The Indian Premier League (IPL) is one of the most awaited cricketing events, especially in 2010. This is primarily because the IPL is back in India for its third season after South Africa hosted the cash-filled event last year. As well as the hype that it has generated this time around from Pakistan’s exclusion to signing a historic deal with Google.
However, talking about cricket, there were many new players picked by the franchisees to play this season. Let’s review the prospects of the two bottom-ranked teams last season –
1) Kolkata Knight Riders
KKR is one of the most popular teams in the tournament. However, the last season was forgettable as they finished 8th.
Kolkata have a new coach in Dav Whatmore who backs Sourav Ganguly to the fullest. Who wouldn’t remember Whatmore helping an underdog Sri Lankan team to the 1996 World Cup win? Who knows, Whatmore can do the same with Kolkata by winning the IPL.
And, Ganguly, the team’s icon player, is back as captain. ‘Dada’ is a true leader as he can inspire players to give their 100% on the field and is the darling of the team. Ganguly and Whatmore’s combination would be the one to watch out for in the IPL 3.
Kolkata looks formidable with additions of England’s Owais Shah and India’s Manoj Tiwary who can add depth to the middle-order. Shane Bond, New Zealand’s fast bowler was purchased for $750,000 in the auction this year. Ganguly has the option of allowing Bond to open the bowling with Ishant Sharma, therefore making a dream opening pair. Other bowlers like Ajit Agarkar, Ashok Dinda, Murali Kartik and Ajantha Mendis make Kolkata no underdogs.
Batting-wise, the Victorian duo of Brad Hodge and David Hussey can’t be sidelined. Hodge was the top-scorer for Kolkata in South Africa whereas Hussey is a good finisher. Chris Gayle and Sourav Ganguly can make a good opening pair. This provided if they are supported by Laxmi Shukla, Wriddhiman Saha and Rohan Gavaskar. Brendon McCullum is unavailable due to international commitments and Australian captain Ricky Ponting’s contract has been bought out. But this shouldn’t affect the team much.
The pattern in the IPL suggests that teams who have been considered as underdogs have gone on to win the tournament. Rajasthan Royals in the first season and then the bottom ranked team of the same season Deccan Chargers prevailed in the second season. So, Kolkata can take heart from this. They have a chance to enter the top four this season, if not win which could give them a ticket to the Champions League 2010.
2) Mumbai Indians
Despite finishing second-last in South Africa, Mumbai have shown that they are a team that deserves to be ranked in the top four. They missed out on the semi finals in the first season, as they ended at the 5th spot, which was played in India.
The franchisee captured West Indies star all-rounder Kieron Pollard for $750000 this year, making him the costliest player ever perhaps.
They have got an enviable batting line-up with captain Sachin Tendulkar opening the batting with another veteran, Sanath Jayasuriya. Followed by the West Indies duo of Pollard and Dwayne Bravo. JP Duminy is South Africa’s star with the bat as well as on the field. In bowling, Lasith Malinga was one of the highest wicket-takers last season in South Africa. Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh make Mumbai’s bowling attack threatening, as both of them are experienced and excellent T-20 bowlers.
Indian youngsters however are strength to this team. Ajinkya Rahane is Mumbai’s latest talent, Dhawal Kulkarni who is an in-form bowler who helped Mumbai win the Ranji Trophy, Abhishek Nayar who can be a real force with the bat, Harshal Patel, the U-19 player is a good pick this season. England all-rounder Graham Napier and Indian spinner Chaitanya Nanda played a few games in South Africa and represent the team’s strong bench strength.
However, Mumbai’s perennial weakness is that there have no experienced wicket-keeper. Pinal Shah and Yogesh Takawale didn’t impress in the two seasons. Luke Ronchi is more of a batsman than a wicketkeeper.
Another issue which is troubling is their peculiar ability of losing matches towards the end of the IPL. This shows that Mumbai’s performance goes down in a nervous situation. Can Tendulkar use his magical influence to make his team win? Well, he can as long as the players believe in their abilities and work as a cohesive unit, and not depend on individual success.
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