Subrmaniam Badrinath (L) and Ambati Rayudu have been the prolific run-getters for their respective franchisee © Getty Images
Subrmaniam Badrinath (L) and Ambati Rayudu have been the prolific run-getters for their respective franchisee © Getty Images


By Vinay Anand


The fag end of the four edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has arrived. It has been a spectacular tournament with the addition of two new teams. Yet, the teams which are currently in the top five of the points table, and in the race for the semi-finals, have a strong bunch of non-international Indian players. The IPL allows four foreign players in the playing XI and that is acceptable. The USP of a team though lies in the hands of the other seven Indian players especially in crunch situations, when they are put under the pump.


Mumbai Indians have as great a chance to win the IPL. Though the team lost out a few key players in the auction this year, they managed to retain their core.


Ambati Rayudu has been a revelation for the Mumbai Indians in his pivotal No 3 position.


Rohit Sharma has been one of the most prolific run-getters in the IPL of all-time and Mukesh Ambani’s two million dollar investment is reaping him heavy returns. Rohit is the key link to the team’s middle order and the match against Deccan Chargers in Hyderabad ratified that.


Lesser-known players in Rajagopal Sathish, Tirumalasetti Suman, Ali Murtaza and Abu Nechim have all contributed in bits and pieces, going about their task quietly, yet being effective. Their performances could prove to be the ultimate difference between Mumbai and the rest. There three is the trio of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh and Munaf Patel. The World Cup win has done more good to Munaf and his bowling adds teeth to the attack.


Chennai Super Kings (CSK) can be the Manchester United of the IPL by defending their crown. And that’s primarily because they have formed a strong base of Indian players who have taken equal responsibility as the foreign players. Chennai do have Michael Hussey, Doug Bollinger, Albie Morkel and Suraj Randiv who are world-class, but four does not make eleven.


Players such as Suresh Raina, Murali Vijay, Subrmaniam Badrinath and Ravichandran Ashwin have ensured that they could be depended upon. The likes of Shadab Jakati and Srikanth Anirudha have been the finds of the tournament as far as CSK is concerned. Mahendra Singh Dhoni does the last bit of the process, gelling the team together and if required, contribute himself to the cause.


Unlike in the past, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) have been playing exceptionally well. One of the main reasons for the same has been the addition of quality Indian players to the roster. KKR had suffered in the past despite having outstanding T20 players like Brendon McCullum, Chris Gayle, David Hussey and Brad Hodge. This time KKR have banked on their domestic strength to do the job and they have not disappointed. Manoj Tiwary, for example, was entrusted with additional responsibility by the team management and he is repaying the faith bestowed in him by being the third highest run-getter for Kolkata this season, in which skipper Gautam Gambhir and Jacques Kallis have been outstanding.


Yusuf Pathan, their star T20 attraction, contributes in every game. Their wicketkeepers Manvinder Bisla and Shreevats Goswami were given a smaller role to play, but they played it happily. Lakshmipathy Balaji is a smart bowler and Chennai’s loss is Kolkata’s gain. His sharing of the new ball with someone like Brett Lee makes any opposition fret. Jaidev Unadkat, a Wasim Akram-backed bowler, has played well the supporting role to Balaji. And so has Rajat Bhatia, who has been given more opportunities by Gambhir in the team. Then there is the rising star, Iqbal Abdulla.


The Mumbai lad has taken the IPL by storm, picking 13 wickets. It has negated Kolkata’s burden of not having a top-quality Indian spinner in the team. With these players joining the party, Kolkata is been seen to play as a unit.


Without the foreign glamour the IPL will be as good as a Ranji Trophy T-20 tournament. Rajasthan Royals have Shane Warne at the helm as a wonderful captain, and players such as Shane Watson, Shaun Tait, Ross Taylor and Johan Botha add great value to the team.


RCB were floundering at the beginning, but the entrance of Chris Gayle revived their flagging fortunes. The performances of AB de Villiers, Daniel Vettori and Tillakratne Dilshan hold high weightage to the RCB.


For certain, cricket is a team game and there has to be a fine balance between the quality of foreign and Indian players present. And that is where I think that Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are the three teams likely to qualify for the Champions League this season.


(Vinay Anand, 17, has an uncanny eye for detail. He revers cricket – looking beyond the glamour into the heart of the game where true passion, perseverance and grit meet. To him, there is no greater joy than coming closer to the sport while exploring its intricacies through his writing and treading ahead to establish himself as a writer and presenter)