26th May: Chennai S. Kings v Mumbai I, 14:30 GMT
24th-28th May: 2nd Test, Headingley
While the world casts one eye on the ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, due to begin in the next couple of days, the other eye needs to look back at the 2010 season of the Indian Premier League one last time before it is consigned to the has-been books. Here we look at the first eleven of this season’s Indian Premier League.
Openers: Sachin Tendulkar/Jacques Kallis
There can be no doubt about this one. This season will be remembered for the master class batting put up by these two stalwarts of the game as they went head to head in the battle for the Orange Cap. And it was a see-saw battle till the very end. On the one hand there was Jacques Kallis who didn’t look like getting out in the first half of the tournament, while on the other, although Sachin Tendulkar did get out, he would only do that after making a sizeable contribution to his team’s cause. For Kallis, it was a matter of carrying on from last year where he came to grips with this format of the game. For Sachin, it was a matter of simply carrying on what he has been doing this last year – batting beautifully. With 1190 runs scored between them, it is a pity that only one will be going to the West Indies.
Middle Order: Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa
One was sorely tempted to put in the names Paul Collingwood, Mahela Jayawardene and Kevin Pietersen in here, but the rule of only four foreign players in the eleven has to be adhered to. On any other account, these three would have more or less walked into the side for the kind of performances they put up for their franchises – Collingwood held together a struggling middle order for Delhi, it was sad that their top order batsmen couldn’t contribute much. Jayawardene was the only bright spark for the Kings XI Punjab and it was clear that to carry the weight of non-performance by the other ten was a bit too much for him, and Pietersen chipping in with useful runs here and there.
The point with having these young Indian players is that this is the middle order that will be representing India in the near certain future. Raina and Rohit are expected certainties there and with each passing season, any doubts pertaining to that gets reduced. The only fallibility in this plan is Rohit’s mental make-up for it remains to be seen if he can apply himself in equal manner in all formats. Raina has all but taken care of his shortcomings if his handling of the short-ball in the IPL is anything to go by.
In Uthappa’s weird case, it all depends on him alone whether he is there or not. There are names like Manish Pandey and Saurabh Tiwary starting to do the rounds now, and it is indeed a sad story that Uthappa won’t be going to the ICC World T20. But Raina and Rohit are, and if India indeed are to replicate their performance on 2007, much will depend on them.
All-rounder: Kieron Pollard
While there is already one other all-rounder in Jacques Kallis at the top, there could only be place for one more in the eleven. And who better than the most expensive purchase this season. They say that his late coming to the crease was much the reason why the IPL crown went Chennai’s way, missed catches notwithstanding. There is a small measure of truth in that for his ten-ball burst proved as much and if he had stayed for another ten balls, probably the trophy would have stayed put in Mumbai. The fact that he can just come to crease and turn it on, along with his fine bowling and fielding makes one pretty sure that he will probably attract one of the highest bids when the fourth auction takes place later this year with huge new sums of money available to the ten franchises.
Wicket-keeper & Captain: MS Dhoni
There can only be one choice here, now. The kind of methodical cricket that MS Dhoni has put up in this season of the IPL is representative of his growth as a cricketer. Over the last couple of years we have seen him grow from an attacking player to some one who accumulates runs but still has all the shots in the bag. Off late, he has started to bring out those shots more often because any shift in your style of play needs time to get comfortable with. That’s why the big shots went missing last year because the confidence wasn’t just there. Now that everything seems to be working, after a minor blip in fortunes, he is back to what he does best: lead a cricket team to glory.
Bowling Attack: R Ashwin, Pragyan Ojha, Dale Steyn, Doug Bollinger
Irrespective of the kind of track being played upon, two fast bowlers and two spinners ought to be the norm when you can rely upon the likes of Kallis and Pollard for bowling support. R Ashwin and Pragyan Ojha have been the frontline spinners this season although one was tempted to slot in Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh or Amit Mishra in place of Kumble. Then it dawned that Bhajji doesn’t have the consistency that Kumble brings in and Mishra lacks the experience. But despite his fighting intensity which he brought again to the fore, it can be seen why the legendary leg-spinner doesn’t play for India anymore.
R Ashwin though is expected to have a steep rise towards India colors. He has the height of Kumble, the flight that Bhajji misses so often and add to that he can bowl the carom ball. The only reason that he hasn’t made the squad for the T20 World Cup is that the team was selected in early March.
Pragyan Ojha is another who will not be representing India in the short term, vis-à-vis the T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. It’s a pity really that the leading wicket-taker in a T20 competition will be sitting home rather than bowling his teasing left arm orthodox spin in the West Indies where conditions are expected to be on similar lines. The fact that Ravindra Jadeja – who hasn’t played cricket in eight weeks now – can bat a bit went in his favor seems to show the unilateral thinking of the Indian selectors, for if it comes down to Jadeja’s willow to save the day, then surely India are doomed.
Dale Steyn and Doug Bollinger form the optimum fast bowling pairing of the season. Quite clearly Steyn has worked on his T20 bowling and combined with his lethal self in Test and ODI format, looks set to reign over Zaheer Khan as the premier fast bowlers in the world. It is very much also the reason that Khan is not in this team. Bollinger on the other hand is the single biggest reason why Chennai Super Kings have won the tournament. He came in place of Jacob Oram and the sort of short-term impact he made, it is no surprise that Cricket Australia have rewarded him with a central contract and made him a permanent feature of the side. Suddenly Mitchell Johnson isn’t the best left-arm quickie in Australian cricket anymore.
© Cricket World 2010