The Reverse Sweep

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This week we preview the World T20 that kicks off this week and provide our final word on the on and off-pitch action in the IPL as the Chennai Super Kings were crowned champions. We also look at the main talking points on the county circuit and name our IPL XI of the season.

The Reverse Sweep is an irreverent and sometimes acerbic round-up of the week that was in cricket. For similar musings on this wonderful game of ours please visit my blog also entitled The Reverse Sweep, read my new twice-weekly column on CricDude, or follow me on Twitter @TheReverseSweep.

World T20 preview and predictions

Just five days after the end of the IPL season, international cricket resumes with the World T20 in the Caribbean. Although, it will be a much less frenzied affair than the IPL with no DLF maximums, no timeouts and praise be to God, no Danny Morrison, it is not exactly an example of good scheduling by the ICC. And coming under a year after the last World T20 in England, no-one could argue that cricket in general is adopting a less is more approach to the youngest form of the game.

The competition itself is structured in the same way as a year ago with four initial groups of three being whittled down to two groups of four in the Super Eight stage, before the semi-finals and final. The teams that will comprise each of the Super Eight groups has been more or less pre-ordained with supporters in mind, but arguably makes the initial group stage even more pointless than it will probably already be.

That said it is nice that some of the minnows get their day in the sun, and for Afghanistan particularly it is the culmination of an unlikely good news story; albeit one that will probably end abruptly given they are up against two of the favourites in India and South Africa in Group C. In Group D, Ireland too are unlikely to repeat their feats of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean with the hosts and England having far too much firepower for the men in emerald green.

Zimbabwe have proved in the last few months with T20 wins over West Indies and now Australia that cricket is recovering in their shattered country, but with the slow pitches likely to suit Sri Lanka, and New Zealand not ones that normally succumb to minnows, no surprises can be expected in Group B.

Group A however, sees holders Pakistan up against Bangladesh and Australia, and with Shahid Afridi captaining pretty much anything could happen. Shorn of Shoaib Malik, Rana Naved, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan through the mismanagement of Ijaz Butt and one of the best T20 bowlers in the world in Umar Gul due to injury, Pakistan may struggle to get past the also unpredictable Bangladesh. So we’ll stick our neck out and tip the holders to fall at the first hurdle, which will no doubt hasten more match-fixing allegations from Pakistan’s oh so wonderful politicians.

Then the real business will start with the Super Eight stage. By our reckoning, the two Super Eight groups will be Bangladesh, New Zealand, South Africa and England in Group E, and Australia, Sri Lanka, India and West Indies in a much tougher looking Group F. But we could be wrong and we’re already on the phone to Professor Stephen Hawking in order to get a better understanding of how this works.

Anyway, taking for granted that we are correct; and for England’s sake we hope we are, then the Reverse Sweep’s belief that 2010 is going to follow 1966 and 2003 in the annals of English sporting glory looks a distinct possibility. With T20 being a great leveller, the selectors having picked the right squad and England having a good balance between bat and ball, Paul Collingwood’s men should be right up there in contention for the trophy. We take them to go through to the semi-finals with South Africa from Group E.

If Group F looked like we’ve guessed then it will rightly be called the group of death. All four teams look strong with India led by the excellent MS Dhoni and Australia the two favourites for the competition. But don’t rule out the West Indies who will be looking to make up for their disappointing performance when hosting the World Cup in 2007. With Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, West Indies have the impact players that can win a T20 match in a five over spell. And with T20 having that element of unpredictability we go for the hosts to join India in the last four with the Aussies maybe ruing the fact that Doug Bollinger has been left at home.

With South Africa likely to choke in the semi-final as they always do and the West Indies probably running out of steam, we predict an India-England final with the absence of Sachin Tendulkar meaning that England will finally break its duck of having never won a limited overs ICC world trophy. But we won’t be massively surprised if we get it wrong.

Whatever happens, it will be an interesting couple of weeks. Here’s another T20 World Cup Preview full of ludicrous predictions and complete with profiles of the squads and details of the tournament structure.

Chennai’s three steps to glory

So it was Chennai Super Kings who won the IPL final and in doing so shed their tag of nearly-men into the process. They certainly ran into form at the right time and first Deccan in the semi-final and then Mumbai in the final were pushed aside comfortably to enable MS Dhoni to lift the rather unattractive IPL trophy. Whilst Mumbai had been the standout team in the regular season, there were a number of factors in Chennai’s eventual triumph. First, the arrival of Doug Bollinger was the final piece in the jigsaw of what proved a formidable bowling attack. Second, was the outstanding batting of Suresh Raina and Murali Vijay. But in our view, the biggest factor was Dhoni. He saved them from elimination in their last regular season game against Punjab in Dharamsala when with 29 required off the last two overs they were staring defeat and exit from the competition in the face. Then Dhoni coolly took over and blasted Chennai into the last four. Indeed, the captain’s canny bowling changes and field placings (including at times a leg slip), plus his ability to inspire and lead from the front mark him out as a great skipper.

Modi suspended; IPL in turmoil

Unless you’ve been on Mars, you will know that Lalit Modi has been suspended from his role with the IPL pending an investigation into the many allegations that have been levied against him. The scandal has spread too with rumours abound that up to 27 players were involved in match or spot fixing during IPL2 in South Africa last year. Apparently, these include a “famous Australian cricketer” and some “well-known” Indian players too. It seems this story will run and run. It waits to be seen whether Modi has transgressed or is just being punished for upsetting shadowy characters behind the scenes in the Indian Government and BCCI. If this is the end for him, we will miss Modi. Love him or loathe him, he was never boring.

The continuing rise of the White Rose

We wrote a couple of weeks ago that Yorkshire had started the season like a runaway train and that they could present a serious challenge to Durham’s throne. Granted it is still early days and that Durham’s bowling ranks have been decimated by injury, but the White Rose county is making the Reverse Sweep look a bit of a wise old sage in their current match with the reigning county champions. All Yorkshire’s batsmen seem to be in good touch with Jacques Rudolph piling up the runs as ever. The bowling even without Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad looks strong, and Andrew Gale is looking like the future England captain many are tipping him to be. They say a strong Yorkshire, means a strong England, so let’s hope that they can maintain their rampant start.

Sussex looking good for a quick return

We must admit to a vested interest as we are dyed-in-the-wool Sussex fans, but last year’s surprising relegation looks like it will be reversed quickly. With Leicestershire on the ropes, it looks like Sussex are about to make it four wins out of four and they would appear to be head and shoulders above the rest of the teams in Division 2. The bowling let them down last year but the new unit of Collymore, Anyon, Martin-Jenkins, Rana Naved and Panesar looks a strong one.

IPL XI

With the IPL now over it seems an opportune time to name our XI of the tournament. We didn’t watch every game. In fact we didn’t even watch half of them, but we have seen enough to name our XI. As per the IPL rules, we have limited ourselves to a maximum of four overseas players – although we have only picked three.

1.  Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai) – the leading run-scorer in the tournament was the main reason behind Mumbai’s dominance of the regular season. If he was playing for India in the World T20, the organisers may as well MS Dhoni the trophy now.

2. Murali Vijay (Chennai) – Controversially (probably) selected ahead of Kallis, we have opted for Vijay because his superior strike (156.84) would dovetail better with Tendulkar than Kallis’ more methodical approach.

3. Suresh Raina (Chennai) – Third in the leading run-scorers list and at a strike rate of over 142 too, Raina continued his good form in the T20 format. Man of the match in the final and his fielding was top-class throughout.

4. Saurabh Tiwary (Mumbai) – Gets in ahead of more celebrated names like Symonds, Watson and Jayawardene. Tiwary continually provided added impetus on top of the excellent starts usually provided by Tendulkar; and in the semi-final his innings provided the platform for Pollard to launch Mumbai into orbit.

5. Robin Uthappa (Bangalore) – The muscle man who warmed up with a medicine ball was the most consistent of the kamikaze attack-at-all-costs batsmen (see post on the Lovers and the Shaggers). Uthappa can win a game in less than five overs as a strike rate of over 171 would suggest.

6. MS Dhoni, Captain (Chennai) – The inspirational captain behind Chennai’s success and the man that saved their bacon in the do-or-die match against Punjab. Dhoni is rapidly becoming India’s greatest ever captain.

7. Kieron Pollard (Mumbai) – The best all-rounder in the tournament. With the bat he had the highest strike-rate (185.71), with the ball he took a steady supply of wickets at a relatively good economy rate and he was electric in the field. If Mumbai had not held him back until it was too late in the final, who knows what could have happened?

8. Ravichandran Ashwin (Chennai) – With a superlative economy rate of 6.10, Ashwin’s off-breaks typically gave Chennai a great start with the new ball. Ashwin was yet another factor behind Chennai’s resurgence from the mid-point of the season.

9. Amit Mishra (Delhi) – This is probably a biased choice given that Delhi was my adopted side, but Mishra performed consistently well and took 17 wickets during the competition. To be honest, it could just as easily have been Harbhajan, Ojha, Kumble or Murali though as spin came to the fore.

10. Lasith Malinga (Mumbai) – Malinga’s ability to bowl yorkers at will is a priceless commodity in T20 and with his unorthodox action, he can be unplayable at times. Took 15 wickets and did so at a decent economy rate of just over seven.

11. Doug Bollinger (Chennai) – Just pips his Australian colleague Ryan Harris. The arrival of Bollinger coincided with Chennai’s resurgence and his performance in the semi-final and final played a big part in his team’s triumph. In his first match he took two for 15 from four overs against Rajasthan. This was the match that saw 469 runs making it all the more astounding.

That’s all for this week folks.

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