Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The IPL 4 Captains Analysis - Mid-Tournament Impressions

This is my rating of the IPL 4 captains, bottom to top. Parameters I rate captains on are:
1) their ability to inspire best performances from the team as a whole (every member contributing in the score card is a clear indication)
2) ability to inspire best performances from unknown or lesser known players
3) ability to win consistently
4) ability to win close matches
5) ability to remain calm and spread a feeling of wellness in the team
6) ability to pull off miracles on a regular basis.
7) ability to mentor and leave the players better for the experience.

10) Yuvraj Singh, Pune Warriors: Nothing that the Pune Warriors skipper does inspires confidence in his players. His body language, his propensity to shrug, drop shoulders, point fingers and get into that you-need-to-do-better helps no one. One would have thought he learnt from playing along with MSD but no - Yuvi believes that if things are not going well its everyone else's problem. "Hey, I am doing my best, what can I do if I have such a lousy team." Yuvi, its your prime job to inspire them one way or another! Manish Pandey looks under pressure each time he walks out and Pune's batting looks too heavily dependent on Utappa and Yuvi - it must be what they feel in the dressing room. Forget inspiring younger players, Yuvi's seniors are under pressure.
If he is a bad man manager, he is worse as a strategist. Or maybe he is just too tired after the World Cup. Bad choice for captain and Pune would do him a favour by getting someone else to lead and soon. Maybe Ganguly since he has signed on for Pune!

9) Virender Sehwag, Delhi Daredevils: Once upon a time I had great hopes on Sehwag of Delhi Daredevils, as an Indian captain. I thought here was a guy with an uncluttered and fearless mind, who does not care much about being or doing the popular thing. But his captaincy of Delhi Daredevils leaves much to be desired. Firstly he seems to be leaving too much for others to figure out. Reminds me of what Azharuddin used to say - at this level everyone knows what to do. But sill, skipper, its your job to make sure they do, and that everyone is doing what you want them to do. Viru does not appear to inspire his players, seems more in a state where he thinks I will do my best and hope the others match up. God help us. He needs to take more responsibility for others, give them more confidence and involve them in the process. The entire team looks disoriented and disinterested and whatever they have won is because of the odd individual brilliance. Delhi Dare Devils better replace their captain and fast!

8) Kumara Sangakarra, Deccan Chargers: I have not seen much of his captaincy after the World Cup but that was enough. The current state of Deccan Chargers is an indication of Sangakarra's limited leadership abilities. Deccan Chargers does have one of strongest teams in the IPL - certainly the best bowling attack. For this team to be where they are is a mystery and I would attribute it to bad resource management. Not playing Steyn in the last game, or any game that he is fit forM is something inexplicable. Sangakarra to me is an uninspirational, unidimensional leader. Fair play awards, yes, he is the man. But inspire and achieve - I'd go past him and look for others to lead. Deccan Chargers made the same mistake by having Laxman lead hem in the first IPL with disastrous results - the moment Gilchrist took over they won the IPL. Some people are nice people, not good leaders.

7) Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai Indians: Whatever the great man may have achieved in his life, this is one thing that will haunt him - his inability to come to terms with his leadership skills. Many will point out that MI is the leading team in the IPL4, won all they have comprehensively and convincingly, and have lost few games. But I still maintain that they did all that despite Sachin's captaincy and not because of it. It is probably the best balanced side, the best side, with the best support staff, an indulgent and supportive owner, a crowd that will always support it but still, it looks fallible on the close match. For Rajasthan Royals to beat it or Kochi to beat it, one by sheer strategy and the other by good batting, MI showed chinks. Sachin inspires by example which may not always be the best way especially for someone who performs at the level he does, his disappointment at others not matching up becomes obvious. Many a time, his fixed manner of using his resources gets in the way of flexibility. He has not got the best out of Pollard yet and in fact has under utilised him as a batsman, Symonds is still waiting to do anything significant except field well with Pollard for company. The youngsters, save Rayudu (is Pollard younger than Rayudu?) have not won matches by their brilliance. Sachin uses Pollard too much as a bowler and I am surprised that both Symonds and Rohit Sharma who did extremely well as bowlers for Chargers have hardly bowled. That is where Sachin fails - in getting big performances from unexpected quarters - Rohit getting a hat trick, Kamran Khan bowling the last over and tying it, Siddharth Trivedi bowling like a champion. On the other hand under SachinMumbai is still not the champion side for me. And unfortunately Sachin, though at the top of his game and much improved as a man manager is still too intense, still has miles to go as a leader.

6) Gautam Gambhir, Kolkata Knight Riders: This is someone to watch for in the future as a captain. I like Gambhir's style of captaincy which is pretty simple and straightforward. He wants to win badly. His understanding of the game is good. But he still gets in his own way with some inexplicable decisions like batting down the order or holding back resources. But this IPL he has done enough to show that he is a capable captain and if he learns quickly to let others play more freely and efficiently, if he transfers some of the responsibility to each individual than try and burden it all himself, he will fare much better. On the plus side he gets all the seniors to perform, the juniors are doing fairly well and KKR is looking the best it has in all these years. Gambhir also needs to loosen up a bit I feel - he is too intense ala Sachin.

5) Daniel Vettori, Royal Challengers: He is a wily captain, with lots of experience behind him. And just with that experience, Daniel Vettori will do enough to make all the right moves. He is not exceptional as a motivator, choosing to be rather low key, but he will make all the right moves. Nine times out of ten he will be there. I expect no miracles from his side but there will be no bad captaincy gaffes either. In the current scenario the best bet for the Royal Challengers. One grouse though - he has not yet got the younger ones to perform to their potential something that Kumble got from Manish Pandey earlier.

4) Mahela Jayawardena, Kochi Tuskers: I always thought Mahela was a better captain than Sangakarra. He is certainly one of the most creative, gets new ideas, motivates his players, leads by example, gets good performances. To get a team like the Kochi outfit which was not one of the best composed to perform as they did so far is no joke. Now no one can write Kochi off in any game. Youngsters have come to the fore, all the seniors have performed better here than they did for their earlier teams. McCullum has come into his own, Sreesanth is bowling well, Parthiv, Jadeja doing extremely well. Dropping Laxman for whatever reason was good as well. To get a rookie like Parameswaran to perform was something and Raiphi Gomez will surely come good sometime. Mahela certainly is a captain to watch and I think Kochi is on to a good thing with him.

3) Adam Gilchrist, Punjab Kings XI: He has held the IPL once before and knows how to get exceptional performances from his younger players. Gilchrist invests a lot in his younger players. I think he shares all his thoughts, gets each one to invest in the game. One can sense a camaraderie out there, a keenness to win for themselves, for the team and for their captain. He did a great job with the DC and now he is doing a fine job with the Kings XI. Getting Paul Valthaty to perform like a seasoned senior is amazing, nit just as a batsman but as a bowler as well. Adam Gilchrist will certainly leave the youngsters better for the experience. He makes them perform well without any pressure on them and keeps things lighthearted enough. If there is a grouse it is his inability to get the team to perform miracles on a more consistent basis. They are good, yet not so high on belief.

2)  Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Chennai Super Kings: This was the most difficult thing for me because I truly believe MSD is a true leader of men not just on the cricket field but off it as well. He is exceptional in man management, in transferring responsibility to all, in getting everyone to chip in, in getting everyone to raise their game almost as if he had a key to that, wonderful at strategy, clear thinking, wins all close matches, gets the best out of everyone including the youngsters and wins most matches. What else do you want? He is rarely wrong in his decisions as well. Superbly calm, extremely articulate, clear headed to the point of being able to see things other cannot see in the melee, Dhoni is the man for me on any other given occasion. But in this IPL format, he loses out by the merest whisker on two counts. One is that he is a reserved person who keeps to himself, one who does not show his emotions normally, and that gives him an air of mystery, of being inaccessible. I am not sure how youngsters learn from him if he is aloof - he may share his thoughts and most of his achievements are by actions and by reacting extremely well to situations. If there is a doubt it is about his mentoring abilities. The second issue on which he loses out is that his team Chennai Super Kings has done well, but not outperformed itself as in bringing off too many miracles. Close matches yes, everyone there yes, but unbelievable performances, not yet. It is with a slightly heavy heart that I place the man from Krypton as the late Rajan Bala called MSD many years ago, at second place.

1) Shane Warne, Rajasthan Royals: For sheer ability to get a rag tag team to play out of their skins, to get miraculous performances out of ordinary cricketers, to win against all odds, to improvise and pressurise the biggest teams including the seemingly invincible Mumbai Indians through sheer strategy and audacious planning and perfect implementation, for being a team that can never be written off, Shane Warne stands alone in the IPL4. Again the Rajasthan Royals may not be exactly at the top of the heap but what he has done so far is good enough for me. Players like Menaria, Siddharth Trivedi, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Singh, Kamran Khan, Asnodkar and so many others keep pulling the rabbit out of their hats on a regular basis. It is how well  he gets them to execute his plans that fascinates me. How Menaria can get a Sachin out, how that team can get the MI out for 94 itself is a mystery. Picture perfect planning, articulation, clarity of roles - Shane Warne is fantastic. And for a man mired in controversies, a colourful personal life, he brings an amazing amount of professionalism to the side. they respect him, for being the champion cricketer he was and is. What tips the balance in Warne's favour at this stage is his mentorship which will make better cricketers and men out of all who play with him. One can see the difference in performances in Munaf Patel, Ravindra Jadeja. He also builds a close bond in the team, I feel he must be accessible to all players, and one can see the joy of playing for RR in each one's eyes. All seniors play to potential and all juniors out of their skins. Stuff that most can only dream about.

That then is my analysis of the captains of the teams in IPL4. Now to see how many of them disprove me!

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