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ICL: Highlights of the season gone by - Part 1
by S. Martin
Nov 21, 2008
By S. Martin - DreamCricket.com Feature Writer

The second edition of the Indian Cricket League has finally come to a close with the Lahore Badshahs trouncing arch-rivals and defending champions Hyderabad Heroes to claim the coveted ICL 20-20 Indian Championship crown.

This season was considered the comeback season of the ICL - its response to the popular IPL and its chance to prove to viewers that it may lack the star-power of the latter but it still has some entertaining cricketing action nonetheless.

However seeking to attract mass Indian audiences, who prefer Bollywood flicks where big names sell, the ICL could not match up to the TRP ratings the IPL garnered in its inaugural venture. What it did prove though, whether people were watching or ignoring, was that it had some astounding cricket not to mention teams and big names that took to the ICL like fish to water.

Dhaka Warriors:

Now Bangladesh maybe a side that's been playing regular international cricket for 11 years; but to date they have not been able to challenge the bigger teams of world cricket competitively. They have created the odd-upset beating Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and knocking India out of the 2007 World Cup, but that can be regarded more a matter of luck rather than a turning point in their cricket. The team themselves know that when they are up against any of the higher-ranked teams in world cricket, they will win only if the opposition is having a bad day and not necessarily on days when they are having a good one.

But with the Dhaka Warriors it was a completely different story. Like any other team, they took time to come into their own at the ICL. But when they fired, the whole of Bangladesh saluted their 'banned' cricketers. Cricket in Bangladesh, like in India, is a revered sport and the people of Bangladesh have waited with loads of patience to see their team improve on their winning ways.

The exodus of its national players to the ICL caused great furore among its countrymen but as long as the team was putting up a tough contest people didn't care. Old Bangladesh Warriors resurfaced as new champs and almost, but for a solitary win, sealed a spot in the semi-finals - all this in their inaugural tournament at the ICL.

Alok Kapali became the first-ever centurion at the ICL, reaching his three-figure landmark in just 59 balls. Now when was the last time you saw a Bangladeshi player achieve such a feat in world cricket? His feat came against no ordinary bowling attack. In fact it came against defending champions, Hyderabad Heroes who have a bowling attack compromising of Abdul Razzaq, Stuart Binny, Chis Harris and two of the best spin-duos of the ICL in IS Reddy and Nicky Boje. What a proud moment that was for a minnow country like Bangladesh producing a knock where everyone sat up, took notice and for once said that 'Bangladesh have arrived'.

In time, the Dhaka Warriors proved that they are a side that cannot be taken lightly, winning four out of their eight games at the ICL with just one win eclipsing them from a spot in the final-four. Balwinder Sandhu proved to be an inspiring coach; Habibul Bashar a man who led from the front; Shariar Nafees and Nazimuddin terrific openers; Kapali an outstanding candidate with bat and ball and Mohammad Rafique a deceptive spinner.  My bet is that these guys are only going to get better with time.

Openers set the tone 

The Twenty20 format of the game moves at such a frantic pace that a few bad overs in the middle can win or lose you games. That said and done, it's up to the openers of any team to set the team up for a large total and provide the foundation upon which other batsmen can build on.

  The ICL witnessed some of the most hostile opening pairs who blasted opposition attacks, sending the new ball to the boundary ropes at will. Chennai Superstars' Ganapathi Vignesh and Ian Harvey started out at the most destructive ICL opening pair. They slammed the fastest fifty of the ICL in just 18 balls.

What started with Vignesh and Harvey was soon followed up by other teams as well. As the tournament progressed some teams struck the right balance upfront by pairing two guys who've never opened with each other before. Strangely some succeeded and found their perfect ally just 22 yards away from them. Murray Goodwin and Ryan Campbell averaged 88 in their four matches, for the Ahmedabad Rockets, and will be a force to reckon with for the coming series. Strangely Murray Goodwin was in woeful form throughout the series till he was paired opposite the Australian who made his debut at the ICL this year. Unfortunately by time they struck their balance their side was already near relegation.

A similar serendipity happened with Royal Bengal Tigers' Hamish Marshall and Deep Dasgupta. The former Indian wicketkeeper, Dasgupta started off as opener in the last season but somehow did not look comfortable in that role. He was even demoted to the middle order because of his lack of form with the willow. But this season his luck changed because of the arrival of the Kiwi who was transferred from another ICL team to the Tigers' den. No sooner than he was paired with the curly-haired Kiwi, Dasgupta's form took an immediate u-turn atop the order. He not only started unleashing his full range of strokes with success, he also got his team off to a great start every single time. Marshall ended up as the second-highest run-scorer of the tournament.

But one pair that just kept getting better with time was the Imran-Imran duo from the Lahore Badshahs. Unfriendly, unforgiving and unstoppable were three adjectives you could use to describe the Imran Nazir - Imran Farhat duo. The way they mauled some of the attacks at will, one could not help by think of the former formidable Pakistan opening duo of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Anwar when the two were at the prime of their form.

Imran Nazir started and ended off as the more flamboyant of the two but Farhat played some crucial match-winning knocks and showed, in the latter part of the tournament, that he is capable of playing crucial knocks even without Nazir. The duo broke the record for the fastest half-century partnership at the ICL reaching the landmark off just 15 balls. This was in a match against the Mumbai Champs where Nazir slammed an unbeaten 88 and took former Aussie pacer Michael Kasprowicz for 30 runs in a single over. Post that knock he said that he was going to score an ICL century. But the media thought he was just bragging after a blitzkrieg innings.

We'll find out in Part 2 whether he kept up to his promise.

To be continued...
 
More Views by S. Martin
  ICL: Highlights of the season gone by - Part 1
  ICL - Indian 'Comeback' League?
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