV)
Last Season: 4th – Record: Pl – 14 -- W – 8 -- L – 6 -- Pts – 16

IPL-V Forecast: Their Aussie contingent looks strong. Brett Lee has been the world’s most effective fast bowler in his time and if he can find conditions in India to his liking and if he can use his experience and natural speed they can knock over any attack. They’ll be looking to the likes of Gambhir, Morgan, McCullum and Haddin to flog the ball about and Yusuf Pathan to hit that sponsored car, they park at every ground, several times. Good chance to push for another play-off spot.

Mumbai Indians

The whole IPL may have been invented to give the cricket smitten Indian public a chance to watch Sachin Tendulkar flog all and sundry to the four corners of the sub-continent in the autumn years of the little master’s career but that hasn't exactly gone to plan for the IPL, the Mumbai Indians or tiny Sachin. His Mumbai Indians may have made the 2010 final and they may have coasted through last season but that didn’t mean that MS Dhoni, the Chennai Superkings or even the Bangalore Royal Challengers were going to let him get away with that sort of talk. Maybe now he’s finally scored his 100th international 100, after what seemed about 30years stuck on 99 of them, he’ll have less things on his mind and he’ll be able to give this IPL season the walloping it deserves. They get to find out on the opening day when they face the champions and fierce rivals on Wednesday in IPL-V’s curtain raiser, it should be tasty (more to follow).

Who knows? They do, as they usually do, have a strong chance of winning it but then they did this time last year and they didn’t do it then either. They probably start second favourites behind Chennai and they should at least repeat a play-off spot.

Mumbai Indians Essential Facts
Home City: Mumbai
Home Stadium: Wankhede Stadium (Cap – 33,000)
Coach: Robin Singh
Captain: Harbhajan Singh

Star Players: Sachin Tendulkar (Ind) – Munaf Patel (Ind) – Pragyan Ojha (Ind) – Dinesh Karthik (Ind) – Keiron Pollard (WI) – Lasith Malinga (SrL) – Herschelle Gibbs (SA) – Mitchell Johnson (Aus) – Rohit Sharma (Ind)

Best Season: Losing Finalists (IPL-III)
Last Season: 3rd – Lost to Royal Challengers Bangalore in Semi Finals
Record: Pl - 14 -- W – 9 -- L – 5 -- Pts 18

IPL-V Forecast: They are strong in all departments, they were as competitive as any team last season until they came up against man of the series Chris Gayle who scored a staggering 608 runs in 12 innings (at any average of 67.55 and a crazy strike rate of 183.13), including 89 from 47 balls in RCB’s semi final win over the Indians, but they do have the best two bowlers from last year. Lasith Malinga and Munaf Patel combined for 50 wickets in IPL-IV and when you have Tendulkar you have a chance to win almost any game of cricket, strong contenders, one of the best three squads in IPL.

Pune Warriors

Pune didn't exactly hit the ground running in their debut season in IPL-IV, they finished a miserable 2nd bottom of the league after picking up only four wins in the campaign and they’ll be looking for a big improvement this time round. They do have wily old campaigner Sourav Ganguly pointing his players around the pitch but they’ve already lost one of their star foreign imports in Graeme Smith who has chosen to nurse an ankle injury at home ahead of South Africa’s summer tour to England, and in a very competitive looking IPL they’ll miss the big South African’s beefy hitting and experience.
Pune Warriors Essential Facts

Home City: Navi Mumbai
Home Venue: Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium (Cap – 55,000)
Coach: Geoff Marsh
Captain: Sourav Ganguly

Star Players: Robin Uthappa (Ind) – Wayne Parnell (SA) – Jesse Ryder (NZ) – Callum Ferguson (Aus) – Angelo Matthews (SrL) – Graeme Smith (SA (probably not playing))

Best Season: 9th (IPL-IV)
Last Season: 9th – Record – Pl – 14 -- W – 4 -- L - 9 -- NR – 1 -- Pts 9

IPL–IV Forecast: Struggled last year and I can’t see them doing anything more than that without Graeme Smith. They seem to be some players short in most departments and it’s difficult to understand how this squad of players will be able to compete in enough games to finish much higher than the 9th they finished last year and there’s one less team in the league this time around.

Rajasthan Royals

Ahhh Shane Warne’s old team, and that bit is quite important, as in, tubby, plastic Shane isn’t playing this year, and the worlds greatest ever spin bowler is a loss to any team even if he was knocking on a bit. They do still have hard hitting Shane Watson though who’s good for breaking some windows of any unlucky Jaipur motorist who happens to be tootling about within 2 or 3 miles of the ground. Can they improve on their rather average looking 6th place from last year and return to the form that saw them win IPL-II? I don’t know, maybe? This season looks damned competitive though and they need to start well if they’re going to move back in to play-off contention.

Rajasthan Royals Essential Facts
Home City: Jaipur
Home Stadium: Sawai Mansingh Stadium (Cap – 30,000)
Coach: Rahul Dravid
Captain: Rahul Dravid

Star Players: Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (
Ind) – Shaun Tait (Aus) – Shane Watson (Aus) - Paul Collingwood (Eng) – Brad Hogg (Aus)

Best Season: Champions (IPLI)
Last Season: 6th – Record: Pl – 14 – W – 6 -- L – 7 -- NR – 1 -- Pts – 13

IPL-V Forecast: They have some useful Aussies in there, and old Codger Collingwood, but an awful lot falls on Rahul Dravid now that Shane Warne isn’t guiding the ship. Dravid is a genuine world class player, he might look at some of the other franchises and think that they have four or five world class players and I’ve got me. A bit short of all round quality to make the play-offs.

Royal Challengers Bangalore

Mumbai and Chennai probably have better squads than Bangalore but they don’t have A) Chris Gayle and B) a better spin bowler than Daniel Vettori. They also have some useful imports and some decent pace bowling to back up Vettori. Gayle took almost every team’s attack apart in 2011 and if he comes close to matching his IPL-IV antics this time round they could easily go one step further and win the whole lot. He may be the most important Twenty20 player in the world and if he’s on fire then people in the posh boxes in the pavilion in Bangalore should keep an eye out for cricket balls smashing into their tasty posh lunches.

Royal Challengers Bangalore Essential Facts

Home City
: Bangalore
Home Venue: M. Chinnaswamy Stadium (Cap – 45,000)
Coach: Ray Jennings
Captain: Daniel Vettori

Star Players: Chris Gayle (WI) – AB de Villiers (SA) – Charl Langeveldt (SA) – Zaheer Khan (Ind) – Dirk Nannes (Aus) – Tillekaratne Dilshan (SrL)

Best Season: Runners Up (IPL II & IV)
Last Season: 1st - Beaten Finalists –
Record – Pl 14 – W – 9 -- L – 4 -- NR – 1 – Pts – 19

IPL-V Forecast: Can RCB make it 3rd time lucky and win a final, well it was rather noticeable that in last season’s final against Chennai their challenge rather crumbled once Chris Gayle got out before he’d really started but he averaged over 60 runs per innings and managed a strike rate of close to 2 runs per ball. No one else got within 30% of his strike rate over the course of last season and if Vettori can keep the opponents runs down they have a strong shot at going all the way. None of the big franchises with hopes of winning IPL-V will want to face RCB, or Chris Gayle in particular, in a one-on-one match up. Serious title contenders if Gayle turns up on form.

There you go, the first round of matches will be up soon. Have fun.

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