Wednesday, March 25, 2009

IPL ?? It’s action time at Napier

Oh, by the way, lest we forget, the Indian cricket team is currently in New Zealand for a Test series with the second of the three-match rubber commencing at Napier on Thursday! Jokes apart, the IPL has been hogging the limelight following the shift to South Africa, relegating Dhoni’s men to the background. India’s wonderful performance in the first Test that they won by 10 wickets has been overshadowed by the hoopla over IPL 2009.

Our cricketers must have heaved a huge sigh of relief when the IPL was rescheduled to start on April 18 that will provide them a few days to recover at home on their return from New Zealand before flying out to South Africa. Going into the second Test, it is to be hoped that the Indian players are not distracted by the IPL that follows a 45-day tour of New Zealand.

Honestly, I was glad that South Africa was chosen ahead of England, and to an extent, not surprised at all. More than the weather factor, it would have been an overkill of T20 cricket had England been the venue. With T20 World Cup scheduled to start within a week after the IPL and again, in England, it would have led to the dilution of the Cup.

As it is, there is far too much cricket being played to an extent that performances are quickly forgotten, victories are not savoured and there is no time for post-mortem of defeats. It is time that the ICC’s programme committee took a step back and put an end to this madness of non-stop cricket. But I wonder whether the authorities give a tuppence for such thoughts when the cash registers are ringing.

Be that as it may and reverting to the New Zealand tour, I am sure Dhoni would be keen on wrapping up the series – another historic achievement it would be – and to this end, might be reluctant to disturb the winning combination that had performed creditably in the first Test.

Going by reports, the Indian team is definitely enjoying itself with some well-planned rest day activities devised to keep them fresh in body and mind. The bounce and confidence that the team is radiating do not bode well for the Kiwis who can expect to be rolled over at Napier.

Barring Vettori, McCullum and to a lesser extent Ryder, the New Zealand side appears a patched up combination lacking in quality and the intensity that is needed to sustain high levels of performance over five days. It would seem that the Kiwis are far too much in awe of the Indians. New Zealand would have to play out of their skins to come back into the series, a task that appears hopelessly beyond them.

India’s main concern should be complacency, something they need to guard against. Cricket, besides being a great leveler, can be a cruel sport to those who believe they have everything sewn up. Although it is difficult to visualize a Kiwi resurgence, you cannot take anything for granted in cricket. In the event, the Indians would be better off by keeping it tight and going in for the kill at Napier.

The Kiwis have been hinting at a “green top” for the second Test in an effort to provide some assistance to their bowlers, but it could boomerang on them given the Indian seam attack. Zaheer and Ishant are undoubtedly the best new ball pair in world cricket at the moment and if the third seamer, Munaf or Balaji, gets going, then we could well witness a repeat of the Hamilton Test.

The series has turned out to be anything but a close contest with India the better side in every department. Kiwis have been not just outplayed, but also outclassed. We could well look forward to another Indian win at Napier if form book remains unchanged.

India are on a roll and the momentum is very much with them. The Kiwis better watch out!

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