?With the Indian Premier League 2010 finishing its first week, already the trend is very positive. A few teams have made more than 200 runs in their allotment, meaning that, generally, bowlers, overall, are being beaten up. Teams have even made over 200 runs; more than ten runs per over; and yet have lost with such totals. The batsmen are, typically, excelling this time. The winners are the lucky Indian cricket-mad spectators. In one game, the Kings XI Punjab made 203-3 in their 20 overs, and yet lost, as the Royal Challengers Bangalore beat that; 204-2 from "only" 18.5 overs. I think that the IPL 2010 competition is just too long, with 60 games scheduled, but the entertainment and excitement values are extremely high; all tremendously enjoyable indeed for all involved. The cream of the world's T-20 batsmen is coming to the fore, those who are already retired internationally, and those who aspire to greater things in their budding careers too.
Making a name for themselves
In one game, Owais Shaw, who cannot make a normal England Test, ODI or T-20 team, got 58 from 46 balls, a production rate of 126per cent. Sri Lanka's Angelo Mathews, who, at 22, must be one of the world's foremost emerging stars, has also shown his all-round worth, already winning a game each with both batting and bowling. These are but a few examples of how the IPL could improve both skills and, of course, bank books. What the IPL also does, since it ends on April 25 next, is to sharpen the talents, and talons, of the predatory batsmen involved there, to continue their efforts into the ICC WT-20 competition, which starts in Guyana on 30 April. My only concern would be for the West Indies players who have not had an APL contract. How are they to prepare for the coming competition? Where is their preparatory cricket? Basically, they will be doing very little to hone their skills in the month leading up to that bash.
Keeping in shape
Right now, three English teams are touring somewhere, while New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, Bangladesh and others are playing cricket, either internationally or in their domestic competitions, keeping their eyes in. So, obviously, the planning of our regional competitions and their timings, effectiveness and usefulness are less than suiting the real purpose; to prepare for the ICC WT-20. In the meantime, the rest of the West Indies players, except those at the IPL; Chris Gayle (Kolkata Knight Riders), Dwayne Bravo (Mumbai Indians), Kieron Pollard (Mumbai Indians), Kemar Roach (Deccan Chargers), Dawyne Smith (Deccan Chargers) and Adrian Barath (Kings XI Punjab), are at home dozing away the time with club cricket, way below the standards required for the immediate future. Last week also saw the Zimbabweans finish their very short but informative tour, while I celebrated my 57th birthday. To have been born on The Ides of March; March 15; the same day that Gaius Julius Caesar was butchered by his "friends", they supposedly reciprocated the sentiment too, is confusing, invigorating and intriguing.
It just goes to show how one's station in life could be considered, especially from so-called "friends." Despite this initial overview, I count myself very fortunate indeed to have been able to survive the stuff that I have, and yet to be still here, ticking like a smooth Seiko Kinetic. I have made so many life comebacks, having survived so many very extreme, adverse and dangerous sets of external stimuli, that I count myself akin to Dracula; "un-deadable"! West Indies did not achieve in West Indies also did come back, against Zimbabwe, in a way, but to have No 8 ranked team beat No 10 ranked team is no real achievement. The achievement would have been, could nearly have been, to have the opposite happen. It really nearly did! West Indies captain, Chris Gayle was, correctly, noted as the Man of the Series, with 273 runs from his five ODI innings, an average of 54.6 and a healthy strike rate; 94 per cent. His power and dominance should have inspired the rest of his team, but that did not happen either.
The next nearest batsman, overall, was Zimbabwe's Elton Chigumbura, who made 148 runs from his five innings, averaging 29.6; strike rate 72 per cent. Outside of Gayle stellar effort, which concluded that, while it was not Australia, at least his team did achieve that coveted 4-1 success, the rest of the West Indies batsmen looked very ordinary indeed against the spinners of Zimbabwe. How they will perform against the better co-ordinated bowling attacks of Australia, India, Sri Lanka and South Africa in the ICC WT-20 will be something to see, I am sure. I, for one, cannot wait for it to start. This time, there could have been no excuses, as there were last year, when Bangladesh was supposed to have beaten our "second team." Except for Ramnaresh Sarwan; still considered a liability with his back problems and Marlon Samuels still banned, the West Indies were supposed to have been at full strength against Zimbabwe, without counting the injuries to a few of the faster bowlers, Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor! Papa!
Way below Test level
What worries me so much more is that none of these 'top' players looked the part. Guyana's Narsingh Deonarine will always be a bit player, one who comes good one day, inconsistently failing the next. To illustrate my point, he made 165 runs in the five-match series, yet made 65 not out in one of them. He has neither the temperament nor is the displacement there, even though his fortune does help him out somewhat. For once, his compatriot Shiv Chanderpaul has also struggled badly against the Zimbabweans. He totaled 140 in his four innings, yet scored half of them, 70, in one innings alone. This is inconsistency that does not normally characterize Shiv. Adrian Barath totaled 131 from five innings, with only one 50. That was just average. The much vaunted Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy and Denesh Ramdin looked seriously out of their depth. Pollard made 87 runs from five innings, average 17.4; Sammy made just 17 runs, in his three innings, while Ramdin made 60 runs from his four innings.
I am sure that I am not alone here when I say that these kinds of results, against a very poor Zimbabwe team, cannot be acceptable. These, mind you, are our first team noted here! The only reason Zimbabwe did not also win the ODI series is that their batting is not accustomed to being put under pressure. Remember that they had not played international cricket for nearly four years and this was only their second sojourn since returning a few months ago. However, with some more games and some steel in their eyes and bellies, Zimbabwe could again come back to haunt the West Indies, especially with their spinners. While beaten, they should not be embarrassed, as they showed that at least, their bowling skills are quite capable of destroying supposedly better batting line-ups. That T-20 game in T&T, when Zimbabwe made 105 and demolished to West Indies to 79-7, would live on in infamy, regardless as to what they will achieve after this tour. Enjoy!