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Opening salvos in the IPL
by Suneer Chowdhary
Apr 20, 2009
Amidst not-so-much fanfare - when compared with the new home of cricket, India - the second edition of Indian Premier League has finally got underway and if there is one individual who wouldn't have stopped grinning whenever the lack of a camera glare would have allowed him to, it has to be Lalit Modi. For all the issues that one can associate with the political tinge - or more - that IPL and its members are related with, hats must be doffed at the audacity of the plan to shift it to South Africa, and execution so far. The noise decibels may have been a tad lower than the international norms set by the Indian fans, yet, it was good enough to see that the despite all the glitches, the tournament is finally on its way.

From the first couple of days of action, the Bangalore-Rajasthan match surprised me the most and it was as much about the result of the match as it was with the Challengers' batting line-up. That the defending champions were swatted away by Warne's old friend from Hampshire, Kevin Pietersen, like flies was confounding enough, but what makes me think deep is RC's strategy of going In with five of their top as batsmen who are more famous for their batting aggression than technique. It gives me a sense that the Challengers may be over-compensating from their last year's team of 'test players' by bringing in every single player who could be termed as fit for T20. What, however, could be a bother is that at this point of the time, the pitches would be anything but conducive to stroke-play and totals in the range of 200, which could demand a different breed of batsmen in the line-up.

Hence, having both Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor in the playing eleven could be a luxury, and one of them could very well be subbed with either a Jacques Kallis or even a Shivnaraine Chanderpaul; adding more balance to the batting. It had probably to do with Pietersen finding his feet as a captain for now, and I would be very interested in following how they go about it from here; despite their win, I do expect a change or two to their line-up. Otherwise, if ever there could be a fusion of technically perfect batsmanship while meeting the requirements of a T20 format - quick scoring - then Dravid's inning would come amazingly close.

Earlier, in the first match of the tournament, Tendulkar's knock was conspicuous by the way he sussed the situation and modified his game; something that was as jaw-dropping as McCullum's fire-cracker in previous season's opener.

It is rather easy to discount the Rajasthan Royals after just one defeat, but then, it is also not without reason that their team looks a trifle more vulnerable than the rest. Kings XI Punjab is the only other side that gives them a run for their money in terms of a weak bowling line-up - due to injuries and national duty - and one hopes that by the time the bowlers are back, it hasn't become too late for the teams' chances. Sohail Tanvir and Shane Watson were already out of reckoning, but with Shaun Tait also being called back by Cricket Australia, things have begun to look bleaker for them.

Yuvraj's Kings XI Punjab would be another team who would miss on their bowlers in conditions that would provide great assistance to the cherry-chuckers. They were terribly unlucky to lose the match to Delhi, but if one were to look for the bleakest of signs, the morale did not look quite up there. Karan Goel was the one cheer in the pall of gloom - literally and figuratively - and if they harbor any hopes of making it to the knock-out, Yuvi will need to take the bull by its horn, with both his batting and captaincy and inspire them for further glories. Unfortunately, Yuvi's walked out of conditions in NZ which he doesn't quite relish, and into similar seeming ones, exemplifying the phrase 'Out of frying pan, and into the fire!' to the fullest.

Despite KKR's defeat I do believe that they have a strong enough team to go the distance, and that is to do with their bowling attack consisting of quality bowlers from India. It was their batting that let them down and a score of 101 was never defendable in a twenty over match. I do believe that if they sort out their top order, and allow their bowlers even with moderate buffers, the bowling has the wherewithal to take care of the opposition.
 
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