IPL 2009 review May 25, 2009

Rookies, a blog, a dog, and Sreesanth

Who did, who didn't, what soared, what fell - a look at the trends, the hits, the flops, the comebacks and more
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Who did, who didn't, what soared, what fell - a look at the trends, the hits, the flops, the comebacks and more

The Golden Oldies

The other side of 35 is where it's at as Matthew Hayden, Adam Gilchrist and Anil Kumble - with a combined international experience of 45 years - will have you know. Hayden and Gilchrist topped the IPL's run-getters list and scored five and three half-centuries respectively. Kumble gave Bangalore just the start they needed to wipe out memories of last year's campaign with 5 for 5 in their first game. Gilchrist and he captained last year's bottom-most teams to the final and starred in it as well. Kumble took 4 for 16 to keep Deccan to 143, but Gilchrist prevailed in the battle of the aged with two stumpings and some impressive leadership in the successful defence.

The Finds

Many think the IPL is all about the money, but the tournament's organisers have always insisted it's about unearthing talent. This season, several players at varying stages of their career rose from obscurity to make their names (and fortunes) in South Africa. Toilers on the domestic circuit dreaming of fame will be inspired by Chennai spinner Shadab Jakati, who finally hit the headlines a decade after his first-class debut. Bangalore's Manish Pandey was the latest member of the Under-19 World Cup-winning class of 2008 to make a big impact by becoming the first Indian to make an IPL century. Among the overseas players, Dirk Nannes will get to tell his grandchildren he kept Glenn McGrath out of the Delhi line-up, while Yusuf Abdulla's international chances will be enhanced by the manner in which he led Punjab's attack in the absence of Sreesanth and Brett Lee.

The Hits

Deft touches and subtle variations are important facets of limited-overs cricket, but the exploits of Lasith Malinga and Ross Taylor proved that at its heart Twenty20 remains a power game. Malinga's unique slinging action is the critical element in his ability to bowl yorkers with great consistency, and he captured a big chunk of his 18 wickets targeting the blockhole. The highlight for him was his 3 for 11, including a double-wicket maiden against Deccan.

Taylor's success lay in the bowlers' failure to emulate Malinga, for their repeated attempts at bowling yorkers were clubbed into the stands (almost always on the leg side) with brutality. His raw strength triggered Bangalore's turnaround, and he embarrassed Ishant Sharma and Ajit Agarkar in a ferocious 33-ball 81, which signalled Bangalore's march to the final.

India's middle order has shaped up nicely ahead of the World Twenty20, with Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni enjoying a successful IPL. Raina was the most prolific of the three, as the fourth-highest run-getter, though he managed just two half-centuries. Rohit was highly effective with the bat at the death, and more than handy with the ball, taking a hat-trick. Dhoni's performance centered on partnerships, building on the platform set by Hayden and Raina, with whom he shared five 50-plus stands.

Brand IPL was a success story as well. Poor crowds and bad weather threatened to take the fizz out at the start but, as the tournament progressed, it became a raging hit. The quality of cricket, a fluid points table and a spate of last-over thrillers ensured season two outshone the first for pure entertainment. The crowds rallied along and, though the Indian atmosphere was hard to replicate, the popularity of the IPL nevertheless had expanded far beyond India. Before we knew it, Lalit Modi was contriving yet another radical concept: of staging two leagues in a year, one in India and the other overseas.

The Freak Hits

The fakeiplplayer blog was the best entertainment out of the Kolkata franchise - though whether it was, as claimed, authored by a Kolkata player is up for debate.

Left-arm spinners became the flavour of the month early in the piece. Pragyan Ojha, Daniel Vettori and Jakati had bowled well enough when part-timer Yuvraj Singh stole their thunder with two hat-tricks.

Kamran Khan was a slinging sensation from Azamgarh, with no first-class experience, who Shane Warne picked to bowl the Super Over against Kolkata. He won that game for Rajasthan, but then was called for chucking and left South Africa on account of an injury.

The Duds

A million-dollar purchase, a bad boy with a golden bat, last year's finds, and a most successful coach with a brand new strategy are now part of the don't-mention-on-air list. Andrew Flintoff: price US$ 1.55 million, three matches, 62 runs, two wickets. Jesse Ryder: price $160,000, five matches, 56 runs, three wickets. Swapnil Asnodkar: 311 runs from nine matches in 2008; 98 runs from eight matches in 2009.

And then there was John Buchanan and his multiple-captains theory, which sparked controversy and much debate at the start of the IPL, before Brendon McCullum led the side to 10 defeats out of 14.

The Moments

Who won the opening game of the IPL? Don't remember? Okay who invaded the pitch at that game? That's right, Bruno the police dog, who managed to hold up play for 11 minutes and was a bonafide sensation.

Warne drank beer… not news in itself, but this time it happened to be while he was fielding at the boundary.

After going for 13 runs in two overs against the Chennai Super Kings, Sreesanth took two wickets in an over - S Badrinath with a short ball and then Dhoni with a yorker that pegged back his off stump. In his delight Sreesanth nearly ran out of the ground.

Gilchrist killed Delhi Daredevils' title hopes in the first over of the semi-final chase, hammering Nannes for five successive fours. Most memorable of those was a drive he timed to perfection, getting behind the line of one pitched outside off and just pushing it between cover and mid-off.

Rahul Dravid dropped the IPL and Harmeet Singh caught it. Harmeet had taken two wickets in the final and was the fielder at fine leg when R Vinay Kumar played a paddle shot, with Bangalore needing 15 off seven balls. Harmeet ran in and took the catch inches off the ground and put Deccan inches away from the trophy.

The crowds were mixed through the tournament - sometimes packing in the stadium and singing teams songs, and at other times barely filling the grass banks. But the one time they let their presence be known was when the DJ played the bugle. However many were at the ground roared "Ole".

"Bullring are you ready?" Shastri and Co asked it and got varied responses, but it was miked-up umpire Rudi Koertzen who got the biggest roar when he popped the question to kick off the final.

The Controversies

Chris Gayle, after he got to England for a Test series at the last possible moment so as to play a few more games in the IPL, said he wouldn't mourn the "death of Test cricket".

Ryder celebrated over 100 days of being sober by downing a drink or 10.

The IPL rode roughshod over its hosts by demanding control of hospitality suites, not to mention a pouring charge from the company in charge of vending liquor at the Wanderers.

Kolkata, when not losing, were accused of racism by the management against some of their own players.

The Questionable Decisions

Sachin Tendulkar pushed himself and Sanath Jayasuriya down the order against Rajasthan Royals after a few failures while opening. He walked in with Mumbai at 23 for 3 and added 33 with Jayasuriya. It wasn't enough as Mumbai lost by two runs. Next game, Jayasuriya went back to opening and Tendulkar batted at No. 4. Mumbai lost again.

Kolkata gave Charl Langeveldt his debut in their final game, when all had been lost, and he picked up a wicket off his first ball, another in his next over, and ended with 3 for 15 to take them to a four-wicket win.

Glenn McGrath played zero matches this IPL after taking 12 wickets at an economy-rate of 6.61 last year. Reason: Dirk Nannes, who will be telling his grandkids how he kept one the greatest fast bowlers out of the XI. But Delhi may have rued their decision in the semi-final, when Gilchrist got stuck into Nannes.

The Tight Finishes

With the short duration of Twenty20 even-ing up contests, plenty of matches went to the final over, making "nerves of steel" a sought-after commodity.

The rookie Kamran showed it in the game against Kolkata, when he forced a Super Over, though Kolkata needed only seven runs off their 20th.

Mortaza exhibited a conspicuous lack of it when he lost his line and length (not to mention his head) against Deccan and Rohit Sharma, haemorrhaging 26 runs in a nightmarish final over to gift a win.

Mumbai also took a leaf out of Kolkata's how-to-throw-it-away manual, when a bout of kamikaze running helped them lose the game against Rajasthan after they had required only six off nine deliveries.

The Comebacks (or not)

For those out of contention for a place in their national teams, the IPL gave a chance to impress. Some did.

Ashish Nehra bagged 19 wickets at 18.21 and Delhi's success in the league stage owed much to his efforts.

Brad Hodge, not included in Australia's squad for the World Twenty20, was Kolkata's best batsman, averaging 40.55 and shepherding a thrilling run-chase against Chennai to break their eight-match losing streak.

There were disappointments. Sreesanth, barring his two-wicket burst against Chennai, did little to win over the selectors, while Ajit Agarkar all but ended any hopes of returning to the national fold, averaging 47.33 with the ball and going for over nine an over.

Somewhere between the two stools was Lakshmipathy Balaji: he may not have broken down the selectors' doors, but he did his chances no harm, finishing the tournament with 13 wickets.

Nishi Narayanan is a staff writer at Cricinfo; Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor, and Siddhartha Talya is an editorial assistant