T20 World Cup 2009 – Preview

31/05/2009

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The final of the IPL was a week ago today – andin 5 days time the opening match of the T20 World Cup, between hosts England and the Netherlands, takes place. It really is a crowded international schedule these days.

The previous, and inaugural, T20 World Cup was hosted by South Africa and won by India two years ago. The hype and excitement of that tournament added energy and freshness to the cricket world, yet this years edition has been more understated. That probably has a lot to do with the circus that is the IPL, yet one has to feel that those marketing the World Cup in England could perhaps do a better job. World Cup’s shouldn’t sneak up on you. The IPL should have been the appetizer to the main course, which starts next week. Lets hope the cricket does a better job and all the right noises are made after.

When T20 cricket launched itself onto the world stage it was viewed as pure entertainment, a hit and miss form of the game, and not taken too seriously by those on the field. There was almost a feel that it was more about luck than skill and not much could be done to curtail the individual. It wasn’t cricket – it was glitz. Barely two years since and how things have changed. T20 is very much a skill based, tactical battle, that seems to sharpen skills, rather than deplete them. The cream always rises, and T20 has seen it mastered by the great players, the players who have excelled in Test and ODI cricket, and not the close your eyes and swing variety. T20 is real business and will be fought out by the best players  over the next few weeks.

The favourites for the crown will be the same for any cricketing competition held at this team, no matter what the format. Defending champions India have perhaps benefited the most from the IPL as their pool of players playing at a higher level has increased to one meaning a squad of 50+ players could easily be assembled. Their opening combination of Sehwag and Gambhir didn’t really fire during the IPL andwill be looking for form in England. The early swinging ball may not be to their liking, but both will be looking to get the team out of the boxes fast and not just solidly. There after the hitting power in the Indian squad is phenomenal. Anyone of Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, Raina, Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma will be able to single handedly build a total. If the batting comes off India will be hard to beat. The bowlers have a less solid look to them. Sharma, Pathan, RP Singh and Kumar will be complemented by the spin of Harbhajan and Ojha, but the key may be the form of Zaheer Khan. Zaheermissed the later part of the IPL with a shoulder njury. India’s success may depend on how quickly he recovers his form back.

Australia go into this World Cup without the favourites tag that has accompanied them for much of the last 15 years. Their squad is solid if not spectacular, but would have benefited from the rest they forced on much of their IPL contingent. The Aussies will be looking to get their hands on the only ICC competition that isn’t there’s right now. They will also be using the World Cup to get them off to a good start to their Ashes series. The dark horse tag, rather than favourite tag, may help the Aussies this time, although they have never been burdened by being favourites.

South Africa crashed out of the last edition with a loss to India in their last 2nd phase group game. It was their only loss in the competition and heir only poor performance. Smith’s men felt hard done by, given that 3 of the 4 semi final teams had lost more than them. They will be looking to get things right this time around, and maybe without the expectation of being hosts or favourites, may have more freedom to carry them forward. The balance of the squad is perhaps the best since South Africa returned to international cricket in 1992. Half the squad didn’t feature much in the IPL and should be well rested. Albie Morkel and Smith had poor showings with the bat last month and will be looking to fare better for their country then they did for their IPL teams. Yusuf Abdulla was the revelation of the first hald of the IPL, leading the wicket table at that stage, before being left out for the returning Brett Lee. He will look to carry on with that form, while at the same time showing the Kings 11 that they should have stuck with him. Abdulla, Albie Morkel, Kallis, Steyn and Parnell all offer swing, while Morne Morkel, with bounce and pace, and the spin twins of Botha and van der Merwe, make the attack a potent and balanced one. JP Duminy and AB de Villiers stared with the bat in the IPL and will be looking to carry that form. The squad boasts some of the best fielders in the world, and carries no real weakness. Solid batting, big hitting, depth, pace, swing, bounce, and spin. South Africa are looking good.

With England looking to make the most of home conditions, and momentum, following an easy convincing series win over the West Indies, and New Zealand always handy on the big stage, there are a fair amount of dark horses to watch out for. Pakistan have had very little cricket and havemuch to prove. The best outside bet however may be Sri Lanka. The seeding for the World Cup is based on the previous edition. This means that if all the top teams get through the opening phase, and they should have little trouble here, the big three favourites, India, Australia and South Africa willfind themselves in the same group, playing for 2 semi final places. Sri Lanka will be in the other group and should have an easy march trough to the semi’s. The batting lineup is a strong one, with Jayasuriya, Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene all able to adept to the needed situation, and in Murli and Malinga, they have two bowlers who won’t make any total look safe.

Sri Lanka will be hoping that the big three all batter and bruise each other, weakening themselves for a possible semi andfinal show down, while the big three will be hoping that a harder run in, and an easier one for Sri Lanka, will leave them better prepared.

The winners should come from those four. However little will be taken for granted, and with a World Cup crown up for grabs, all will be giving there all to get their hands on the crown. The shorter format leads to greater chances of upsets, so the slightest complacency will be punished. If the weather plays its part we should be treated to some great cricket, hopefully cricket worthy of being the main course to the IPL appetizer.

 

pic from cricinfo.com


The Sunday Papers

24/05/2009

NEWS OF THE WORLD

Cristiano Ronaldo has pledged: “I am staying at Manchester United.”

Manchester City have stepped up their chase for Arsenal striker Emmanuel Adebayor.

Xabi Alonso has rocked Liverpool by admitting he wants to quit Anfield.

Goodison legend Peter Reid is trying to buy his beloved Everton.

Chelsea are planning for life without Didier Drogba by moving for Atletico Madrid striker Sergio Aguero.

Manchester City are desperate to push through a new deal for Stephen Ireland while Nedum Onuoha is set to sign a three-year contract.

Chelsea’s £25million move for Zenit St Petersburg’s Portugal midfielder Danny has been dealt a serious injury blow.

Newcastle are desperate to keep young goalkeeper Fraser Forster.

Wigan want to sign Alan Smith from Newcastle.

Fulham boss Roy Hodgson has lined up a move for FC Twente’s Austria striker Marko Arnautovic.

Everton face stiff competition for Inter Milan striker David Suazo with Manchester City and Villarreal also interested.

THE PEOPLE

Angry Patrice Evra has accused Cesc Fabregas and Arsenal of trying to kick him out of the Champions League final.

Sunderland are set to have a £200million transfer budget thanks to new owner Ellis Short.

Gareth Southgate will be asked to oversee a fire sale of players if Middlesbrough are relegated.

Bayern Munich want Portsmouth’s England right-back Glen Johnson.

Manchester City are ready to offer Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry £19million in wages to tempt him to Eastlands.

Arsenal are ready to launch a club-record move for Blackburn striker Roque Santa Cruz.

Aston Villa are set to make another move for David Bentley of Tottenham.

Stephen Hunt and Andre Bikey are on their way out of Reading. Hunt is a target for Everton while Wigan want Bikey.

Everton are closing in on a £12million deal for Sporting Lisbon midfielder Joao Moutinho.

Manchester United want Charlton’s England youth defender Carl Jenkinson.

Middlesbrough want Leeds winger Robert Snodgrass.

Leicester boss Nigel Pearson is ready to sign Hibernian’s Polish goalkeeper Grzegorz Szamotulski.

Lucas Neill and West Ham are set to agree a new deal.

Kettering boss Mark Cooper is favourite to take over at Chesterfield.

Salomon Kalou has hinted he may leave Chelsea.

Preston boss Alan Irvine is on Reading’s short-list for their vacant managerial position.

DAILY STAR SUNDAY

Djibril Cisse is closing down his classy Newcastle clothes shop The Pr9ject – sparking fears that the Sunderland striker will be leaving in the summer.

Manchester City are set to join the race to land Aston Villa midfielder Gareth Barry.

Tottenham will switch their attention to Juventus striker Vincenzo Iaquinta – if they fail to land Kenwyne Jones from Sunderland.

Derby are launching a £500,000 bid for Blackpool defender Shaun Barker.

Southampton winger Nathan Dyer is wanted by Ajax.

French club Marseille have joined Wigan in showing an interest in Tottenham midfielder Didier Zokora.

Oldham want Bradford skipper Graeme Lee on a free.

Coventry are chasing Leicester outcast DJ Campbell.

Derby manager Nigel Clough is ready to get rid of £3million flop Claude Davis to Crystal Palace – for nothing.

SUNDAY MIRROR

David Beckham is set to join Chelsea as part of Carlo Ancelotti’s blueprint for the club.

Kanu is anxiously awaiting a decision from Portsmouth as to whether he is to be offered a new deal.

Micah Richards has been assured he has a future at Manchester City.

Aston Villa are preparing a £9million offer for Almeria’s 27-year-old left-back Mane.

Ipswich and Sunderland want Bristol City midfielder Marvin Elliott.

Fulham have turned down the chance to sign Derby’s Giles Barnes on a permanent deal.

MAIL ON SUNDAY

Sir Alex Ferguson insists Cristiano Ronaldo is staying at Manchester United but Carlos Tevez looks set to leave.

SUNDAY EXPRESS

Texan millionaire Ellis Short will complete his buy-out of Sunderland this week.

Liverpool’s pursuit of Portsmouth right-back Glen Johnson is gathering pace.


IPL Teams Missed a Trick

23/05/2009

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There are only two days, and two matches, left till the second edition of the IPL crowns its champion team. The Deccan Chargers rather easily, and surprisingly, brushed aside the form team this season, the table topping Delhi Daredevils, on a cool evening in Pretoria yesterday, and today last year’s losing finalists, and the team that finished second in the round robin stage, the Chennai Superkings, take on the resurgent Bangalore Royal Challengers.

Whatever happens in this evenings game, and in the final itself tomorrow, and without diminishing the success of the competition, much has already been made at the impressive task South Africa have undertaken in hosting and pulling off a great IPL at such short notice, I can’t help but feel that the many of the teams themselves have failed to fully take advantage of the assets at their disposal.

The tournament was shifted to South Africa, from India, and this meant that the teams would encounter differing conditions, in terms of the pitch and the weather. This has been born true with scores not reaching the heady heights of last year’s editions, although there have been more close finishes, which has added to the excitement and success of the compitition. A pleasant surprise too many Indian fans and players has been the success of spin in South African conditions, which have generally tended to favour pace bowlers. But it must be remembered that the pitches being used have been put through an entire domestic and international season and would therefore offer more to the spinners. Added to this has been South Africa’s reliance on spin in the recent ODI and T20 series against Australia, where at least two spinners where picked for each game. Times are changing in South Africa as they gear up for the next World Cup in spin friendly Sub Continental pitches.

The trick that has been missed by many teams this year is their lack of using those best suited for the conditions – their South African players. The IPL was shifted to South Africa yet instead of making use of their home advantage many teams chose to ignore their players who play on these pitches week in and week out in favour of lesser known Australians. This year’s IPL turned out to be the Indian and fringe Australian Players League.

The best example of this was the disappointing bottom placed Kolkota Knightriders. At their disposal they had Charl Langeveld, the best T20 bowler in South African domestic cricket every season since the inception of the Pro20 series. Yet he wasn’t picked until their last game, where he picked up a wicked with his first ball and ended with figures of 3/15 in 4 overs. Not bad for someone who spent 5 weeks sitting around watching his team lose. His greatest value in Pro20 has been his death bowling, where he has rescued and won many games for the Cape Cobra’s, a skill that is essential in T20 and even more so in closely fought games. Another South African in the Kolkota squad was wicket keeper batsman Morne van Wyk. The Eagles opening batsman has been a star and leading run getter in all the Pro20 seasons. He came into the Kolkota squad when it became evident that they were to finish bottom, put in a string of fine performances, including a great 70 odd, failed once, and was never seen again.

The Mumbai Indians have had Ryan McLaren sitting on their bench for the entire series. The all rounder has starred in both the domestic Pro20 series as well as for Kent in England. Yet games where given to the likes of Luke Ronchi, who did little to impress last year and continued that this year. McLaren would have given the Indians a better bowling attack, especially when Zaheer Khan was ruled out through injury, and a more solid lower order, whose fragility was exposed time and time again. The South African national team would love to have McLaren in their set up, where he would be an ideal replacement for the retired legend Shaun Pollock, but Kent has not allowed that. His contract with Kent ends this season and there will be little doubt that he will be drafted into the South African set up as soon as possible. How a coaching set up that included Pollock, Jonty Rhodes and Doug Watson did not get McLaren into the team is mystifying, unless they weren’t given 100% selection authority.

Last year’s champions had Morne Morkel itching to get involved this time round. They gave him the odd run out, where he performed well, especially considering he was playing cold. They lost bowler after bowler through suspect action and injury and were deeply lacking in experience, yet allowed this asset, who will be South Africa’s leading bowler in the future, to sit and watch it all.

The Kings 11 Punjab pulled off a master stroke by signing Yusuf Abdulla. Abdulla would not have been known outside South Africa and someone in the Punjab set up had obviously done their homework and indentified him as an option. Abdulla has been one of the top performers in the Pro20 Series in South Africa and against Australia this year played his first international T20 game, bowling well and picking up the wicket of Ricky Ponting. After a nervous start in his first two games he came to life and led the wicket table with 14 scalps after 7 games. He then had a couple of bad overs and was dispatched with as soon as Sreesanth and Brett Lee were fit. And Sreesanth was a huge let down.

A team that showed the way things should have been done were the Bangalore Royal Challengers. After falling behind in the table and with their most expensive player, and captain, Kevin Pieterson failing miserably, they have shot up the table and finished third. There rise up the table came about with KP leaving for the England/West Indies series and handing the captaincy over to Anil Kumble, and the use of South African players in South African conditions. Kallis, Boucher and Roelof van der Merwe have all been important clogs in the Challengers winning set up, but they have also used Dale Steyn and Dillon Dupreez in games. Don’t bet against the Challengers causing a surprise and ousting the Super Kings tonight and the Chargers tomorrow.

When you play in the Sup Continent you’d be best served using Sub Continental players who can best exploit the familiar conditions. In Australia use Australians. So why haven’t the teams this year made better use of the local talent?  The success of the likes of JP Duminy, AB de Villiers and Yusuf Abdulla, as well as the contributions of Kallis, Boucher and van der Merwe bear testament to that. Lessens should be learned and better homework and organisation by the teams should be highlighted in such a lucrative and massive stage. All this while the likes of Hashim Amla, Justin Ontong, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson and Johan Louw sit and watch from their TV’s at home.

 

(pic from cricinfo.com)