Monday, 30 April 2012

The Importance of the Penultimate Over

Penultimate over i.e. the second last over and in the case of a T20, the 19th over of an innings has nowadays gained more importance than even the last over of an innings. In the shorter format of the game, games more often than not finish in the last over. But its the penultimate over where the game actually changes. The penultimate over has gained much importance in this year's IPL as 3 games turned on their heads in the penultimate over.

The first one was when Royal Challengers Bangalore were playing the Chennai Super Kings. Chasing a target of 207, the Chennai Super Kings required 43 off the last 2 overs. RCB were almost certain to win it as their skipper Daniel Vettori threw the ball to part timer Virat Kohli. Albie Morkel from CSK took full advantage of the part timer's penultimate over as he smashed Kohli for 28 runs and then got the remaining 15 runs in the last over to seal the match. RCB lost that game in the 19th over more than the 20th.

The second instance came when the Mumbai Indians were playing the Kings XI Punjab. Mumbai Indians were chasing a target of 168 and required 32 runs off the last 2 overs with 4 wickets in hand. Punjab were favorites as the bowling team is expected to save 32 runs from 12 balls in a high pressure situation. Piyush Chawla bowled the penultimate over in which Rayudu and Peterson together plundered 27 runs and ultimately won the match for MI.

And finally the third one was probably the most shocking one. Delhi Daredevils were playing Rajasthan Royals in their backyard. Needing 153 to win, RR were cruising at 138-2 with Rahane batting well on 74. With 15 required off 12 balls with just 8 wickets in hand and one of the in-form batsman playing in his 70's, you can bet your life on that team's victory. But it was not to be as South African speedster Morne Morkel came out to bowl the penultimate over and he produced a gem of an over. He gave just 3 runs in his last over picking up one wicket and left Rajasthan to get 12 off the last over which is always tough for the batting team. And ultimately Rajasthan managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as Delhi pulled off a miraculous win out of nowhere.

We have seen how the penultimate over can change the course of the game completely. Captains of teams who are on top till the 18th over often take the 19th over lightly and then end up giving away all the hard work in that one penultimate over. T20 is a very fast paced game and matches can change in just 5-6 balls. Its important for the players not to leave everything for the last over. Try to finish games in the penultimate over as it is the penultimate over where games are mostly won and lost.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

West Indies- On the Right Track

The Australian tour to West Indies has come to an end. And contrary to expectations, Australia did n't win everything that was up on stake. The 5 match ODI series was squared 2-2 which the West Indies had a very serious chance of winning and which they probably could n't win due to some mad running between the wickets by the no. 11 in the tied game. The 2 match T-20 series was also tied 1-1. Australia just managed to take the test series 2-0. Though the scoreline suggests the series might have been one sided but it was not so. The West Indies fought valiantly and did n't give easy victories to Australia. Although Australia is far from the side they used to be 7-8 years back but still they are a tough team and West Indies have clearly given a strong message that they are not mere pushovers.

West Indies have got some really exciting players like Darren Bravo, Rampaul, Sammy and then the senior pro Chanderpaul who recently joined the 10000 club. West Indies throughout the tour pushed Australia and made them work very hard to earn the victory. And especially the one day series where at the end of 4 matches WI were leading 2-1 including a tied match which WI should have won.

West Indies it looks like have atleast shown signs of improvement in the shorter versions of the game. In  the longer version their performance was good in patches but to win a test, they needed to perform well for a longer period of time which they did n't do.

In the past 1 year West Indies played 21 ODI's and managed to win 9 of them including 7 victories against the top teams like Australia, India and Pakistan. In the last 3 years West Indies won just 19 out of the 62 ODI's they played. The win % goes up from 30.64% in the last 3 years to 42.85% in the last 1 year. SO the improvement is definitely there. In the last 1 year WI lost 6 out of the 13 tests they played while in the last 3 years they lost 14 out of the 26 tests they played. Thus the loss % comes down from 53.8% in the last 3 years to 46.15% in the last 1 year. The improvement in tests has not been very great but the fact that it exists is alone satisfying.

The West Indian players are showing that they are capable of beating the best in the world but they have not been clicking as a unit which is their main shortcoming. The pitches in West Indies remain sluggish, low and slow which is one of the reasons why West Indies have been on a downfall since the past decade or so.

But the future looks bright. Some players like Narine, Cooper etc are showing their skills in the IPL and they might as well help the West Indies win more tests in the time to come. West Indies have been at their lowest worst in the past decade and now they can only go up from here.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Switch Hit- Should it be legal or not?

Mumbai Indians secured a thrilling last over victory against Kings XI Punjab yesterday at Mohali. 27 runs were scored off the penultimate Piyush Chawla over where Robin Peterson switch hit Chawla for fours and sixes. The Switch Hit where the batsman turns around to switch sides has been a controversial topic ever since it was played in international cricket.

The Switch hit was probably introduced by Kevin Pietersen around 2006-07 and he has been the one who plays it regularly. But following him many batsmen are now playing the stroke to hit boundaries. So is it legal for a batsman to switch sides and become a different handed batsman?

While there is no clear law in cricket regarding the switch hit so maybe there should not be any fuss regarding this shot. But I have some problems with the switch hit. Let us consider a right handed batsman who is a very good leg side player but not so brilliant as an off side player. The opposition captain tells his bowlers to bowl an off side line to prevent him from hitting boundaries. The batsman finds himself unable to hit boundaries. So he suddenly switches to a left handed batsman, finds the off side pitched ball onto his legs and thus easily puts the ball over the ropes. In such a scenario what can an opposition team do?  Obviously you can't set fields for a switch hit.

Now consider another scenario. A right arm bowler is bowling to a batsman who does n't like left armers and is better off playing right arm bowlers. The right arm bowler suddenly puts the ball in his left hand and dismisses the batsman. But this is not allowed in cricket. A bowler has to mention which arm he will use to bowl to the umpire before the over. But the batsman is not required to tell whether he will bat right handed or left handed. Thus a batsman can switch sides whenever he wants but the bowler cannot do so. Is n't it a tad unfair? A bowler develops a new kind of delivery but he is greeted with suspicion where his action is monitored and he is not allowed to bend his arm more than 15 degrees. But the batsman has the freedom to turn around or hit the ball any way he wants.

The game is already becoming more and more of a batsman's game. And shots like switch hit contribute in making a bowler even more helpless. Cricket becomes a battle between batsmen not teams.

In my opinion switch hit should be legal as long as the batsman does n't change his grip. After that even if the batsman switches his side it will rather look like a reverse sweep. Atleast the batsman's hands would be crossed and he would n't be able to free his arms and hit the ball as hard as he can when he changes his grip too.

Changing the grip should be made illegal or else allow even the bowlers to change their bowling hand whenever they want.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

IPL 2012- Low TRP again! Why?

IPL 2012 is in its middle stages now and the viewership reports suggest that this time around TV viewership has been worse than last year. Last year IPL began just after India's World Cup victory. India had been playing cricket continuously and low viewership was attributed to the cricket overdose. But this time around there was no World Cup, neither did the Indian team gift its fans a flurry of victories. So why even this year the IPL is staring at low TRP's?

The problem of Loyalty- I think one of the main reasons for people's dwindling interests in IPL is due to the lack of loyalty to a particular team. People do not follow their city team as intensely as they do with the Indian cricket team. Unlike the football's English Premier League where team loyalties are rampant, there are nos such loyalties in the IPL. I am a Delhi boy but it does n't matter to me whether Delhi wins or loses. Infact I would rather love to see Dada's Pune or Dravid's Rajasthan taking the title. Even people around me don't bother about their city's performance. I don't fight with my Mumbai friend over our IPL teams even though some of my mates do fight over the performances of the Premier League football teams. Also apart from the first season players are seldom seen in their regional teams. Punjabi boys Harbhajan and Yuvraj play for teams from the South while Delhi lads Kohli and Gambhir too are turning out for different teams. Bengali Hero Ganguly plays for Pune while Bangalorean Dravid plays for Rajasthan. So how can one expect the fans to stick to their regional teams? What I mean is that India has still not found its loyalties for different cities.

Too many days of non-stop cricket- IPL goes on for about 55 days with matches on each day including a double header every alternate day. Is n't that too much? I mean holding even an ardent cricket lover for 55 days is tough let alone capturing non-cricket watcher's market. To be honest the IPL has now become the living room's last option when nothing else watchable is being telecast on the TV. People nowadays only check out the scores or start watching the match in its last stages when the match is heading towards an exciting finish. But apart from that nobody in their busy lives have got the time to catch 2 back to back cricket matches everyday. The stadiums might look full and the atmosphere "electric" but thats due to the fact that cricket matches do not come very often in one's city which compels fans to throng the stadiums to enjoy themselves.

The Brand IPL is definitely going down and something needs to be done to keep it going. Afterall the IPL has had some good effects too. The IPL has put India firmly on the Global cricketing map. Those English and Aussie players who did n't like to come to India are now dying to play in the cash rich league. Youngsters are getting opportunities and exciting young players are coming up every year who can serve the nation. And then an Indian feels proud when he sees his country as the center of attraction for the right reasons.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Rajasthan Royals- Going Like Season 1!

So the slambang cricket is here again! Indian Premier League- cricket's moneyball has started spinning again. T20 matches every night are giving Indian fans respite from a disastrous last season. Its been 4 days since the IPL 2012 began. Each team has played a couple of games. And in these 4 days, its the Rajasthan Royals who look the most impressive and balanced side. The 2 wins revived memories of season 1 when Rajasthan who were written off for not having star players came back to win the title.

This time too Rajasthan are short of star players. But the young Indian players are making a mark. In 2008 they were skippered by the Spin Wizard Shane Warne but this time its the Wall, Rahul Dravid. While its still very early days in the 50 day long affair but so far Rajasthan have looked good. Both the purple cap and the Orange cap are with them. One of the main reasons for their success has been their wise spending.

They did n't spend oodles of money on big players. They spent their money on cheap yet quality players who can contribute. Players like Owais Shah, Brad Hodge and the West Indian Cooper are suited for this format. Obviously having 3 good players is better than having just one big player for the same amount of money. They have some exciting Indian players too like Menaria and Rahane. Their team might not look too good on paper like those of Kolkata Knight Riders or Kings XI Punjab. But they have players for every department. They have a good allrounder, good solid openers and a decent middle order.

Rajasthan is under no pressure pretty similar to the first season. In both their wins, they already have shown their batting and bowling capability. In the first match they racked up a huge total with a good opening partnership and in the next match the middle order came to the party. So all in all Rajasthan looks like the most balanced and complete side and they have a very calm, composed and cricket's greatest student as their leader.

While many teams in the past have gone down after winning the first few matches but there is no reason why Rajasthan Royals can't continue their winning ways throughout the tournament.