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.

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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.