Trends and leaders emerge at the halfway mark of the IPL
At the midpoint of the Indian Premier League, some teams have taken to playing in the three venues in the United Arab Emirates like fish to water. In contrast, others have struggled to adapt and fallen behind.
What is immediately clear is that the Mumbai Indians and the Delhi Capitals have cracked the code, with the Royal Challengers Bangalore emerging as a strong third place. Mumbai seems to have all their bases covered, and Delhi has gone from strength to strength on the back of a strong, revamped squad. The Bangalore team still relies heavily on a couple of their big guns, especially with the bat, but this has not yet posed a problem.
The first major trend to emerge from this edition of the IPL is the massive advantage teams seem to gain from batting first. While this was expected to be the case in the second half of the tournament when the pitches got slower and afforded more purchase to spin bowlers, it has proved to be true in the first half, even with tall scores being made regularly.
At the halfway mark, teams batting first have won 21 times out of 28, which is a scarcely believable 75%. In previous editions of the tournament, there has never been such an overwhelming success rate either batting first or second. Overall the numbers have hovered around the 50% park historically, and if anything it has been chasing teams who held the statistical edge more often than not.
There has also been a more distinct horse for courses approach in this tournament than previous editions. In the usual course, teams would have as many as eight matches in their home venue and therefore would tailor their playing eleven to suit the conditions at this venue, with some tinkering as they went on the road.
But, in this tournament, each of the three venues has favoured specific characteristics. Sharjah, the smallest of the three grounds, has been stacked in favour of batsmen, and with the wicket playing true so far, this has been a high scoring ground. Dubai is the only venue of the three where there has been swing on offer for the quick bowlers early on, and this meant that teams have deployed their fast bowling resources at the cost of a spinner or batsman more often than not, skewing the numbers in favour of the quick men. In Abu Dhabi, the long boundaries have meant that the spinners have come into play more than their counterparts.
As the wickets slow down across venues, due to wear and tear of being constantly used, with little respite for the groundsmen to tend to surfaces, these start differences could even out a touch, but the basic character of each of these venues is unlikely to change dramatically. The teams may not have factored for this early on, but you can be sure they are recalibrating their plans at the halfway mark of the tournament.
The hunt for the new boss of world cricket
For four months the International Cricket Council has not had a chairman. Shashank Manohar, the former president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, stepped down from the post earlier in the year and ever since the top spot has been vacant.
The members of the ICC had sought clarity in appointing or choosing Manohar’s successor, and it appears that the ball has finally been set rolling. The ICC set October 18 as the cut off date for candidates to make themselves available for the position.
As per the current norms, any person who has attended at least one ICC board meeting which is proposed and seconded by ICC directors is eligible to file nomination for the top post. When Manohar was on the way out, efforts were made to find a consensus candidate as his replacement, but this proved impossible. What is more, the members of the ICC could not even agree on the process that would elect the new chairman. In the meantime, Imran Khawaja, former president of the Singapore Cricket Association and an influential figure within the ICC, was installed as the interim chairman.
The ICC had said that Manohar’s eventual successor would be in the office by the end of the year. But, these things have a way of changing without much notice as there is little agreement on the way forward among the members of the ICC. Watch this space for all the twists and turns for the highest office in cricket.
Cricket South Africa desperate for England tour nod
Cricket South Africa has been in the news for all the wrong reasons recently following allegations of mismanagement, corruption and poor governance that eventually led to the government stepping in to give direction to the administration of the game.
But amidst all that is going on behind the scenes, there is a serious need to get the game going once more, especially in these difficult times, to generate some much-needed revenue and keep the game afloat in the Rainbow Nation.
The starting point for this is a home series of limited-overs matches against England’s men’s and women’s teams. England’s men’s team was supposed to play three One-Day Internationals and as many Twenty20 Internationals in South Africa earlier in the year, but when the Covid-19 pandemic put paid to this, the tour for rescheduled for mid-November.
However, South Africa remains in a state of lockdown, and for the tour to go ahead, Cricket South Africa needs the approval of Nathi Mthethwa, the Sports Minister. Cricket South Africa has now gone public with their plea to the minister, underscoring the financial rewards the tour will bring to a cash-strapped board.
Langer unhappy with dual Australian team situation
The radical plan to have two Australian teams in action concurrently has attracted the disapproval of Justin Anger, Australia’s current coach, who has just returned home to Western Australia after completing a two-week quarantine upon return from his team’s England tour.
As per Australia’s current international schedule, their Twenty20 team will be in New Zealand in February-March next year at the same time when the Australian Test team will tour South Africa. This will mean that two separate Australian squads of 18 will have to be selected, and Langer has spelt out the reasons why he believes this is not a good idea.
“Not just from a coach’s point of view but also from someone who’s passionate about Australian cricket’s point of view, my personal opinion, is I didn’t like it at all,” Langer told SEN Radio. “I don’t ever want to have two Australian teams in one place, that’s my personal opinion, in this year with what’s happening with Covid, I understand there are complexities to it.”
Langer was no doubt referring to the fact that there was a need to maximise revenue by playing as much cricket as possible in a year that has seen widespread disruption of the game worldwide.
“We’re one country, aren’t we? We’re not two countries and the one sport.” Langer also said that taking 36 of the best Australian players out of the equation would weaken the Sheffield Shield, Australia’s premier domestic competition, which would be at its business end at the same time as these two tours.
The ball is now in the court of Cricket Australia, who must balance cricket needs and practical ones needed to keep the sport healthy and well in these challenging times.
Lanka Premier League on the verge of becoming a reality
The Lanka Premier League, the latest domestic Twenty20 league, moved one step closer to realisation when organisers announced that the player draft for the tournament would take place on October 19. As many as 75 international players are set to be in the draft, and it is believed some of these would be travelling straight from the IPL, currently being played in the United Arab Emirates, to Sri Lanka for the tournament.
The tournament, set to be a 15-day affair beginning on November 21 and ending on December 13, will feature international players despite the strict 15-day quarantine that is in place in the island nation. Organisers also announced that owners were in place for each of the five franchises.
The tournament is set to be played in just two venues, Pallekele and Hambantota, although Colombo is at the heart of cricket in Sri Lanka and has three international grounds, one of the very few cities in the world that can boast this. The reason for this was the ease of setting up and maintaining bio-secure bubbles at the two venues chosen.