Never say never again
Mahendra Singh Dhoni must have been disappointed after finishing second best to Shane Warne’s Rajasthan Royals in the IPL final last year, but the Chennai Super Kings captain didn’t let his shoulders sag. Rather, he promised a fierce comeback next year and heaped praise on the champions from Rajasthan.
There were inconsolable sobs and never-ending euphoria across the country, as emotions flickered in an alternating montage.
And even though IPL II has sailed out of India, similar sentiments will encapsulate the first face-off between the two sides (Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals) when they meet in Pretoria. Who will win it this time – Dhoni or Shane Warne? Will Muralitharan trap more batsmen with his ‘doosra’? Can Yusuf Pathan win it with his big hits?
Can Stephen Fleming outwit Warne as coach? Can Ravindra Jadeja live up to his reputation of being a T20 match-winner? Can Albie Morkel carry on his all-round show?
Surely, many such questions will crowd our imagination. While Warne is capable of springing new surprises, Dhoni must be saying: “Never say never again.”
They failed to soar above the rest but surely a scuffle towards the end indicated that both Bangalore Royal Challengers and the Deccan Chargers didn’t want to finish with the wooden spoon.
While the VVS Laxman-led Chargers was touted one of the most balanced T20 teams on paper before the tournament, Rahul Dravid’s Royal Challengers had some of the big names in world cricket. Still, the Chargers finished last and the Royal Challengers just one spot higher.
Both these teams have since then made drastic changes with new backroom staff, fresh strategists, and have enrolled some new players.
It might not be difficult to topple the charts this time round but what they need upfront is sheer daredevilry that was missing in both skippers.
Should the good guys always finish last?
If money could be translated into wins, Real Madrid or ManchesterUnited should have played in every Championship League’s final. But richest clubs don’t necessarily mean rich results. IPL’s Mumbai
Indians proved it in a way.
Bought for $111.9 million by the Reliance Industries, Mumbai Indians, despite having players like Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Shaun Pollock, Lasith Malinga and Sanath Jayasuriya, failed to make it to the semis.
Tendulkar went out with a hamstring problem and Harbhajan was out of the league following the ‘slap-gate’ incident. They recorded a seven-win, seven-loss performance.
But the team in Blue and Orange seems to have learnt their lessons from the first edition. They have swapped Robin Uthappa with the in-form Zaheer Khan and have brought in Shikhar Dhawan for Ashish Nehra.
Zaheer’s entry can make a big difference to the team. He has been the most effective bowler in the world in the last couple of seasons and in South African conditions can prove lethal.
Another ace Mumbai Indians have is their latest South African recruit Jean Paul Duminy. The batsman has shown enough potential to fetch a near million-dollar price. And in home conditions could prove to be priceless.
Tendulkar is fit and is expected to play in all matches. And under Shaun Pollock’s mentorship Mumbai Indians could finally make every dollar count in IPL-II.
Preity much at war
IT’S A battle where Veer and Zaara take on each other. Shah Rukh Khan’s Knights from Kolkata will take on Preity Zinta’s Kings from Punjab. The Bollywood biggies may have churned out numerous box office hits together on the marquee. But the cricket field pits them against one another.
It’s difficult to say if there is a split in loyalty within the cinema circles. While SRK’s Kolkata Knight Riders have clearly emerged as the favourites of many film personalities, Preity’s Kings XI Punjab didn’t quite match up to the star-studded support for the self-proclaimed King Khan.
Sample this, Karan Johar, Arjun Rampal, Sajid Khan, Viveik Oberoi, Arbaaz Khan; political heavyweights Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi were all rooting for KKR.
But on the cricket field, Preity’s team beat the Knight Riders in both the home and away matches and also managed to reach the semi-final.
This time around, the star attendance may not be as much given the event is going to be held in South Africa. But a few loyal celebrity fans may still turn out in support of SRK, who will be looking to set a few records straight with Preity.
An eye for an eye
Revenge is often the best-selling theme in sports. And IPL-II will have loads of it in store.
To start with, Bangalore Royal Challengers will desperately try to avenge their defeat against Kolkata Knight Riders, in their opening match last year.
The idea is not too far-fetched, as the belligerent Kevin Pietersen is expected to play a pivotal role when the two sides square off at Durban on May 29.
Similarly, the Mumbai Indians and Sachin Tendulkar have a bone to pick against Kings XI Punjab captain Yuvraj Singh, who broke into wild celebrations following his team’s last-ball victory at the Wankhede Stadium.
Though the Mumbai team failed to give it back at Mohali in the first season itself, a revenge win in the Rainbow Nation may just taste sweeter.