Superstars enter Lions' den
The ICL's inaugural tournament will culminate with Chandigarh Lions taking on Chennai Superstars in the final. The winning-team stands to pocket $1 million (approx Rs 3.9 crores) in prize money, one of the highest for a cricket tournament. Here are five things to watch out for in the final.
Ian Harvey and Imran Farhat have made use of their international experience to give healthy starts and provide the platform for the following batsmen to build on. Both have similar strike rates and averages, though on the run scale, Harvey is at the top. Harvey is the pivot around which the Superstars have built their totals - he already has two half-centuries in the tournament - and will be gunning for the top batsman's prize on Super Sunday.
Stuart Law has been one of most respected captains on the English county circuit during his leadership role at Lancashire. He has used the limited set of talent at his disposal in the same shrewd fashion to get the Superstars to the summit clash. Harvey and the two Kumarans - Thiru and Tamil - have been judiciously shuffled to keep the batsmen on their toes.
Chris Cairns, meanwhile, is a captain who leads from the front. Add that to his smart strategies and understanding of his bowlers and it's clear that there's little to choose between the two captains. In the first match of the tournament against the Delhi Jets, Cairns brought Darryl Tuffey back when Marvan Atapattu and Dale Benkenstein were cruising along on an unresponsive pitch. Tuffey responded by removing them off consecutive balls.
The new-ball show
The Lions have had best new-ball pair in the tournament. Tuffey has complemented the nippy medium pace of Andrew Hall by surprising the batsmen with the extra bounce he can extract with his height. Hall, meanwhile, has used the shine to get swing early on and has been one of better death bowlers.
Even if the Superstars lack the briskness and the agility of Lions with the new ball, Shabbir Ahmed and Harvey have bowled within their limitations without ever losing the plot. The support cast of the Kumarans has come handy with Thiru clinching the best bowling performance of the tournament, running through Mumbai Champs with a six-wicket haul.
There are a handful of contenders who have arrived and stolen the show with a few neat cameos. Cairns, TP Singh and Manish Sharma have done it for the Lions while Rajagopal Satish and S Saravanan have shown they can swing the momentum in the Superstars' favour.
Of all the stars that signed up for the ICL only Chris Cairns has lived up to his billing. His blast of 70 against the insipid Mumbai Champs injected much-needed fire into a tournament that had become numb from the cold showings of the majority of the stars. Cairns has scored most of his runs with the big hits, with 75% of his runs coming in sixes and fours. So far he has 11 sixes and nine fours and he is in line to win the Most Valuable Player award.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. With inputs from M Venkat Raghav.