The focal point of discussion in the recently concluded Indian Premier League as well as the Champions League Twenty20 was the attacking and inventive captaincy that is not normally associated with Indian teams at the national and provincial level. Why would this happen? The first answer would be that the coaching staff of these franchises is the best that money can buy, but that does not reveal the whole truth.
The overall environment–it is a domestic tournament–also plays an important part. One feels that the difference lies in the standard of players representing these teams, especially the international players, who make the difference most of the times. So let us take a look at the various teams and see their areas of strength:
- Chennai Super Kings: Dwayne Bravo is one of the premier all-rounders of the world and has exceptional support in that department from Albie Morkel and Chris Morris, who are top performers for South African cricket. The Chennai-based franchise also had exceptional bowlers like Akila Dananjaya, Ben Hilfenhaus, Jason Holder, Nuwan Kulasekara and Dirk Nannes. In batting, CSK have the world class Mike Hussey along with Faf du Plessis.
- Delhi Daredevils: The Delhi based franchise is led by Mahela Jayawardene, who is supported by Ben Rohrer, Gulam Bodi and David Warner. Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder did not play this year, and with them the team would have performed like it did in 2012. There are plenty of good all-rounders in the team, such as Roleof van der Merwe, Andre Russell, Jeevan Mendis and Johan Botha. Morne Morkel, too, has been a capable leader of the pace bowling pack, which is probably the strongest of its kind in the IPL.
- Kings XI Punjab: Like Delhi, Kings XI was led by David Hussey, an outstanding performer in this format. He was well supported by Shaun Marsh, David Miller and Luke Pomersbach. The team also had a couple of good all-rounders in Azhar Mahmood and Dimitri Mascarenhas. However, their fast bowling was depleted with the withdrawal of Ryan Harris who was replaced by fellow Aussie Michael Neser.
- Kolkata Knight Riders: The Kolkata outfit had a couple of experienced wicketkeeper batsmen in Brad Haddin and Brendon McCullum. Eoin Morgan was the only specialist batsman they had in its ranks. Jacques Kallis was the main allrounder for the team, backed up by Ryan McLaren, Shakib Al Hasan, and Ryan ten Doeschate. There were also three world-class bowlers in the team –Brett Lee, Sunil Narine and Sachitra Senanayake.
- Mumbai Indians: The captain of the 2013 IPL champions, Rohit Sharma, had an exceptional batting line up, with the likes of Ricky Ponting, Aiden Blizzard, Phillip Hughes, and Kieron Pollard. The team also had some good all-rounders in the form of James Franklin, Mitchell Johnson, Glenn Maxwell, Jacob Oram and Dwayne Smith. To add to this there was a certain Lasith Malinga in the team, along with the promising Nathan Coulter-Nile, which certainly added a lot of zest to the bowling line up.
- Pune Warriors: The team that perhaps will not take part in the IPL from 2014 onwards had a strong outfit as well, with Angelo Mathews, Aaron Finch, Marlon Samuels, Tamim Iqbal, and Ross Taylor. One feels that with the availability of Michael Clarke things would have been better for them. They also had several good all-rounders like Luke Wright, Steven Smith, Wayne Parnell and Mitchell Marsh. Ajantha Mendis was the main name in the bowling department, along with Kane Richardson from Australia.
- Rajasthan Royals: Possibly the finest among the teams that did not win the IPL last season, Rajasthan Royals had a tremendous bowling line-up, with Samuel Badree, Fidel Edwards and Shaun Tait. It also had a fantastic set of all-rounders such as Kevon Cooper, James Faulkner, Brad Hogg and Shane Watson. Not to be left behind is the batting that featured the likes of Owais Shah, Kusal Perera and Brad Hodge, that regularly set up or chased down good totals.
- Royal Challengers Bangalore: The perpetual bridesmaids of IPL had a tremendous batting line up, which was probably the best in the tournament – AB de Villiers, Tillekratne Dilshan, Chris Gayle. The franchise also had several good all-rounders in Christopher Barnwell, Daniel Christian, Moises Henriques, Andrew McDonald and Daniel Vettori. The team also had a couple of world class bowlers in Muttiah Muralitharan and Ravi Rampaul.
- Sunrisers Hyderabad: Kumar Sangakkara had the honour of leading the newest kid on IPL block – Sunrisers Hyderabad. The team had several promising and good batsmen in Quinton de Kock and Chris Lynn, along with JP Duminy. There were some good all-rounders in the team like Nathan McCullum, Clint McKay, Thisara Perera, Darren Sammy and Cameron White. Dale Steyn led the bowling admirably.
With such a huge galaxy of international stars, the captains normally had more options up their sleeve and could change their plans as and when needed. This was perhaps best exemplified by Rahul Dravid, who kept changing the bowling line up and batting order as per the requirement of the match. This, for cricket fans, has been one of the major delights of the form of cricket known as IPL.