IPL: Indian Premier League 2009


India tipped for an encore

 
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dhoni
Like Australia a couple years before them, India approached Twenty20 cautiously and perhaps indifferently until they won the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007. What happened next - the IPL, Champions League, the surge in interest from the BCCI - is well documented. India are a force to reckon with and where Indian fans have had to lower expectations in the past, they can truly raise them with this unit.

Unlike the squad that flew to South Africa two years ago, the one that touched down in London carries way more expectation. Pre-tournament chatter has included talk of India retaining their crown at Lord’s on June 21 and much of it is justified. India’s rise as a Twenty20 force since that epic September evening has coincided with their rise in Test and 50-over cricket and many of the same players have gained in confidence from their exploits in cricket’s shortest format. Some of this squad contributed heavily to the last two IPLs but the test now will be to forget all that and perform against the toughest opposition there is.

The make-up of this squad displays immense talent and the most balanced side of all. A superb opening pair, a trio of three outrageously gifted timers of the ball to follow, a clutch of allrounders, crafty medium-pacers and seamers, tidy spinners and a captain/batsman/wicketkeeper who has balanced the demands of leadership with honing his own game. Every successful team needs a smart leader, and Dhoni has fit into that role with ease. Critics have argued that with Dhoni there’s a certain amount of luck involved, but if its luck that helped India win the last CB Series, the inaugural World Twenty20 and bilateral ODI series over Sri Lanka (twice) and England, then don’t expect it to run out anytime soon.

With a seven-four win-loss record in 13 Twenty20 India’s statistics in this format aren’t too hot but they go into the tournament as favourites. India’s progression to the second round is an easy task given that Ireland and Bangladesh are their group mates. Once in the last eight they will be a threat to every team, not least because of the manner in which they brushed aside South Africa - a critical moment in their successful campaign - and Australia in 2007. India won the last tournament because of their fielding and bowling. They won three matches defending what would be considered sub-par scores in Twenty20. They have the firepower to repeat 2007.

Strengths
The line-up: Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, MS Dhoni, Yusuf Pathan, RP Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh. These are some of the game’s best players and when packed into the same XI - if at all possible - India are a tough team to beat. The top order is excellent, the middle packs weight, the fielding is athletic, the spin cupboard brimming, and the pace department top-rate.

Weaknesses
Fatigue - both physical and mental. All these players have played a lot of cricket, both domestic, international and in the IPL, and there is a concern that a few are carrying niggles. Zaheer Khan sat out the second half of the IPL and India’s first World Twenty20 warm-up and he will remain the cynosure of medical eyes until the XI is announced.

X-Factor
Pragyan Ojha may not be an automatic starter but he will keep his captain interested and Harbhajan Singh on his toes. Ojha bowled very well all throughout Deccan Chargers’ IPL campaign in South Africa, finishing the tournament with 18 wickets. The stronger the pressure, the better Ojha performed. He came on in leaps and bounds in the IPL, and in his first bowl on English soil this summer he got a lot of deliveries to turn and spit in India’s warm-up defeat to New Zealand. Few sides have seen him in action if confronted with tracks that assist spin, Ojha might turn out to be India’s wildcard this summer.

Key player(s)
In the midst of a powerful batting line-up, Rohit Sharma stands on his own two feet with an air that says he belongs here. Gifted with plenty of time to execute his shots and hit through the line or off the back foot, Rohit can bat anywhere in the order. He’s coming off another successful IPL season, one in which he turned in two match-winning cameos and stunned many with his accurate, effective offspin but, most importantly, showed a flair for leadership and an aptitude to think and evaluate.

Twenty20 form guide
Their form since the World Twenty20 final in Johannesburg reads three losses from four games. Their bogey remains New Zealand, who they have yet to beat in three attempts.

Squad MS Dhoni (capt), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh, Ravindra Jadeja, Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar, Pragyan Ojha, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan, Suresh Raina, Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma, RP Singh, Yuvraj Singh.
Source:Cricket News

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