After the IPL spectacle, focus shifts to World Cup!

As the IPL has offered a mixed bag of fortunes, introspection is the key for Kohli’s men before they board the flight to England for the World Cup.

Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma (right) gave Lasith Malinga the last over in the 2019 IPL final against Chennai Super Kings and it proved to be an inspired move. For, Malinga had been expensive in his previous three overs.   -  AFP

Mumbai Indians created history when it became the first team to win four Indian Premier League titles. Meticulous planning and excellent execution, with the champion players seizing the crucial moments, were the perfect ingredients which resulted in a fourth title.

The Rohit Sharma-led men were clinical from the word go. Known to peak late, they reserved the best for the crunch situations and finished the league engagements on the pinnacle. While decimating eventual finalist Chennai Super Kings in the first qualifier was a dress rehearsal, pipping CSK in the final, by the narrowest of margins, was the icing on the cake.

IPL and World Cup

This is the first time the IPL is preceding a World Cup. Although the two formats are like apples and oranges, the IPL has been instrumental in fast-tracking many international careers.

As many as eight players from the teams that played this final would be figuring in the World Cup at the end of the month.

Rohit Sharma’s captaincy was exemplary. In trusting Lasith Malinga to bowl the final over despite the paceman’s shoddy three overs earlier speaks a lot of Rohit’s acumen. The Mumbai skipper isn’t the one to shy away from taking chances and that served the team well.

Although Hardik Pandya had a mediocre outing in the IPL final, the league has been a learning curve for the all-rounder in handling crunch situations. Hardik’s ability to clear the ropes at will and send down economical overs in the middle should augur well for India.

There is no wrong that Jasprit Bumrah can do in a crunch match — except for the odd no-ball. He was exceptional in the final and was named the Man of the Match. Bumrah can make the ball talk in any over and is an inspiration for the other bowlers to step up their game.

Mumbai Indians’ Hardik Pandya (left) and Kolkata Knight Riders’ Andre Russell had a phenomenal strike rate in IPL 2019 and it augurs well for them when they play for their nations in the World Cup.   -  AP

The Indian players named for the World Cup aren’t short on match practice either. Virat Kohli, Rohit, K. L. Rahul, Mohammad Shami, Yuzvendra Chahal, Dinesh Karthik and Kedar Jadhav played all their 14 league matches.

Vijay Shankar and Bhuvneshwar Kumar played 15 games while Shikhar Dhawan along with Ravindra Jadeja, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah played 16. Mahendra Singh Dhoni played 15 including the final.

Only Kuldeep Yadav finished below the 10 matches mark as he was dropped by Kolkata Knight Riders after nine matches due to lack of form. The practice matches in England are now the only means of striking form for the chinaman bowler. His team-mates should also help.

Hardik was in ordinary form before the IPL, was also injured and had to miss a lot of international fixtures. In the IPL, Hardik amassed 402 runs at an average of 44.66 at an astronomical strike rate of 191.42. The nerve-tingling IPL triumph should have done a world of good for the all-rounder’s confidence ahead of the quadrennial event.

Many who doubted Dhoni’s abilities as a finisher have gone out of context as the wicket-keeper batsman scored 416 runs at an average of 83.20 and a strike rate of 134.62. Opener K. L. Rahul has also found himself among the runs after a beleaguered time with the Blues. That he is second highest in terms of runs scored (593) in the 2019 IPL speaks volumes of how the league has helped him regain his mojo.

Rahul’s form could mean bad news for Vijay Shankar as the Tamil Nadu player wasn’t in the thick of things for his franchise, Sunrisers Hyderabad. The all-rounder couldn’t impress with his batting and didn’t get enough chances with the ball either. It would be interesting to see if Rahul pips Vijay for the No. 4 slot at the World Cup. The warm-up matches ahead of the World Cup will be Vijay’s last chance to stake a claim for the coveted slot.

Injury concerns

The IPL is a harsh event — both in terms of scheduling and the weather. The Indian summer can be notoriously energy sapping and with teams travelling the length and the breadth of the country almost every alternate day, the exertion grows manifold. Living out of a suitcase, literally, also sends the players’ routine and rest for a toss.

South Africa’s DC paceman Kagiso Rabada (stiff back) and RCB speedster Dale Steyn (shoulder injury) along with India’s CSK player Kedar Jadhav (shoulder injury) have been at the receiving end of the workload in the IPL. The trio is racing against time to be fit for the World Cup and the team doctors are keeping a close watch on their progress.

Helping the best in business

Chennai Super Kings skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni proved his critics, who had said that his days as a ‘Finisher’ were over, wrong in IPL 2019.   -  PTI

The league has also given enough match practice to players like David Warner and Steve Smith who returned to international cricket after serving their ban for ball-tampering. Warner’s opening partner in Sunrisers Hyderabad, Jonny Bairstow, has also struck form with 445 runs in just 10 matches.

The duo started the tournament off with three consecutive century partnerships for the first wicket, including a record 185 against Royal Challengers Bangalore. The duo put on 791 runs in 10 innings, the most by an opening pair in an IPL season. What grabbed eyeballs was the manner in which they complemented each other — while one was the aggressor, the other had no qualms in playing second fiddle.

It would be interesting to see how the duo faces off after playing like blood brothers in the IPL, especially with the World Cup and The Ashes coming up.

It can also be safely said that Kolkata Knight Riders’ Andre Russell found a place in the World Cup squad, thanks to his manic hitting in the IPL. With 510 runs in 14 matches at an average of 56.66 and a strike rate of 204.81, the West Indian can treat any quality bowler with disdain on his day.

Bowlers sizzle

Pace-friendly conditions await the teams in England. Rabada with 25 wickets and Shami and Bumrah with 19 each were the only pace bowlers to feature in the top-10 in the IPL 2019 bowlers’ list.

Leg-spinner Rashid Khan was another prominent performer this season. Even though he might not have been as effective as he was last year, 17 wickets at an average of 22.17 isn’t bad in a T20 format.

Dressing room conundrum

Australians and Englishmen don’t get along well when they meet on a cricket field, especially in the Ashes. But, turning out for Sunrisers Hyderabad, David Warner and Jonny Bairstow had a jolly good time as openers in IPL 2019.   -  AP

A number of foreign coaches employed in the league — they will also turn out for their respective countries in the World Cup — has raised the question as to how much information on the Indian players’ strengths and weaknesses will become public.

Shikhar Dhawan’s IPL coach Ricky Ponting is Australia’s batting coach and S. Sriram is Sri Lanka’s team analyst. Prasanna Agoram, working with Kings XI Punjab, will be in the South African pavilion when the World Cup starts. Even the pundits who are on TV point out the weaknesses in each and every player. These are easy pickings for foreign coaches, who in turn are able to pass them on to their national teams.

As the IPL has offered a mixed bag of fortunes, introspection is the key for Kohli’s men before they board the flight to England. Success or failure in the IPL must be left behind and the team should regroup quickly and get into the World Cup mode as quickly as possible.