The Arrival of Afghan Players to IPL

Three IPL playing Afghan players: Rashid Khan, Mohammed Nabi and Mujeeb ur Rahman are about to travel directly from Caribbean land to ‘the city of gold’ to attend the IPL 2020 edition in UAE.

Three out of six Afghanistan players who are all currently participating in CPL that is organised by Windies cricket board in West Indies are also an integral part of their IPL franchises. Rashid Khan and Mohammed Nabi of Sunrisers Hyderabad along with Mujeeb ur Rahman of Kings XI Punjab are going to join their IPL camp right after the end of CPL, that is on coming Thursday.

With Rashid Khan’s team already been opted out of the tournament, the other two players’ teams have made it into the top four of CPL 2020, so it has pushed them to wait for the play-offs.

Meanwhile, the Afghanistan cricket board’s Shpageeza League got started in Kabul on this Sunday. Earlier it was said that all the six Afghan players might travel to Kabul immediately after the end of CPL as per their respective team’s schedule in CPL to participate in the Shpageeza League. But, the schedule of IPL has changed their entire plan now. As six days mandatory quarantine is implemented in IPL rule, Afghanistan Cricket Board has decided to send their three IPL players to UAE, so that they can start their IPL campaign from the beginning of the tournament, without missing any matches.

An important thing to note down is Rashid Khan’s current form in CPL. He is now vibrant with his 11 wickets in the Caribbean based tournament; especially his economy has groomed well at the end of his CPL 2020 edition. This, in turn, has made the 21-year-old Afghan spinner ready to roar under the leadership of David Warner in SRH.

Similarly, the all-rounder Mohammed Nabi who is also an SRH player seems to be in the same kind of touch of form. He had been bowling and bowling well in the current CPL. Unfortunately, Nabi’s batting hasn’t been proved in the Caribbean lands, so he will be looking forward to posting more runs in the play-offs and of course in UAE. Consequently, the SRH bench strength has become even more worthy now with the current form of their Afghan mates.

The mystery Mujeeb Ur Rahman tops the bowling chart in CPL among these three IPL playing Afghan players. By scalping 13 wickets along with the economy rate of extraordinary 5.02 in CPL, Mujeeb is all set to bolster the bowling department of KXIP.

The three Afghan players are said to reach UAE by the 12th of September. Then comes the six days quarantine, which will let them be available right from the beginning of the IPL tournament if they test negative for the three COVID tests that would be taken within the period of the six quarantine days.

The Start of the Yellow Army Camp

Chennai Super Kings started their practice on Friday (September 4, 2020) as the latest set of tests conducted on Thursday came as negative. 

“The training starts today. All others, apart from the 13, tested negative for the third time. Those who tested positive will only be tested after the isolation period (two weeks) is over.” said CSK’s CEO KS Viswanathan.

Earlier, the Chennai based team had a setback with 11 support members, and two players were tested positive for COVID-19. And this created an extended quarantine period for CSK members. CSK was the only team which hadn’t hit the nets for this IPL season so far. 

To add more to the setback, Suresh Raina and Harbhajan Singh have opted themselves out from this season due to personal reasons. This had added even more upset to the CSK fans who were eagerly waiting to witness their stars performing after a break.

The photos and videos coming out of CSK’s practice session have brought the smiles back to the ardent CSK fans. 

Except for the CSK team, all the other teams have started practicing. The players of other franchises are a step ahead of CSK players as of now. They would have got their cricketing touchback. Batsmen of other franchises might hit the level where picking of length and line became normal. Bowlers would have vibrated with their rhythm.

But the CSK players have just got exposed to outside conditions. It will take time to adapt to the cricket conditions first and then to the UAE conditions, which is comparatively slower to other venues. 

Albeit CSK is filled with experience and skill sets, getting back to the road might not be a considerable obstacle to cross for them. MS Dhoni, the skipper with his smartness, knows how to extract the best output from his fellow mates. And at the same time, with the experienced coaches and support staff, we could expect high intensity in their practice sessions. 

The only thing that worries the CSK camp right now would be Deepak Chahar’s current state. An amazing T20 bowler- swings the new ball in both the ways and a handy customer in the death overs. He is still on quarantine as he was tested positive. So Deepak Chahar and Ruturaj Gaikwad, the whippersnapper, who was also tested positive, had to wait for the two tests held by the end of the next week. Until that, they both have to wait for the net-sessions along with the 11 supporting staff, who were also tested positive and been in quarantine. 

As the Proteas players Faf Du Plessis and Lungi Ngidi have set their foot on UAE by September 1 they have been said to have six days quarantine, and they are all set to hit the nets on September 8 if they tested negative for the next two tests. 

Once these four players join the squad to practice, it would be a worthier look for the coaches and support staff. Let’s hope for the best. 

Harbhajan Singh and Kane Richardson followed Lasith Malinga’s way

With the veteran fast bowler, Lasith Malinga announced his unavailability for this IPL edition recently, CSK’s Harbhajan Singh and RCB’s Kane Richardson have now decided to let out this season due to personal reasons. 

Harbhajan Singh who has been so productive with his off-spin so far in IPL had a great two seasons for CSK. Until now the Turbeunator has scalped 150 wickets with an economy rate of 7.08 in IPL. 

“I will not be playing IPL this year due to personal reasons. These are difficult times, and I would expect some privacy as I spend time with my family. CSK management has been extremely supportive, and I wish them a great IPL. Stay safe and Jai Hind. ” said Harbhajan Singh. 

CSK will miss out the experience of the Punjabi bowler who had been an integral part of Mumbai Indians for three title wins and one for CSK, which was their comeback season, 2018.

From another point of view, apart from Harbhajan Singh, CSK possesses three leggies Imran Tahir, Karn Sharma and Piyush Chawla. Two top-class left-arm spinners Ravindra Jadeja and Mitchell Santner, along with the new entry of Sai Kishore from Tamil Nadu. So it’s already six contenders for the two spinners slot. Bhajji’s opting out decision would have lessened the tension of the other six spinners. Looking upon the UAE conditions, it won’t be a surprise if Dhoni choses to play with three spinners, providing they should play the role of pinch hitters.

Speaking of RCB, Kane Richardson’s dispatch from the side might affect them in this long tournament. Being an overseas fast bowler, he had Dale Steyn as his only competitor. Albeit having Dale Steyn by their side who has returned after a long time, his injury-prone body can upset RCB. Since Chris Morris and Isuru Udana come under the all-rounder category, Richardson’s decision will have a significant impact over both the team and himself.

The Aussie fast bowler has a strong reason to omit this edition. He has to miss this season for the birth of his first child. 

“It’s always difficult to withdraw from a competition like the IPL, it’s the pinnacle domestic competition in the world. Just the challenge around getting home on time for something as unpredictable as the birth of a child, I couldn’t risk missing that. We’ve had five months off, but hopefully cricket will always be there. The main thing for me is to support my wife, as cricketers, we are away for a lot of things, but there comes a time when you prioritise your family over anything else,” Richardson said.

As there are two weeks yet to go for the tournament, there are certain decision making among the players because of this challenging pandemic situation. It’s a critical time where the players have to think of their families’ safety too. Thanks to the franchises who have plenty of optional players who could fill the shoes of the missing outs.

Mumbai Indians’ pacer Lasith Malinga to miss IPL 2020

The leading wicket-taker of IPL, Lasith Malinga, opts out of this UAE edition of IPL for personal reasons. 

Earlier, it was said that Malinga would be joining his Mumbai Indian’s camp later before the tournament begins. With the confirmation of Malinga missing out from this tournament, the Mumbai-based team will miss his experience and captaincy for their bowling department. 

“Lasith is a legend and a pillar of MI’s strength.”  MI owner Akash Ambani said. 

“There is no denying the fact that we will miss Lasith’s cricketing acumen this season. However, we fully understand Lasith’s need to be in Sri Lanka with his family during this time.”

Every cricket follower would know what Malinga could bring on to the table, especially in this flying colours format. The Sri Lankan pacer has been a match-winner for Rohit’s team for a long time, notably the final of the last IPL edition in 2019, where he defended 9 runs in the last over to win the title for his team. 

Lasith Malinga is the leading wicket-taker of IPL, scalped 170 wickets so far in his IPL career with an average of 19.20 and striking rate at 16.62. Along with the marvelous economy rate of 7.14, the Sri Lankan pacer has grabbed 6 four-wicket haul and 1 fifer in IPL. 

The contribution he has made for his side is always irreplaceable, and his numbers would show the story. 

The Australian pace bowler James Pattinson has been signed as the replacement of Lasith Malinga. James Pattinson, who is currently in the Australian squad to play against England, is set to join the Mumbai Indians camp a week before the IPL. 

“James is the right fit for us and adds to our pace attack options available at hand, especially for the conditions we will play in this season,” says Akash Ambani. 

James Pattinson hasn’t played yet in IPL. But the hulky Australian pacer has pretty decent numbers in the Big Bash League of Australia, which is another bigger league of cricket. Speaking of the International level, he is naive, who has only four T20 matches for Australia to his name. So, for a speedster who needs to prove his name in a bigger stage, this is the right time, and this is the right space under the mighty franchise with technically-sound coaches. 

Even though Mumbai Indians will miss the legendary pacer, their pace attack is filled with international exposure: Trent Boult, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jasprit Bumrah, Dhawal Kulkarni, Hardik Pandya, James Pattinson, Sherfane Rutherford, and Kieron Pollard. 

Mumbai Indians have never missed to improve their bench-strength. Even their substitute players who carry water for the playing eleven will be a match-winner. With Mahela Jayawardene as head coach and Shane Bond as bowling coach, this team is a pure class that takes cricket to its next level. Therefore, like any other IPL, we can expect the same sort of intensity and passion from the Mumbai based team, albeit they are going to miss out on the sidearm speedster of Sri Lanka. 

Virat Kohli likely to open with Aaron Finch for RCB

The RCB coach has made hints that the skipper Virat Kohli is about to open along with the veteran Aussie opening batsman Aaron Finch for this IPL edition.

There are always certain suggestions regarding the openers of RCB, as the team in red is popularly known for their domination in batting.

The openers of RCB have been the key to their big scores under the franchise so far. The new ball hitters of Bangalore have always had the habit of setting up the platform to go for high scoring games.

It all started when RCB had Chris Gayle and Tillakaratne Dilshan as their openers in their 2011 edition. Initially, it was the particular aggressive opening pair that showcased how productive a team can be in the powerplay overs.

From then, the legacy of aggression in starting overs is carried on for RCB. When Tillakaratne Dilshan was dropped from the side, the skipper himself stepped in to open alongside Chris Gayle, and that decision paved the way for Virat to experiment with his lofted strokes, and it fetched better results for him.

The opening pair Virat Kohli and Chris Gayle, have a different fan base because of the mixture of class and mass way of approach. When Chris Gayle was transferred to Kings XI Punjab, RCB went on with the impish Gujarati opener Parthiv Patel. The wicket-keeper batsman has never missed entertaining with his powerplay cameos. And he got himself adapted with the extraordinarily groomed power in the other end, Virat Kohli. Both had different games but went well as partners. Virat, at times, has found it extremely comfortable when Parthiv at the other end makes the blistering knocks during the powerplay overs. Eventually, it helped the RCB skipper to spend more time on the pitches.

It all went in a good flow until the mini-auction that happened for the 2020 edition. RCB went on to buy Aaron Finch of Australia for 4.40 cr, known for his brawny batting nature and his power numbers in this game format. Right after Finch is picked up, the debate has started about the opening pair of RCB for this edition. It was said that Aaron Finch and Parthiv Patel might open. Then what about Virat Kohli? Will he push himself down to bat at No.3?

But the latest statement of the director of RCB, Mike Hesson is

It’s really interesting because I did a couple of hours of press conferences yesterday, and never ever talked about (where) Virat will bat or where Aaron Finch is going to bat. And apparently, (now) they’re both batting together!”

With the talks of the opening partnership going on in such a way, the coach of RCB, Simon Katich, is thinking of a rookie left-hander from Karnataka for the opening slot.

“We’ve been watching Devdutt Padikkal a lot. The fact that he’s a left-hander helps as well — we do like to have right-left combinations. He’s done everything he can to put his hand up to make his IPL debut this year. It’s now up to him to push his case forward. He’s got a bright future. We’re excited by what he can potentially do.”

Looking at the officials’ comment on the spot, one thing is clear: the name of Parthiv Patel wasn’t discussed anywhere, and with AB De Villiers sporting the wicket keeping gloves during RCB’s practice sessions, it is sure that Parthiv Patel won’t be a choice for the starting games for RCB.

There are only two options for the opening slot- Aaron Finch and Virat Kohli or Aaron Finch and Devdutt Padikkal. With the hints given by Mike Hesson, the probability is higher for Aaron Finch and Virat Kohli duo to step in to face the new ball for RCB. If so, it could be helpful for Padikkal to primarily get used to the competitive IPL conditions by observing the initial games.