Weary but win-hungry
Vaibhav Sharma 

The IPL-fatigued Indian squad may not be in the best of form but is raring to go

MORE than a month of T20 crickaet. The third edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL 3) has been thrilling and provided the break India has started looking forward to each year. But now, it is back to national duty for the players at the ICC T20 World Cupthird edition in the Caribbean and India are set to be among the frontrunners. There is a slight problem though as, the optimism notwithstanding, all might not be well when it comes to the fitness of the Indian squad.

Firstly, the IPL has been non-stop cricket and was heavily taxing for the players. In what can be called the first big casualty of the stressful IPL, Virender Sehwag will be missing his second consecutive T20 World Cup. He will sit out with a shoulder injury (he had suffered a similar shoulder injury during IPL 2 and missed the previous World Cup in England).

The next big concern is Yuvraj Singh. The maverick Punjab player has been struggling with form and fitness alike. His wrist injury had kept him out of action at the international scene in the past few months, and probably also affected his batting during IPL 3. By his own admission, his fitness will be a cause for concern to the entire team. "Last year was really upsetting. And injuries have made it very frustrating in the last five months. This is the time a batsman starts peaking but I am not. I am working hard and, the moment I break my barrier, I will be back. I returned from my wrist injury straight into the IPL where you have to hit from the very first ball. It was hard on my wrist," Yuvraj was quoted as having said. "Currently, my body is on the right track but I need to get a big score. I need to win to get back into the groove," he added.

Second, there is the case of captain M. S. Dhoni, who had missed a few matches due to injury during the IPL. The Indian and Chennai Super Kings’ captain had skipped almost 10 days of action during the league due to an injury on the arm. Same was the case with Gautam Gambhir, who himself had to sit out a few games due to a pulled hamstring. Even his Delhi teammate Ashish Nehra regained fitness only around the fag end of the IPL, playing just a handful of matches.

Along with Yuvraj, Dhoni and Gambhir are the batting mainstay. A recurrence of their injuries, keeping in mind the water-tight schedule, is possible, which means that the fizz might be out before the Indians open up a real challenge in the West Indies.

Then, there is the obvious case of Zaheer Khan, too. Although the seamer has been bowling well, he is known to be injury prone. He has also played all the matches in the IPL, and with the Mumbai Indians getting an added run till the final, the fatigue is bound to be more. The gap between the IPL final and the T20 World Cup opener being just four days means that the chances of getting a break do not exist. Along with the other frequently injured Nehra, Zaheer will be spearheading the pace attack, and an injury to either of them will leave India woefully short in the bowling department.

Of course, there are options in the form of debutant R. Vinay Kumar and Praveen Kumar, both from Royal Challengers Bangalore (who themselves played the semifinal), but among them if one might be short on experience, the other one lacks the pace to head a fast-bowling attack.

But this does not mean that the Indian prospects at the championship are bleak or have taken a hit already. But the amount of expectations that this team has generated over the past three years better be kept under a check. The body needs a rest, so does the mind. They are remarkable professionals, all right, but muscle wear can turn a star into a benchwarmer in a matter of one simple movement.

While Sehwag has been replaced by Chennai Super Kings’ Murali Vijay, any further changes to the squad will mean that naming a squad so early turns out to be an extremely futile exercise. The Indians are going into the World Cup at the back of not just a hectic IPL time, but also some very busy international fixtures. Let’s hope that the late-night parties that often continued till the wee hours, don’t ultimately turn out to be the party-poopers.


Tame Twenty
Abhijit Chatterjee

Can Dhoni’s boys replicate the success story of IPL 3 in
the T20 World Cup? A look at Team India’s prospects

EVeN if Sir Garry Sobers is of the view that India, together with Australia, are the favourites in the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup in the West Indies, it is quite likely that the Indian squad would be suffering from fatigue after the non-stop matches of IPL 3, where the players not only played in energy-sapping heat but also crissed-crossed the country time and again.

The West Indian cricket legend is not wrong in one way. All Indian players have been playing T20 cricket for the past month and a half in IPL 3 and, therefore, all of them should be totally match-fit. But he probably does not know that the players have not only been playing cricket but also been partying late into the night, day after day, and that is no way to prepare for a world championship. The IPL organisers probably have done immense harm to India’s cause since they very conveniently forgot that India have a long and hard grind in international cricket in the months ahead and the upcoming ICC T20 World Cup is only the first of them.


n India’s highest score in a T20 World Cup match is against England – 218/4

n Yuvraj Singh became the first player in T20 to hit six 6s in an over. This was against England in T20 World Cup 2007 and the unfortunate bowler was Stuart Broad

n Yuvraj Singh has scored the fastest fifty (in 12 balls) in T20 World Cup. This was against England

n Chris Gayle, West Indies (117 runs) is the only person to score a century in a T20 World Cup match.

n Craig McMillan of New Zealand scored the maximum number of sixes (13 sixes) in the 2007 T20 cup. Yuvraj Singh was
second with 12 sixes

n The highest team total in T20 World Cup is 260/6 by Sri Lanka against Kenya

n Mathew Hayden of Australia is the highest run-getter in T20 World Cup series (265 runs)

n Umar Gul of Pakistan took the most number of wickets (13 wickets at an avg of 11.92) in the series

Already the IPL 3 has claimed its first victim, with vice-captain Virender Sehwag ruled out from the World Cup after he suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL. His place in the Indian squad has gone to Tamil Nadu opener Murali Vijay. A similar injury to Sehwag in the last IPL played in South Africa had hurt India's campaign in the previous edition of the event in England last year. The opener subsequently underwent a shoulder surgery.

Although Sehwag topped the list of run-scorers for Delhi Daredevils in the IPL — the dashing opener made 346 runs at 25.42 (strike-rate 163.30) from 14 games — his form had been indifferent by his own lofty standards. Sehwag’s replacement 26-year-old Murali Vijay has surprised many with his clean and uncomplicated hitting for Chennai Super Kings. Under the leadership of India captain Mahender Singh Dhoni, who is also the skipper of the Chennai-based team, Vijay has notched up more than 400 runs this IPL season, including a century.

There is only one new face in the Indian squad of 15 for the West Indies tournament, that of Karnataka fast bowler R. Vinay Kumar although questions might well be raised about the form and fitness of quite a few players.

The 26-year-old Vinay Kumar, who has been impressive in IPL 3, has forced his way into the team on the back of his consistent performance in domestic cricket, claiming 46 wickets in the Ranji Trophy. He has so far captured 202 wickets in 54 first class matches with eight for 32 his best figures.

Vinay can well fulfill the role of the all-rounder the team is looking for so desperately, since he can bat fairly well at the lower order.

But if the inclusion of Vinay Kumar has been well taken, the same cannot be said of the second spin bowler in the squad, Piyush Chawla, who has got the nod ahead of players like Pragyan Ojha and Amit Mishra.

Piyush Chawla, the Kings XI Punjab legspinner who has made a comeback into the Indian team after a gap of nearly a year and a half, has done fairly well in IPL 3, where he picked 12 wickets in Punjab's 14 league games.

It is not only in the selection of the second spinner (of course, there is no issue with the selection of Punjab’s Harbhajan Singh, who has had a wonderful IPL 3 season with Mumbai Indians) that there is controversy.

There is equal controversy about the inclusion of certain batsmen in the squad. True, players like Sachin Tendulkar have voluntarily opted out of the Indian Twenty20 squad right from the first World Twenty20 Championship, but the fact remains that the exclusion of a batsman like Delhi’s Virat Kohli has left a bad taste in the mouth. Virat has scripted a wonderful run in IPL 3, which in normal circumstances should have caught the eyes of the national selectors. In contrast to this, the form of Yuvraj Singh is definitely a cause of concern even if the left-hander is among the highest scorers of King’s XI Punjab, who finished last in IPL 3.

Another big question mark arises over the inclusion of all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in the squad. Jadeja, who last season had played for Rajasthan Royals, was barred from playing in this season’s IPL because of a contractual dispute and will obviously be very rusty when the Indian squad plays at the West Indies tournament. But more than form, the biggest worry for the Indians, winners of the inaugural tournament in 2007 in South Africa, could well be the nagging injuries many players will be carrying from the IPL. Delhi’s Asish Nehra as also Gautam Ghambir are still not fully fit while skipper Dhoni suffered an injury during the IPL and had to miss a few matches.

The Australians, tipped by many to be the most formidable squad this year have prepared very well for the championship. They left for the West Indies with a lot of time on hand after attending a training camp at Brisbane and plan to play two warm-up games before taking on Pakistan, the defending champions but probably the rustiest squad in the championship after their long hiatus from international cricket, in their first league match.

England coach Andy Flower believes the IPL experience of his top-order batsmen will serve them well. Five members of the squad — Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Michael Lumb and Ravi Bopara — have been plying their trade in India with mixed results ahead of England's attempt to finally win a global one-day tournament. Pietersen, despite being dropped for a period by Bangalore Royal Challengers, has been in impressive form, while Collingwood has continued his productive year, but Flower thinks the main beneficiary of the IPL will be Lumb, who could make his international debut when England play West Indies on May 3. He is the one uncapped player in the 15-man squad and is being earmarked to open the batting alongside Craig Kieswetter, who made his debut in the one-day series against Bangladesh.