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Icon led teams fail to perform at IPL
by Partab Ramchand
Jun 01, 2008
By Partab Ramchand - DreamCricket Columnist

Teams led by Sourav Ganguly, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman not making it to the semifinals of the Indian Premier League? Whoever would have thought along these lines on April 18, the day the mega event commenced?

In fact on the eve of the tournament I well remember the bookies had installed Deccan Chargers as favorites. No one could find fault with this given the big names with seemingly the perfect credentials for slam bang cricket in the Hyderabad side. But things went bad for them right from the beginning, there was no real recovery and they suffered the ignominy of finishing last. Deccan Chargers lost their first three matches before registering their first win. Two more losses effectively ended their semifinal hopes. A consolation win followed but then seven straight defeats meant that there was only one position for them - the cellar position.

With that kid of dubious record it was obvious that the side was let down by both batsmen and bowlers. The departure of Andrew Symonds after the first four games was going to be a blow but Deccan Chargers still had the personnel to score quickly in Adam Gilchrist, Shahid Afridi, Rohit Sharma, Scott Styris and Herschelle Gibbs. But with only Gilchrist and Sharma among the runs and others being dismal failures the side was always going to be up against it especially with the profligacy of the bowlers. Rudra Pratap Singh for example was among the leading wicket takers in the tournament but his economy rate left much to be desired. The vastly experienced Chaminda Vaas was a big letdown and only the promising left arm spinner Pragyan Ojha came good. The withdrawal of skipper VVS Laxman through injury midway through was no great loss as the Hyderabadi stylist is clearly not cut out for Twenty20 cricket.

At the start of the tournament the chances of Royal Challengers were not rated very highly but certainly none could have predicted that the Bangalore team would be battling it out with Deccan Chargers towards the end of the competition to avoid the wooden spoon. They were labeled as a Test team but the charge was not entirely true for they had players of the calibre of Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Misbah ul Huq, Ross Taylor, Zaheer Khan and Dale Steyn who have excellent credentials for slam bang cricket. But most of these players failed to live up to their reputation and then admittedly they also had a lot of deadwood as far as the Twenty20 game was concerned. This was always going to hinder their progress and four defeats in their first five matches meant that they had no realistic chance of qualifying for the semis and thereafter five successive defeats meant that they were in danger of ending up with the wooden spoon. They saved their face somewhat by winning two games in a row late in their limp campaign.

Mumbai Indians along with Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers were the three costliest franchisees and yet the Sachin Tendulkar led team could finish no higher than fifth at the preliminary stage. In their case it can justifiably be said that they could well have benefited had the captain been available right from the start for even at 35 Tendulkar has the game for cricket's newest and shortest format unlike Dravid and Laxman. Mumbai's was indeed a roller coaster ride. They lost their first four games and then won six in a row to come back into contention for a place in the last four. But then they lost three consecutive nail-biters and had to settle for minor placings. It must also not be forgotten that Mumbai Indians lost the services of Harbhajan Singh early in the campaign for reasons that are well known. Also some of the matches they lost could well have gone the other way with a little bit of good fortune. Along with Rajasthan Royals they were the only side to have a record of six successive victories. The Mumbai side's batting and bowling had their purple patches and the all round skills of Shaun Pollock and Dwayne Bravo went a long way in keeping their campaign going.

Another team that had a bit of a roller coaster ride was Kolkata Knight Riders. Two wins followed by four losses and then three wins followed by three losses all added up to sixth place in the points table. Losing the services of Brendon McCullum after just four games was a bit of a setback but they were reinforced by the inclusion of Shoaib Akhtar. The Kolkata team’s main strength was their bowling which was manned by Ishant Sharma, Akhtar, Ashok Dinda, Ajit Agarkar and Umar Gul. But the inability of Murali Kartik to be among the wickets was something they could ill afford. Moreover their suspect batting quite often came a cropper and in the ultimate analysis it was this weaker aspect of their game that cost them a place in the semifinals.

The lesson to be learnt from the failure of these four fancied teams to progress to the next stage of the IPL is that big names and iconic stars do not guarantee success. Even in Twenty20 the traditional values of cricket - leadership, team work, dedication and determination - are important.

 
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