The big final tomorrow concludes what has been a long-long tournament. Most of the 76 matches have been intriguing, offering something new if you happen to be a curious follower. ‘Off-field’ news kept the cynics and detractors busy, yet it wouldn’t be great idea to ignore or remain unperturbed with all these avoidable developments. It could be incidental but each and every edition of the IPL has had these aspects associated with it - close games, exceptional individual performances and celeb controversies; IPL-5 wasn’t an exception. There could different ways to look back upon what we have witnessed this season; the performances with context to the T20 WC later this year has been chosen here.
Those in awe of Chris Gayle’s onslaught or Sunil Narine’s foxy spells or Dwayne Bravo’s clinical finishes would for one moment or the other predicted a strong West Indian side for the WC. Addition of Dwayne Smith, Kemar Roach, Kerion Pollard and Marlon Samuels to the above names proposes a potent side on paper; a successful WC campaign could provide the much-needed impetus for West Indian cricket. Jayawardene, Sangakkara, Dilshan and Malinga were hot and cold during the last couple of weeks; probably a fall-out of weariness from international cricket. We got to see a bit of Angelo Mathews and Nuwan Kulasekara as well, but they too didn’t have much of an impact. The Lankans are a strong unit in their backyard, yet SL’s impact players need to find their form over the next couple of months to entertain thoughts of lifting the trophy for the first time.
England has had an iffy stance on the concept of the IPL, and the lack of interested owners for having English players hasn’t provided any indicator about the T20 form for the defending champions. Kevin Pietersen participated as long as he could and notched up enough runs, including a fine ton, to suggest good adaptability to conditions. Ross Taylor, Jesse Ryder, Brendon McCullum and Daniel Vettori wouldn’t want to relish their performances this season, for some reason each of them managed to under-perform. New Zealand has always been the dark horse in every WC, but if IPL-5 is the parameter to evaluate, then NZ appear woefully short on resources for the conditions.
There is one team though which would be pleased with the way its players have performed - South Africa. Jacques Kallis didn’t exactly set the stage on fire, aka IPL-4, but didn’t appear to be searching for runs. Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell were exceptional during the stint. Alfonso Thomas, Albie Morkel and Johan Botha too performed to par. There is one player though who continues to move on his own merry way - AB de Villiers, riding on a wonderful purple patch! Australian players joined the tournament late and only a few made it to the playing XI’s. Warner, David Hussey, White and Watson looked good during their stay; Smith and Mike Hussey were in sublime form indicating a formidable T20 batting line-up. Brad Hodge and Brad Hogg, the two retired men, too had their say in the matches they got to play. Australia hasn’t had its hands on this trophy and these players would be hoping to continue this momentum to Sri Lanka.
Where does India stand in this mix-up? Sehwag, Gambhir looked fine, and so did Rohit Sharma (in patches). Raina and Virat had an inexplicable drop in form, while Jadeja continued to notch up rare, occasional outstanding performances. Rahane, Dhawan have provided the back-up options in case the batting order needs a justifiable replacement. Dhoni like he has been throughout his career has found form out of nowhere, but much more would be expected of him. India’s big worry though is the bowling resources. Praveen, Munaf, RP Singh, Zaheer appeared off-color, Umesh looked good, Ashwin, Rahul Sharma, Amit Mishra, Piyush Chawla and Harbhajan performed surprisingly below-par. Varun Aaron had a look-in but doesn’t appear to be India’s death bowling option. Shahbaz Nadeem, Balaji and Awana are names that would have selector’s eyes glued to them. India’s bowling selection for the WC would be a very tough job and contentious with respect to each and every bowler picked.
Pakistan can be mercurial but somehow the T20 format suits their style of play the best. Bangladesh is another side that can spring a surprise; Shakib-al-Hasan’s performances are an indicator to that notion. Netherlands won’t be a part of the WC, but it was good to see Ryan ten Doeschate use his opportunities. On IPL-5 form you could safely assume South Africa and West Indies as strong contenders for the WC. But before we get into the WC mode let us sit back and see whether we have a new captain lifting the IPL trophy or MSD’s boys completing the hat-trick!