By Nishad Pai Vaidya
With the conclusion of the hard-fought Test series in the Caribbean, the Australians can now look forward to the Indian Premier League (IPL) extravaganza.
Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Ryan Harris, Ben Hilfenhaus, Michael Hussey and David Warner are the members of the Australian team who would make the long flight to India after a rewarding Test series.
Let’s look at what each of these players adds to their respective teams and the effect they would have on the playing elevens in the tournament.
Clarke’s decision to play for the Pune Warriors was stunning, considering his reluctance to play the shortest format. His last T20 game was in October 2010 and since then he has concentrated on Tests and ODIs. The fact that he didn’t play the Big Bash League Down Under is evidence of his commitment to the longer versions. However, a lucrative contract from Pune would have been hard to turn down that eventually led him to come out of his comfort zone. The pertinent question is: Where would he fit into Pune’s scheme of things?
Accommodating Michael Clarke will be tricky for Pune Warriors
The Australian captain is a fantastic player, but isn’t a renowned hitter in the shortest format. His T20 career strike-rate of 108.85 is below par and he may have to score at a much higher rate in the IPL. Nevertheless, the stupendous form during the Australian summer may have prompted Pune to consider him. Secondly, with Sourav Ganguly at the helm and Yuvraj Singh and Graeme Smith missing in action, Pune lack a second leader. Clarke’s role wouldn’t be restricted with the bat as his valuable inputs would help Ganguly manage the side.
With Jesse Ryder and Steve Smith’s good performances and Marlon Samuels highlighting his utility, Pune may have to squeeze Clarke in ahead of Alfonso Thomas and Angelo Matthews. That may leave them a little light on the bowling. The other alternative before them would be to play him in place of Samuels. Thus, the question arises: How good a buy is Clarke? Can Pune risk playing him ahead of a bowler or an effective all-rounder like Samuels?
Kevon Cooper will have to be dropped for Shane Watson
The Rajasthan Royals would welcome Shane Watson as he adds a new dimension to the squad. In all probability, Kevon Cooper should make way for Watson considering he is an all-rounder. An all-rounder replacing an all-rounder makes sense than Watson coming in place of a Brad Hodge or an Owais Shah – both of whom have been absolutely brilliant this season. Neither can Watson replace Brad Hogg or Johan Botha – two spinners who can be rotated by Rajasthan. With the arrival of Watson, Rajasthan may have to reconsider their batting order. Rahul Dravid may have to relinquish the opening spot in favour of the Australian. It would be great to see Watson’s power complementing Ajinkya Rahane’s elegance upfront.
Badrinath may have to make way for Michael Hussey
A lot would be expected of Hussey as Chennai Super Kings haven’t their dominant self. Hussey has opened for them, but Faf du Plessis has done a remarkable job so far. Thus, Subramaniam Badrinath may have to make way for Hussey at the top and Chennai may have to drop the foreign fast bowling option as Albie Morkel and Dwayne Bravo are indispensable. Considering this, it would be difficult for Hilfenhaus to get a game as even his compatriot Doug Bollinger and Nuwan Kulasekara may have to warm the benches.
David Warner makes Delhi Daredevils even more formidable
If one though Mahela Jayawardene, Ross Taylor and Kevin Pietersen’s arrival made Delhi a formidable unit, their roster got even stronger with Warner coming into the picture. Along with Morne Morkel, the trio cannot be dropped and Warner may have to bide their time. Pietersen is set to leave for the Test series against the West Indies and would miss the latter part of the tournament. Warner should then make it into the eleven and add to the firepower at the top.
David Miller would have to sit out for Ryan Harris
Kings XI Punjab’s fast bowling would be bolstered by Harris. The injury to Broad weakened their resources, but they now have a solid fast bowling option in their squad. In the absence of captain Adam Gilchrist, David Hussey, Shaun Marsh, Azhar Mahmood and David Miller have been the foreign players. Marsh and David Hussey are the mainstays of the batting and Mahmood is more than a useful all-rounder. In that case, Harris would have to come in at the expense of Miller. The whole composition might change once Gilchrist is fit and raring to go.
KKR will miss Brad Haddin & James Pattinson
While some of the teams would welcome these players, Kolkata Knight Riders may consider themselves a touch unlucky as Brad Haddin and James Pattinson aren’t likely to play the IPL. Haddin withdrew from the West Indies tour due to personal reasons, whereas Pattinson has injured his back which would take a few weeks to heel. Their presence would have been great news for Kolkata, but it wouldn’t have made much of a difference considering their good run of form and the depth in their foreign resources.
The arrival of the Australians doesn’t affect the four foreign choices alone, but would also have its bearing on the Indian players selected by the teams. To balance the side, a couple of the Indians may have to bear the brunt of the axe to facilitate the inclusion of the Aussies.
The table is wide open and almost half way through the tournament, one cannot pick four teams as certainties for the play-offs. The competition is heating and the Aussies are coming at the right time to spice up the curry.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)