April 22, 2009

Spinners may have a bigger role this year in IPL - Muralitharan

Cricinfo staff

The opening few days of this second IPL have proved a couple of things. Firstly, this tournament is wide open with all eight teams having a chance of reaching the semi-finals. Secondly, the spinners this year could have a bigger role to play than in 2008.

The move from India to South Africa was unfortunate but necessary. With the elections it would have been very difficult to guarantee security so I thought the IPL made the right move. It was a tough call but the right call and the organisers should be applauded for their decisiveness.

As a player, though, there is no point in pretending that the buzz is the same as the first IPL. The crowds have been decent so far, and the spectators have created a good atmosphere. But it is different. The games lack the passion, intensity and noise created by Indian crowds.

The weather is also a concern right now, although we've been lucky to get through most of the games. This was also going to be a risk in the southern hemisphere's autumn, especially in the coastal venues like Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban. Fingers crossed we will get lucky.

The cricket, however, has been excellent. We have already seen some brilliant performances with several upsets. The truth is that results are going to be much harder to predict this year. Teams have learned a great deal from last year and they are much more evenly matched.

The Chennai Super Kings are looking in pretty good shape. Winning on Monday night was a great result and has definitely been a confidence-booster after losing our opening match against the Mumbai Indians. That game, the tournament opener, was a bit of a nervous tussle.

We played good cricket. I thought the bowlers did an excellent job and we were not completely outplayed. But Lasith Malinga and Harbhajan Singh were the difference. They bowled superbly. When two out of the five bowlers concede just 15 runs each you have a problem.

Harbhajan's performance was also the first sign that spin could be a factor in this competition. Since then we have seen Shane Warne rip leg breaks like the old days, Daniel Vettori turned a game for Delhi Daredevils and I had a good night against the Royal Challengers.

Albie Morkel was telling me that the pitches have been spinning all summer in South Africa so perhaps it has been a dry year. The fact that we are playing on tired squares at the end of the season may also be having an impact. Whatever the reasons, as a spinner, I'm obviously delighted!

This is just one factor behind the slightly lower scores we are starting to see. With slow outfields and greater assistance for the bowlers, both fast and slow, I think any score over 160 is very defendable - similar to a 180 to 190 target last year in India.