My New Site.

Hello everybody! I opened a new website a few days back. I will be writing on that from now. It would be really nice if you guys visit.

The link – thecricketbunny.com

Thank you!

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Mumbai – India‚Äôs Kings!

Ughh. Shut up! Stop shouting! Cut it out! These are just some of the things people said to me after I was found shouting in my room while jumping on the bed to continuously bang my head on the roof at 12:00 o’clock in the night. The reason – Mumbai Indians won the IPL!

I don’t mean to sound very know-it-all-y but in my pre-tournament prediction, I had kept Mumbai Indians as Table-toppers and champions. Both came true! I appreciate your offer Cricbuzz, I’ll get back to you on that because I also have an offer from Cricinfo and Sportskeeda. In all seriousness though, this Mumbai Indians side is really invincible. They have the right amount of youngsters and experienced players. They have the right blend of bowlers, with the best pacers in all the teams and two spinners who bowl fearlessly. The batting order is the most flexible and even if the upper order cannot give a good start, someone from the hitters down in the lower order always steps up.

But it’s not like MI won this match effortlessly. There were just 9 runs needed off the final over for CSK with the man on 77 – Shane Watson on strike. And the bowler was Lasith Malinga who had already conceded 49 runs in 3 overs until then. But as they say – you can’t buy experience, but you can buy Malinga. Slinga bowled perfectly, if that’s possible. The first ball was full close into the block hole and all Watto could do was parry it down to long on. Jadeja did well to get a single off the next ball. Watson managed to convert a single to two runs on the next ball. Now 5 were needed off the next 3 balls. It was all just a matter of one boundary. Malinga did his job well with an excellently executed wide yorker but after taking the single, Watson suddenly decides he doesn’t want to take the second run. But under pressure from Jadeja, he half-heartedly runs across only to see De Kock take out his stumps from a Krunal Pandya throw. That might well have been the point where MI won the match. Because had Shane Watson been on strike with 3 runs to win off 2 balls. MI would have been in some serious trouble. Nevertheless, another shocking decision for me was sending Shardul Thakur up the order. I know he can dispatch a few to the boundaries but he is relatively inexperienced. I remember Harbhajan finishing off so many games. Now CSK had the opportunity to use his experience but they went with the relative inexperience of Shardul. Malinga made his first mistake of this over with a full toss on the legs but Shardul couldn’t use it to his advantage managing only two runs. Now the last ball of Vivo IPL 2019 was to be bowled and CSK needed 2 runs to write their name on the trophy for the fourth time. Oh well. Malinga bowled it right on the stumps which was surprising considering that it was a ball which could either be hit for six or it could get a wicket. The latter happened and MI became IPL champions for a record fourth time.

As said by MS Dhoni in the post-match presentation, both teams made lots of mistakes. But the team that made one less mistake won. That is true. CSK dropped one very important catch of Hardik Pandya who then went on to hit a six. MI though were actually the ones who dropped more catches. First up Lasith Malinga dropped a high catch which was the definition of a sitter. Then Rahul Chahar dropped a caught-and-bowled chance. After this Chahar dropped yet another one, which was even easier. But the interesting thing is, all three of them were off Shane Watson’s batting. I am telling you, Shane Watson must have bought a lottery ticket after last night’s match.

The game was pretty much in CSK’s hands after the start that Faf and Watto gave to them. They had to score at a run rate south of 7! But their rookie mistakes took the trophy away from them. Raina, after one successful review, got cocky and took another review in the next over itself and lost CSK’s all important review. Rayudu played an uncomfortable shot to edge it back to the eagerly waiting Quinton De Kock. But the most unprecedented of the rookie mistakes was MS Dhoni’s. Dhoni, unlike his usual self, tried to take a run which was never there. After an overthrow from Malinga (which turned out to be a blessing in disguise), Dhoni tried to sneak in another run. At one point, it actually looked like Dhoni might reach in time, but all credit had to be given to the youngster Ishan Kishan, who seems to be a big fan of Hawkeye. He took perfect aim and his direct hit was the reason for Dhoni’s walk back to the pavilion and maybe the reason for MI’s win, because had Dhoni stuck around, he would have definitely added another trophy to his cabinet.

One pivotal point in the match was the last over of MI’s innings. After Pollard rightly denied a single on the first ball, Dwayne Bravo bowled a clear wide on the second ball. The umpire must have been counting sheep because he gave no response. The next ball was an even bigger wide which Pollard didn’t even try to play, but again the umpire gave him the cold shoulder. I don’t know what the umpire was dreaming about that time, but he was definitely wrong taking that call. The birthday boy Pollard was obviously outraged. Like a small boy throwing a temper tantrum due to the decision made in a gully cricket match, he stood on the wide line, and actually walked out before the ball was even bowled. That resulted in a heated fight between him and the umpires which has now resulted in a fine. But I think that what he did wasn’t wrong because the umpire had turned a blind eye to two clear wides. That was a big blunder. Pollard’s anger showed in the last two balls which he dispatched for 8 runs. It only makes you think, what if he had not hit that ball for four. Or what if the umpire had given that as wide. How close would it have been then?

All in all, this was a great tournament, not to mention very close. The final was won by a one-Run deficit. The team on the last position on the points table would have qualified for the playoffs had they won just one more match. This was the first time that happened. The IPL has ended but the cricket season has just begun. Hello, World Cup!

We Have Our Finalists!

After 59 matches of gruelling action, overwhelming emotion, striking drama, close finishes, big hits, clever moves, excellent performances and most importantly, good cricket, two teams remain. Two teams who have won the trophy the most no. of times. Two teams who have reached the final most no. of times. Two teams who have the most no. of fans, two teams who are the two best teams in the whole of the Indian Premier League.

In a way, it kind of makes sense. Both the 3-time champions battling it out to find out once and for all, who is the better team. Here I would like to look at some patterns. CSK won in 2010, and won in 2011 as well making them the only team to successfully defend an IPL title. They won last year. Can they defend the trophy again? The numbers sure do make a case for them. As for MI, they have an even better argument. 2013 they win. 2015 they win. 2017 they win. 2019 they…… MI have won the IPL every alternate year. This year they have reached the finals. Can they add another trophy to their cabinet? We’ll just have to wait and see.

MI have a lot going for them in this clash. They clearly have the superior team. I think they could even put an international team going to play the World Cup to shame. They literally have all bases covered. Rohit Sharma and Quinton De Kock open for them. While De Kock has been the top run scorer for his side and has had a highly impressive season, Rohit on the other hand, has not lived up to his name. But his recent form has been better than his form right at the start of the season with a fifty to his name in the clash against KKR. So that’s a plus point. The same goes for Suryakumar Yadav. Who had been dissatisfying until his innings against that match against KKR. He did one better in the Qualifier 1 against CSK, where he was the Man Of The Match for his knock of 71. It would be an understatement to say that he is in serious form.

The No.4 position just shows the quality of the MI side further. They have the option to choose other players over the West Indian big hitter who won the West Indies team many-a-matches single-handedly known as ‘Junior Gayle’. They have the option to sit out the Man Of The Series Of the 2011 World Cup, the man who hit six sixes off six balls, Yuvraj Singh. In the last match, they went with the youthful Ishan Kishan. Now in this game, I myself would go with Yuvraj Singh. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m reading Yuvi’s autobiography right now, but I have really started appreciating him as a player. Besides, his experience might come in handy in such an important clash. But maybe MI do not want to make any changes which would also be fine as it would give their players more confidence.

Coming to the lower order, that is just unbelievable. Kieron Pollard, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya. These three give Mumbai immense flexibility. They never stuck to one batting order. Whatever the situation might be, these 3 can adapt. That is what makes MI the side that finishes the best. Seeing a team with such a great batting lineup, you would not expect their bowling lineup to be as good. And it isn’t as good. It’s better.

The rightful owner of the tag of ‘The World’s Best Bowler’ Jasprit Bumrah is within their ranks. Along with him a revamped Lasith Malinga 2.0 is also supporting him. The ever-improving all-round Hardik Pandya completes their pace trio. The spin trio is not as impressive looking or nearly as star-studded. But if you think that they are less able, think again. Rahul Chahar, Krunal Pandya, and Jayant Yadav can give any international batsman a run for his money. Chahar especially has had a breakthrough season. He has impressed with his abilities to get important wickets.

After looking at that good a side, the CSK side will not be able to match up with it. Faf has been leading the batting attack in the later stages of the tournament while Watto hadn’t fired till the clash against DC yesterday. Raina and Rayudu have both disappointed and are the cause of CSK’s middle order woes. All the disappointment up the order has been covered up because of one man and one man only. Mahendra Singh Dhoni. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. The crew of the movie ‘One Man Army’ should have chosen Dhoni to play the lead. He certainly has played that role for CSK. If the Dhoni Of IPL 2019 can turn up at the World Cup, then India are walking away with the trophy.

The bowling is actually the backbone of the Super Kings. Here too, there are just 2 people who have been handling it all. Deepak Chahar has given a start which can only be dreamt of in every game. He hardly leaks any runs in the powerplay and takes at least a wicket to never let the batsmen get going. But the true recipient of CSK’s reason for reaching here has to be Imran ‘Immy Bhai’ Tahir. He has effected 24 dismissals and if he can get one more against MI on Sunday then he will snatch the purple cap right out from the hands of Kagiso Rabada, and win the prestigious award for the first time.

There is one more thing. Whenever Mumbai Indians have played a final, MS Dhoni has been behind the stumps. In 2017, Dhoni’s Rising Pune Supergiants had lost to the Mumbai Indians by one run. Will the horrors of that defeat come back to haunt him?

Prediction

To win finals you need to hold your nerve. For that you need experience. And experience CSK have in abundance. But MI have the quality on their side. Also they beaten CSK in all the 3 previous clashes between the two this season. So they will definitely be more confident. So I think MI can paint Hyderabad blue this year and carve their name on the trophy for a record fourth time.

Dads’ Army Beat The Kids’ Army!

There you have it. The Delhi Capitals fail to reach the final in spite of a breakthrough. They are still the only team in IPL history to have never played a final. They don’t really deserve to reach the finals though with the way that they played in this game.

At the toss, MSD won and said that he would like to field first. When asked how he felt about batting first, Iyer replied that he wanted to bat first anyway. So both teams got what they wanted. Coming to the game, Delhi Capitals just never got going. That one partnership in every game which completely takes away the game from the opposition was missing here. The Capitals kept losing wickets at regular intervals. It started with Prithvi Shaw, whose ‘not out’ LBW decision was successfully overturned by MS Dhoni. At No.3, Colin Munro was sent in to bat. I think that was a mistake. Munro is a leftie and so is Shikhar Dhawan. And lefties are like evening supper for Harbhajan Singh. Better yet, Kiwi lefties like Munro who struggle against spin. Although Munro did well to see off Harbhajan’s over, his partner Shikhar Dhawan could not do the same. He was caught behind to a flipper which MS Dhoni’s gloves almost refused to stick to. But at the end Shikhar had to walk back. Then out came Iyer.

Maybe the pressure of playing in a knockout match weighed too heavily on such a young captain like Iyer. That could have been what caused him to throw his wicket away after a slow start adding 13 runs to the scoreboard and taking 16 balls to do that. Rishabh Pnt is the most Dhoni-esque person you can find. When he fires – oh boy, he fiiiiires! and he is quite consistent too. But you cannot rely on him to fire in every game. This game too, he played an innings of 38 against the run of play to take his team to a somewhat respectable total. But DC rely on him too much. Next year maybe they will find another finisher to bat below Rishabh and to take the pressure off him.

When the CSK batsmen walked out to bat, the tides were already tilted quite a bit towards their side. Watson had not had a good game until the 96 against SRH. While Faf had played an innings of 96 in the final game of the group stage against KXIP so he was in top form. So he used his form to his advantage and middled the ball right from the start,. While this kept the scoreboad going at a cheetah-like pace, it also gave his partner Shane Watson some time to settle. So when Faf got out to Boult in the 11th over, Watto was ready to take charge. In the very next over, he completely tore Keeemo Paul to shreds. CSK got 25 runs and Shane Watson’s form from that over.

After the cruising start that the openers gave CSK, there was hardly any chance of a collapse. Following the loss of Du Plessis and Watto, all CSK needed to do was play smartly, and Rayudu along with Raina and Dhoni did that. With this complete push aside of the Delhi Capitals, CSK hve managed to set up the 4th MI-CSK final. That is just too much considering CSK didn’t even play for two seasons. I’m not predicting any winner yet, but I definitely want MI to win for the simple reason that no team should ever win the IPL twice in arow. That would make it seem like a Bundesliga or Ligue 1 where one or two teams rule the roost. Anyway, after 59 matches of entertaining cricket, we have our finalists!

 

They Came, They Saw, They Roared

As far as the number of twists in one game go, this game should be on the upper end of the spectrum. Twist after twist after twist. Right when the match started looking one-sided, bam! A player completely turns the game around on its head. That was probably because both teams were packed with match winners. And effective match winners at that.

This was a historic win for the Delhi Capitals. It was the first time that they had won a game in the playoffs. And that’s saying something considering that they have played two semi-finals, a Qualifier 1 and a Qualifier 2. This time, they were highly unlucky becoming the first team to finish outside the top 2 even with 18 points. But they didn’t let that faze them. Even when asked about nervousness and guts among players at the toss, Shreyas Iyer said that they were going to treat it as just another match. At the toss, Iyer had tossed the coin before he was supposed to. He joked about that as well saying that I was so excited to get the game started that I just tossed it before I needed to. That showed that the atmosphere in the Delhi dressing room was not that of self pity but of motivation to go out there and prove that they deserve to be there at Hyderabad on the 12th in the night of the finals.

After DC won a very important toss and elected to field first, the SRH openers Saha and Guptill came out to bat. I think the instructions given to them were that one of you should hit it out and the other one should anchor. Guptill took the responsibility of keeping the strike rate up and he succeeded at that scoring 36 runs off just 19 balls. Saha, though could not do his job, and lost his wicket in the 4th over itself. Manish Pandey, coming into this match with red-hot might have found himself under a lot of pressure to play a long innings. That was what caused him to play an ODI format innings of 30 off 36. The turning point was actually his wicket, after which the SRH batsmen understood that the innings would go nowhere if they were to keep playing as they were. Vijay Shankar took initiative and played a quickfire knock of 25 off 11. That was the gamechanging innings for SRH. The push that Shankar gave them prompted other batsmen to hit too which ultimately led to a competitive total of 162. Rishabh Pant’s excellent wicket keeping in the last over has to be given credit. But what he did with the gloves was nothing compared to what he was about to do with the bat.

Shikhar Dhawan is having a special season to say the least. The second half of his IPL has been absolutely astounding. On the other hand, his partner Prithvi Shaw has kept on showing little glimpses but hasn’t managed to turn them into something big apart from that one 99 against KKR at the Kotla. But today, Shaw was the one who took charge while Dhawan sat back. His innings of 56 definitely deserves applause. After these two openers got going, I don’t think anybody really believed that SRH cold win this game. I didn’t either. Not till the 15th over. That was the over where Rashid Khan can in and did what only he can do. A double wicket maiden over from Rashid completely changed the tide of the match. Now suddenly DC were lagging behind with a Required Run Rate Of above 12 and only one designated batsman at the crease. And guess who that was? That’s right, Rishabh Pant.

The next two overs yielded 18 runs for the Delhi Capitals. Not enough. Now Delhi needed 34 off the last 3. Till then, Khaleel has been the best bowler for SRH with two wickets an a great economy. On the other hand, Basil Thampi had had a bad day. Dropping one catch and going wicketless. Now any captain in their right mind would have bowled Khaleel there, but not Williamson. He went with Basil Thampi and well, the rest is history. Rishabh Pant extracted 22 runs off his over which included 2 6s and 2 4s. After that over, DC needed 12 runs off 12 balls. Quite easy right? Yes, but not for DC. Why do something the easy way if there is a harder way to do it!

Rishabh Pant has the chance to complete his fifty, which would be one of the fastest fifties of this whole season, of a Bhuvaneshwar Kumar delivery when he hit it straight back to him but Kumar slipped and could not effect a run out even if he tried. The non striker wanted to run the single but Rishabh refused because t wouldn’t have been in the right spirit of the game. He got out on the very next ball and lost the chance to reach a personal milestone. But truly a gentleman’s move. Anyway, after Rishabh Pant could not finish it off, we all though that there can’t be another twist in this game. But there was. Rutherford got out and slowly the drama was increasing.

By the time the last over came around, DC still needed 5 runs to win. Thankfully, Khaleel was bowling this over. Nerves might have impacted him though because he bowled a wide on the first ball. The next 3 balls could only be sent for 2 runs and 2 more runs were needed off 3 balls with Amit Mishra on strike. That’s when the drama started. Mishra ji failed to make contact with the delivery but sill ran. As he was going towards the non-striker’s end, he started drifting towards the stumps and effectively blocked the stumps eliminating the chance of a run out. He was rightfully shown the way to the pavilion thanks to the appeal by Khaleel who showed immense presence of mind. Now 2 off 2 were needed and the field was set such that a single would have been difficult. Keemo Paul had to go for a four. He did that. He succeeded at that. The joy as the Delhi players ran out and hugged Paul was enough to warm the most wooden of hearts.

The result was fitting as DC were the ones who were more deserving. Anyway, coming in to the next fixture which will now be CSK Vs DC. They will be facing off on the 10th. I’m not predicting any result, but I really really hope that this DC setup can win that match and reach the finals. Anyway that’s it for this game, thank you for reading!

The Super Kings Choke!

The day I was waiting for has come! The Super Kings have lost a match in the playoffs, at the same time pushing Mumbai Indians straight into the final.

To be honest, this CSK team is looking tired now. They rode for the whole of last season and this season’s group stage on the MSD factor along with pure sheer luck, but they are running out of both now. And I know I’m going to sound very conservative when I say this, but no team with an average age north of 30 can continuously win a league such as the IPL. The label of ‘Dad’s Army’ that was given to CSK has now begun to haunt them. Their players have experience in surplus, but they lack the mindset that the young players in a team like MI have. After this match, given the poor record of CSK outside of Chepauk, and the poor form of their players, I think CSK won’t be able to repeat their 2018 campaign. But if they do, then it will be due to Dhoni’s captaincy and/or batting.

The biggest negative from this match for me would be the Chepauk pitch. That’s just not how a T20 pitch can behave! That pitch was like a pitch on the 3rd or 4th day of a test match. No wonder CSK wins every match there! They have the best spinners in all the teams. That’s a different sort of advantage altogether. And the only reason Mumbai have been able to beat them there so frequently is because their Indian batsmen play spin very well. This pitch has to be improved. Next year, if the pitch is not improved then I don’t think CSK should play there. It’s not fair to the other teams or to the viewers watching who will get a boring 70 all out game.

The CSK innings didn’t really get off to a good start. But the newcomer Murali Vijay and the out-of-form Ambati Rayudu stitched together quite a successful partnership. After Vijay’s wicket in the 13th over Dhoni came in. Both Rayudu and Dhoni kept playing quite defensively and the run rate kept declining. Then there was that one Jayant Yadav over when both of them tinker him around the park and I thought that okay, this is the over when the game turns and CSK changes gears to reach a total like 165 from a point where 130 was looking difficult. But it wasn’t. The next 3-4 overs were played out like the middle overs in an ODI match. I think Dhoni has tasted so much success dispatching every ball for a boundary in the last two overs that he has started backing himself to do that in every game. But he can’t do that! Nobody can! In this game, much like CSK’s last one, Dhoni took the game till the last over to hit some shots. He failed both times. Above all things, CSK’s dependency on Dhoni shone through against MI.

Credit has to be given to the MI team management who played a right arm off-spinner in place of a left arm leggie who would have surely been more tempting. Jayant Yadav surely did his work, got one wicket and held on to 2 catches.

The MI chase was well calculated and it was the partnership between two Indian youngsters, Suryakumar Yadav, and Ishan Kishan’s partnership which took the game far away from the Super Kings. Suryakumar, in particular was impressive and built his innings of 71 very well. He has finally embraced form right before the playoffs, and I don’t think MI is complaining. His man of the match award was well deserved.

DC Vs SRH

Now that’s it for this match. MI will be waiting for the other team who reaches the final in Hyderabad. As for today’s match between DC and SRH, it is the clash of David and Goliath. DC finished on 18 points while SRH could secure only 12. DC are coming off the back of a win while SRH reach Vizag after 2 losses. Although SRH will be a broken team, that is what will give them the need to win this match. DC on the other hand, will be much more confident, and will back themselves to push aside SRH. I will be supporting the Capitals but something tells me that we’ll be seeing a repeat of last year’s final in the Qualifier 2 this year.

The El Classico Of IPL

Could there have been a better template than this for the legendary rivalry that is Mumbai Indians vs Chennai Super Kings. Both the three-time champions will battle it out today to take one step towards the trophy as the winner will reach the final. In doing this, they will also create a big diversion in the path of the other team, who will have to win their next game if they want to make their way into the finals.

The cherry on top is the two-teams’ interesting record against each other. If you look at the head-to-head, MI leads the tide with 15-11. Furthermore, what is notable is MI’s recent form against CSK. They have lost only one game to CSK in their last seven outings, and that game too was almost an assured victory for them until a certain Dwayne Bravo swept the game away from them. Their record at Chepauk is even more astounding. The last time CSK beat MI at Chepauk was back in 2010. So MI clearly tilt the ship towards their side here, but in the knockout phases, CSK actually have a better record against MI. They have won four while the latter has won 3. So the numbers all point towards an iconic match.

Although CSK has no real weighing problems, they do have a couple of small ones. One pinching problem is the form of Shane Watson. Dhoni has shown unreal belief in him but he hasn’t repaid that in the least. Keeping his innings of 96 runs against SRH aside, he managed to score just 142 runs in 13 games. It would be highly tempting to rest him for this game, but he is a big-match player. Last year too, he upped his game in the final when the team needed him to the most. You never know when a player like him can produce a match-winning innings. On this Chepauk pitch CSK would want to get another spinner within their ranks. They do have Mitch Santner, but who will make way for him? Technically it should be Dwayne Bravo who has been disappointing this season, to say the least. But I don’t think the CSK management would be willing to take that step. Dhoni doesn’t believe in making too many changes and he is quite likely to stick to the same 11 even if it is not the best one he can play.

MI, the table toppers, have some issues of their own. The biggest being the middle muddle. The flexibility in their batting lineup is their biggest strength and also their biggest weakness. The story of this whole season has been that Rohit gets out, SKY plays a bit and gets out, whoever comes in at 4 has a short stay at the crease, and Hardik and Krunal are left to save the day. That is what is happening in almost every game. The last game, though must have helped a lot. Rohit got to his fifty, and Suryakumar Yadav also played a quick and big knock. At Chepauk, spinners rule the roost, as all of us know. MI would want to get Mayank Markhande or Anukul Roy in their XI at the expense of a Mitch McClenaghan. This would also give them the option to choose between Ishan Kishan and Evin Lewis for the coveted No.4 position.

Prediction

See, MI is the only team of current times that can beat CSK at Chepauk as they have shown many-a-times. Today is all about holding your nerve, and while CSK’s experienced players might be better at that, I still think that MI’s quality can definitely overpower CSK’s experience.