IPL4 – Format & Auctions

Finally, After all the long litigations and hours of meetings it almost seems final that IPL 4 would have 10 teams and 74 matches. There would 2 groups of 5 each which would play matches on Home and Away basis thus producing 40 matches. The next round will have top 6 teams playing against each other in home- away basis and thus producing another 30 matches. 2 semi finals, 1 3rd place match and the mega final would make it 74 matches over a period of 6 weeks.

The players auction has been finalized for 8th and 9th January 2011. There are 416 players available for the first round of auction. This list includes heavyweights like Rahul Dravid, YuvRaj Singh, Zaheer Khan from India and International stars like Brian Lara, Micheal Hussey and Kevin Peterson.  Out of these the list will be pruned down to a more reasonable number by December 24,2010 based on the interests shown by the 10 franchises. The base prices for the players are fixed but that is of course not indicative of the actual prices. Notable absentees in the list are Ricky Ponting, Mitchell Johnson and Micheal Clarke who have resisted IPL’s money in favor of longer International career. Pakistani players are also not part of the list.

12 players have been retained by various franchises. Mumbai Indians have retained Sachin, Harbhajan Singh, Malinga and Pollard while Chennai have put faith in Dhoni, Raina, Vijay and Albie Morkel. Delhi have retained Sehwag while Bangalore are happy with Virat Kohli. Rajasthan have retained Shane Warne and Shane Watson. The other 3 teams namely Deccan, Knightriders and Kings XI Punjab and the 2 new teams of Pune and Kochi go with empty roster in the auction and the full 9 Million $ to spend.

Apart from the auctions the team will be entitled to sign the Indian domestic players which will make the backbone of any team. BCCI is yet to decide upon the final date from which this signing can happen.

The auctions would surely be as keenly followed as the actual IPL Matches.

IPL 4 – Status Update

IPL 4 is set to be played 6 days after the conclusion of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. The tournament is now about 4 months away, however due to the various controversies neither the no. of teams, the players, no. of matches, format anything is known to the public and not even to the players and team owners. It was supposed to be a 10 Team event when 2 new teams Pune and Kochi were added last year in much publicized team auction.

Later due to the ownership issues and various non-cricketing reasons Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab were suspended from the IPL and the Kochi team was always on the brink of suspension due to its various ownership issues. At one stage it looked there would be just 7 teams and an eighth team would be added after a fresh round of auction. However as things stand today Kochi is back in the fold and so is Rajasthan Royals based on the court order. Punjab team is likely to be there as well as their case is similar to the Royals. Thus it would be a 10 team affair.

Player auction which was supposed to be held in November had been postponed to January and now it seems may further gets postponed to March, i.e. during the ICC World Cup. As the BCCI is yet to clear off the court cases.

No one is sure about the format, the no. of matches either and would a round robin home-away format will be followed or a changed format of 2 groups would be followed is yet to be decided. The teams are not sure about the exact playing dates as well. The Player retention rules are even more controversial with teams having a choice of up to 4 players to retain from their existing team, but then they lose half their auction limit of 9 Million $. It seems not all teams are in favor of retention however Mumbai Indians and Chennai Superkings are quite keen on it.

As of now it seems Mumbai have decided to retain Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Lasith Malinga  and either of Keiron Pollard and J P Duminy. Chennai have decided to retain Dhoni, Raina, Murali Vijay and Albie Morkel while Bangalore are keen only on Virat Kohli and Kolkata are keen only on Chris Gayle and not even their very own Ganguly. Delhi are sure to keep Sehwag with them and possibly Ashish Nehra, Dirk Nannes and maybe Gautam Gambhir too. Rajasthan have opted for Shane Warne, Watson and possibly Yusuf Pathan. Deccan Chargers have decided not to retain anybody while Kings XI Punjab are still awaiting for court ruling to decide anything. There are clearly no takers for veteran players such as Dravid, Ganguly, Laxman, Kumble and so on. The teams also do not have a fixed strategy and things are quite muddled at the moment.

Unless and until clarity comes from the court regarding status of various teams and BCCI decided upon the format of the game and auction dates and rules nothing can be sure.

Although one thing is sure, BCCI is hell bent on hosting the IPL 4 by hook or crook.

The Nervous Hour – Test Cricket at its Best

Couldn’t Eat ! Couldn’t Talk ! Couldn’t Move and certainly Couldn’t Work ! That was the situation with most of us. This was during the final agonizing hour of the Cricket Test Match between India and Australia at Mohali.

For those who do not know what happened today here is the brief overview. India was set a moderate target of 216 runs to witn the first test and had lost 4 important wickets with just 55 on board at end of day yesterday and thus needed 161 more runs to win on a crumbling uneven pitch with Aussies determined to win. With Sachin in the middle we all had hopes that some miracle would happen. Sachin and Zaheer Khan continued the fight with Zaheer falling early. VVS Laxman came on the crease and he and Sachin started playing shots and showing positive intent. They took the target below 100 and the hopes were rising and then the inevitable happened. Sachin fell quickly followed by Dhoni and Harbhajan leaving India tottering at 122 with 8 wickets down and unfit VVS Laxman at the crease with another unfit player Ishant Sharma for support and with just Pragyan Ojha to come, it was all over. People had written the match off, started blaming various people, recalling how India always failed to chase modest 4th Innings target and how once again Sachin couldn’t guide India to a famous victory. It was just a matter of time and people were not even hoping for any miracle now.

But VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma didn’t give up, slowly and steadily they started scoring runs, one run at a time with an occasional boundary to boost some hopes but in their heart everybody knew this was just a futile effort. The target was way too high for this pair. Till the time the target reduced to about 50 at Lunch I think even the players didn’t believe that they could do it. And suddenly the target reduced to 30 and everybody started having hopesand dreams of snatching victory. Fingers were crossed, toes were curled, no one moved, anyone saying even a word was considered to be jinxing it and was cursed upon by. Flow of messages on Twitter reduced to minimal as everybody was busy concentrating on what was happening in the match.  Every run was then  cheered and the players too started beleiving that they could win.

Australians were getting frustrated and the target reduced to barely 15 and then Ishant Sharma fell to a dubious decision by Umpire Ian Gould. Loud curses blaming everybody from the umpire to  Laxman for giving too much strike to Ishant to BCCI for not getting UDRS system in place were heard. Could it be a case of ‘close but not enough’. Will it be another heartburn? Will Aussies do what they did few years back at Sydney? Will India collapse at the final hurdle? Ghosts of Chennai 2001 against Pakistan were refreshed.

Pragyan Ojha joined Laxman and the next 10 minutes the Channel Neo Sports would have got the highest TRP ever in their entire career. Everybody was glued on to the TV set and those with no access to television were all logged onto the net either on Cricinfo.com website other sports site offering live scores and live feed. The Commonwealth Games and India’s Gold Medal haul were forgotten for that hour.  Life has just paused everywhere, of course possibility of any work was long gone.The Cricinfo servers crashed because of tremendous traffic adding to the chaos. There were few lucky breaks, leg byes, over throws and a doubtful umpiring decision which went in India’s favor this time and India pulled it off. Pragyan Ojha tried to flick the Mitchel Johnson ball to the leg side and it got deflected by his pad and earned 2 valuable legbyes to India resulting in the narrowest of victory in India’s cricketing history.

The world erupted. Loud screams, crackers on the road and twitteratis were back furiously tweeting and life was restored in the metropolises and towns across India. India had pulled off one of the greatest come-from-behind victories ever with 9th wicket pair of VVS Laxman and Ishant Sharma adding close to 90 runs. Zaheer Khan was named man of the match for fine display of bowling although my personal choice would have been Ishant Sharma for doing something which was totally unexpected of him and to stonewall charging Australian bowlers is a massive task for a number 10 batsman and of course how can we forget VVS Laxman, the biggest thorn in Australia’s path. It was a team effort and almost everyone contributed to the victory.

Ishant Sharma had done it, Very Very Special Laxman had yet again mauled the Aussies. Rickey Ponting was denied victory once more. He has never won a test match in India as Captain of Australia in 3 visits. The terms VVS, Laxman, Ishant, Sharma, Test Cricket all were trending at the same time on Twitter and thus proving the large support the match had on the Internet and I have no fingernails left to chew now, need to regrow them before the Bangalore Test in 3 days.

This was Cricket at its best. This match has reminded again to all cricket lovers and everyone that this was the real form of cricket and not the slam-bang variety of T20 and ODIs. This was the battle where warriors fought over 5 days and true  winner earned the victory not with only luck but with skills, temperament and a will to win. This was Test Cricket at its peak.

I am writing this few hours after the match is over and I can still recount the final hour, the minutes , the seconds, the loud heartbeats and have today experienced one of the best cricket matches of my cricket watching career.

Cheteshwar Pujara- The New Big Hope

Finally the call came. Cheteshwar Pujara has been drafted in the team for first test against Australia, beginning 1st week of October, at the expense of Yuvraj Singh. Cheteshwar Pujara, son of former cricketer Arvind Pujara has been waiting in the wings since couple of years now and at 23 he is the new big hope for India in Cricket especially Tests.

In the days of IPL and T20 cricket where hitting every ball out of the park is the fashion and scoring a quick fire 40 is important, the art of patient batting, building an innings, playing strokes and rotating strike is waning day by day. The art of batsman-ship as we all know is not easy to be found, especially amongst the new lot of Indian cricketers.

In Pujara we have a young player who is perfectly suited for the longer format of the game. He has got the technique and the temperament to build innings, play patiently, see out a hostile bowler and concentrate on occupying the crease. He is the new age-Dravid we all are looking forward to. He has played domestic cricket for Saurashtra since last few years and have scored massively, won respect for his team and has won respect amongst the opposition players. When selected to play for India A and emerging players tournament he has been consistently performing with the bat against West Indies, England, Australia and has even shown good leadership skills. In past he has played in Under 19 World Cup as well. His domestic record speaks for itself and his not so successful stint in the IPL with Kolkata Knightriders could be the blessing in disguise, which has allowed him to concentrate on the ‘real’ cricket.

We have seen youngsters such as Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Murali Vijay but none of them have so far cemented their positions in the squad. Raina, who has recently replaced Yuvraj Singh is still a suspect against hostile quick bowling. Rohit Sharma has all the potential but has never converted it to results on field. At this juncture when the senior players like Sachin, Dravid and perhaps Laxman have about couple of more years to give to Indian cricket we need few solid batsman who can take up the roles vacated by the seniors in near future. Pujara is that big hope. Pujara’s talent, ability, temperament shows that he is too good a player to fail at the big stage  but then once can never say that about any player. Pujara is too precious a player for the future of Indian Cricket in long run.

Inclusion of Pujara in the team does not guarantee that he would be in the playing XI, however being in the same dressing room as Sachin, Dravid and Laxman would do a great deal to the youngster and I am positive that given a chance he would prove his mettle.

All the best wishes, Cheteshwar.

Champions League T20 – 2nd Edition

2nd Edition of Champions League of T20 cricket begin in South Africa on 10th Sept- 2010.

The First edition was played in India in 2009 October. The first edition had 12 teams. This one has 10 teams owing to the fact that 2 English teams are not participating this year due to clash of the schedule with their domestic commitments.

10 Teams meaning there are 2 groups of 5 each, with each team playing their group members once. Thus resulting in 20 games followed by 2 semi finals and final. 23 Games in the period of 16 days or so. The matches would be played across South Africa under lights in the evening period which is a prime television time for the subcontinent viewers.

The 3 IPL teams qualified are the 2010 Champions Chennai Superkings, runner up Mumbai Indians and 3rd placed Banagalore Royal Challengers. Winners of the first edition of Champions were New South Wales from Australia who defeated Trnidad and Tobago from West Indies in the finals. Sadly both these teams have not qualified for the Champions League this year. Infact such is the unpredictability of T20 cricket that only 2 teams Royal Challengers Bangalore and Wayamba from Sri Lanka were present in the previous edition.

Looking at the draws, the teams, the schedule, the South African conditions with early season pitches and the nature of T20 cricket it would be very difficult to predict anything. My support is of course for all 3 Indian teams and especially Mumbai Indians with Sachin Tendulkar leading it.

Lets see how it goes !

IPL 4 – New Format is here…

So finally we have new format for the next 3 IPLs at least beginning from 2011. IPL governing council has done away with all teams playing each other home and away and have come up with a composite format which is a combination of home-away matches along with division of teams into groups and a slightly complex playoff formula.

There are 10 teams now, there would be 2 groups of 5 each. Teams in same group would play each other on home-away basis. The teams would also play other 5 teams from the 2nd group on either home or away basis and would play an additional game against 1 of the team from 2nd group. Thus each team would get to play 14 games, 7 at home and 7 away. The groups and the schedules would be decided by a random draw. These would lead to 70 games of group stages. This will be followed by 4 Playoff games deciding the winner. The top 2 teams from group stage would play in the 1st semi final. The 3rd and 4th team from the group stage would play in a knockout match. The winner of this knockout match and the loser of 1st semi final would play the 2nd semi final. The winners of 2 semi finals would then play the big final. Thus there would be 74 games in total. This format gives lot more importance of qualifying higher i.e. in top 2  in the group stage. The top 3 teams of course also qualify for the Champions League.

The teams would also retain upto 4 players from their existing squad and can retain maximum 2 foreign players. The teams also have salary cap for the entire squad of 30 and have newly defined catchment area for Indian domestic talent. Also the Indian domestic players have salaries predefined based on their experience.

Thus IPL’s new format looks complex to begin with but satisfies everybody. The franchises get at least 14 games. There are totally 74 games so squeezing the entire tournament within 6 weeks is feasible. The no. of matches remaining almost the same as earlier seasons also means similar revenues for broadcasters and same exposure to advertisers. The random draw for groups and home and away matches would make it more exciting. The group stages match would be more important.

The complex playoff format is being tried for the first time in IPL but has been already tried successfully in New Zealand domestic cricket.

Pakistan- What have you done?

Pakistan Cricket constantly finds itself from one problem to another. They have been dogged by all sorts of controversies from quite some time. Players being dropped, players retiring midway, ball tampering, terrorist attack and no nation wanting to tour them,  captains being changed randomly, players being recalled and new captains appointed in middle of a tour , players who have retired are suddenly drafted back in the team and on cricket field the results ave gone from bad to worse.  But now what has happened today is the absolute bottom.

At a time when Pakistan as a nation is facing one of the worst calamities of all time and millions of people are suffering and have nothing left in their lives, Cricket was their one little glimmer of hope. But after today even that flicker of hope is extinguished.

Pakistani cricketers including their current captain have been found to fix the ongoing match at Lords. There is video evidence to the fact and the bookie-agent has been arrested. Seven players have been named in the video shot by ‘News of the World’ report during his sting operation and the evidences are quite conclusive. And who are the players that have been named, it is Salman Butt their captain, Mohaamad Amir -the 19 year old bowling sensation, Mohaamad Asif the best Pakistani bowler around, wicketkeepr Kamran Akmal, young debutant Wahab Riaz and Umar Amin and one more.

The video shows the bookie Mazhar Majeed asking for upfront money from the reporter and assuring him that everything is ‘under control’. He gives him assurance by saying that the bowlers would ‘no balls’ at particular time in the match to prove that fixing was ‘on’. The bowlers Amir and Asif did exactly the same thing during the Lords test, they bowled really big no-balls, which nobody could have missed.  Pakistan captain Salman Butt is seen socializing with this bookie.In the 2nd video young Pakistani players Wahab Riaz and Umar Amin are seen accepting money from the bookie. There is more evidence too, which has been handed over to Scotland Yard for further investigation.

Problem seems much more than merely what we have seen and heard and read. The players involved are 18-19-20 year old young players. They have hardly made their place in the Pakistan side and they are  involved in match fixing or spot fixing as it is called. Perhaps the entire culture in Pakistan team is rotten to the core, that even newcomers are introduced to fixing this easily.

ICC and ECB have gone out of their way by allowing Pakistan to hold neutral tests in England, by hosting matches against Australia in England and MCC had even sponsored the series calling it ‘Spirit of Cricket’ series !! ICC even was thinking of organizing matches for ‘flood relief’ in Pakistan. Mohammad Amir had the whole world at his feet with his sensational bowling maturity and was being compared to the modern great Wasim Akram. Umar Amin was hailed as the future of Pakistan batting. How come cricketers like these get easily lured by money at such a young age? Thats is the question Pakistan cricket has to answer.

As a pasionate cricket lover I am thoroughly heartbroken at the turn of events. The ghost of match fixing I thought was buried with the last century and Cricket had emerged successfully out of it in last 10 years or so. But now with these fresh new evidences and charges one thing is clear that amongst some cricketers of the world, greed for money is somehow greater than the passion for the sport. Would we ever come out of this?

What we need now is strong leadership from ICC and firm action against the people who have been involved in such spot fixing. Time has come to set an example by punishing the guilty and give out a strong message to the upcoming cricketers around the world, that match fixing or spot fixing has no place in cricket.

IPL 4 – No.of matches to be reduced

Finally some sense is prevailing with respect to IPL. With the increase of teams from 8 to 10, it was expected that with the home and away format there would be 18 matches for each franchise and thus 90 league matches plus 2 semis and final and 3rd place thus making it 94 matches for the 4th season of IPL, to be played in April-May 2011.

94 matches would have been a bit too much with IPL season going almost 6-7 weeks and in the month of May in India, with the hot weather,  it would have been deadly for the players involved. Of course the team franchises wanted the format to remain that way as more the matches, more the revenue for them, more advertising money, more stadium receipts, more television money. Some players were against it but did not speak much in the press for the fear of backlash from the franchises, after all the big auction is coming up in October 2010. Of course ex-IPL commissioner Lalit Modi was all for more matches. Now that Lalit Modi is absconding and no longer relevant, the governing council is taking wiser steps.

The governing council is meeting on August 20 to decide upon all these issues. The format would be revised to have 5 teams in each group who would play each other on home-away basis thus making 40 matches and thenthey would play 1 match with teams from other group, thus making 25 matches and totaling 65 matches for the league stage. Add 4 more matches and it would be 69 matches totally with each team playing 13 to 15 matches maximum.

There are chances that there would be a cap on no. of matches each Individual player, especially International players,  would be allowed to play and would be limited to 12, but this is yet to be confirmed. Also on the cards are auction related rules which are not yet final and would be decided only after the Champions league matches in September 2010.

Lets hope IPL emerges as a strong brand after all the controversies in the previous season and we have a great tournament.

Sehwag scores 105 but not a Century

Amazing thing happened yesterday in the One Day International match between India and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka was bowled out for 170 on a pitch helping swing bowlers. India was initially in trouble, lising 3 quick wickets but then was cruising towards victory with Sehwag battling brilliantly and with a steady control over his batting, almost against his own batting style.

India needed 5 to win with Sehwag on 99 and enough overs in hand. Sri Lankan off spinner Suraj Randiv bowled a ball which went for 4 byes as everybody including the keeper Kumar Sangakkara. Now Virendra Sehwag needed 1 for his 100 and India needed 1 to win. What happened next is shameful for Cricket in general and totally against spirit of the game. Sri Lankan captain instructed Randiv to bowl in such a way that Sehwag doesnt get to hit the ball, indirectly asking him to bowl a wide or a no-ball, so as to deny Sehwag his 100. Suraj Randiv did exactly the same, he bowled a big no-ball, so big that it looked it was deliberate, Sehwag came forward and hit it for 6 but then he was denied that six runs as India had won that match with 1 run from no-ball and thus inspite of making 105  Sehwag was left stranded on 99 not out.

The above act is simple unbeleivable in todays day and time, especially when  Sri Lanka is known for their ‘fair play’. Sehwag was not amused but he did not mind it much but did mention in the press conference later that Sri Lankans did it deliberately and they had done similar things to Tendulkar in an earlier One day match played in Cuttack, some months before where Sachin was left stranded on 96 when Malinga bowled 4 wides. The Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara of course denied everything and admitted that it wasnt a fair thing to do. He defended his bowler. Later the Sri Lankan board members and then the Sri Lankan team including Suraj Randiv personally apologised to Sehwag for what they did, thus admitting that what they did was deliberate.

Later the stump camera audio tape revealed more. Sri Lankan captain Sangakkara was caught on tape asking Randiv to do the shameful act and deny Sehwag a century.

It hardly matters that Sehwag scored a century or not, India won the match of course with a bonus point and all is well after apology from the Lankan team, however his clearly destroys the myth that Sri Lankan team plays every game keeping ‘spirit of cricket’ in mind.  The Indian media, ex players etc. of course furious at what Randiv did, some even asking ICC to investigate and fine him. Some call it the case of ‘spot fixing’ the match. Everybody agrees though that what Randiv and his captain did was shameful and should never have happened.

Here is the video of the event.

FIFA 2010 Update – Spain Vs. Holland

And its final. I would be the Spanish Armada taking on the might of the Dutch brigade in the FIFA 2010 World Cup Football finale on July 11th 2010.

It would be the first world cup for the team that wins, while Holland have been twice here before and lost out for Spain it is their first big final. Spain defeated the well oiled Germany team 1-0 and Holland outclaased Uruguay 3-2 in the semifinals. This would also be the first occasion when an European team wins the World Cup held outside Europe.

Spain are the defending Champions and certainly have the team with big stars like David Villa, Fernando Torres, Xavi and Iniesta while Dutch have Sneijdar, Robben and Robin Van Persie in top form. Its the battle of the stars as well. Spains are certainly the favorites of the ‘pundits’ though. But not to forget this is the world cup final and anything can happen on the day. Will we see the Spanish flag victorious or will it be the Dutch who would ‘rule’  South Africa once again.

My Personal Money :  Spain