Thursday, May 21, 2009


The Miracle Of IPL2


No, it's not Miss Bollywood IPL South Africa Dune Kossatz (see photo below if you are curious). There is simply no different way to put it, that the Bangalore Royal Challengers have barged there way into a semi-final spot in IPL2 is nothing short of cricket's equivalent of the Hail Mary. While it is my firm belief that their place in the final four is due more to luck than planning, credit has to be given where credit is due - no, not to Vijay Mallya, but to Anil Kumble and Ray Jennings.

I lampooned Vijay Mallya for falling pray to the whims and fancies of his ego and that of his superstar recruit and captain, Kevin Pietersen. I'm not arrogant enough to believe that Dr Mallya read that article or any of the hundreds of others that were written in a similar vein, because I cannot see his hand in the Banagalore's resurgence in the latter of half of the tournament (no, handing out awards at after-match ceremonies is not contribution enough).

It is quite obvious to anybody who understands an iota about the workings of cricketers and cricket teams that Bangalore coach Ray Jennings made the right choice in selecting Anil Kumble as captain in Pietersen's absence. It takes more than flashy haircuts, ostentatious lifestyles and the switch-hit to be successful and inspiration (not necessarily both at the same time either) on a cricket field for over 20 years. Kevin Pietersen could do worse than than try to become half the man Kumble has been.

Mallya's error of titanic proportions in sacking Rahul Dravid after IPL1 and banking on Pietersen's heroics when he was only available for one-third of the tournament was a potentially fatal decision as far as his team's chances in IPL2 were concerned. Kumble and Jennings could not have produced the results without a fair share of luck and that Ross Taylor innings.

The Royal Challengers this year have proven that class players are best, no matter their age, nor the form of the game. The likes of Jaques Kallis, Rahul Dravid and Kumble were unceremoniously written off by all and sundry for being too slow, too old and Test match players. Reports that Mallya himself subscribed to these misconceptions and never took a backward step in reminding the players concerned, were only likely to fan the flames of discontent and its consequence, under-performance.

Matthew Hayden's orange cap is illustration enough of the benefits of playing with a mind uncluttered. Is it any coincidence then, that the senior citizens of the Bangalore side have played a critical part in the side's resurgence after a calm and considered Kumble was anointed captain? Could it just be that, under Kumble, younger players like Virat Kohli, Praveen Kumar and to a lesser extent, Ross Taylor felt more at home and less like they were walking on egg shells, contributing to their improved and more consistent performances?

Whatever happens to the Royal Challengers during the business stage of the tournament is water under the bridge. Their chances of success for next season and beyond rely on clear and thoughtful decision making, without the undue and overbearing influence of money, Bollywood-esque performances and bloated egos.

Successful cricket teams of are not built overnight. Creating a winning cricketing unit is poles apart from paying for a faster and more reliable engine for Formula 1 cars. Dr Mallya would be well served by letting the experts he hired do the jobs they are clearly more capable than he of doing well.


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