Overseas captaincy is a catch-22 situation in Indian Premier League

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The league stage of this 2017 Indian Premier League season came to a head on Sunday, when Rising Pune Supergiant clashed with Kings XI Punjab in a virtual knockout for the latter.

Kings XI had done well to keep their hopes alive until that game, winning against Kolkata Knight Riders and Mumbai Indians in the previous week.

Then, it all went to waste as Punjab were bowled out for 73. Coach Virender Sehwag then laid into the team’s batting line-up, in particular the overseas players.

“At least one of the top four batsmen – Glenn Maxwell, Shaun Marsh, Martin Guptill and Eoin Morgan – should have taken responsibility and batted for 12-15 overs. They were complaining that the wicket was slow but you have to play out the 20 overs at least since you play so much international cricket,” he complained.

The business end of any IPL season is a time for franchises to take stock of their decisions. For teams in the top half of the points’ table, it is about the situation at hand, and what needs to be done to succeed in the playoffs. For the bottom half, it is about reviewing why things didn’t work.

Glenn Maxwell.

Glenn Maxwell.

In that light, Sehwag’s pointed attack against Maxwell stood out. “When Maxwell fires, he can win the match on his own. But he didn’t fire in most games this season. That is a big disappointment for us, especially since he is an experienced player for Australia in all formats. He didn’t take responsibility, and didn’t perform for Kings XI Punjab,” said the coach.

Maxwell returned 310 runs from 14 matches (highest of 47) in the league stage this season. How does that compare to the other captains who didn’t qualify for the playoffs?

For last-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore, Virat Kohli started the tournament late owing to his shoulder injury, and scored 308 runs from 10 games (four halfcenturies). For Gujarat Lions – who finished seventh – Suresh Raina shrugged off a patchy start and scored 442 runs in 14 matches (three fifties), placing himself fourth on the run-getters’ list at the end of the league stage.

Delhi Daredevils used Zaheer Khan (10 wickets in 11 matches at economy 7.79) and Karun Nair (281 runs in 14 innings) as their two captains.

Bangalore and Gujarat had two high profile Indian cricketers who were always going to be named captain. Moreover, both these franchises had made the playoffs last year, with Bangalore runners-up.

Delhi didn’t make the playoffs last year either and there could have been a case for picking a different skipper if JP Duminy had been available. Injury put paid to that option, and Zaheer led the side barring two games where he missed out due to injury.

The underlying point is about the balance any franchise looks to achieve in its squad with the optimal captaincy candidate.

Could Delhi have picked someone else in Duminy’s absence, say, punting on Nair for the entire season, or even another overseas player (read Chris Morris/Corey Anderson)?

The Daredevils’ fate was all but sealed with five games remaining. It was different for Kings XI, who were fighting until the end, and thus it cannot be argued that they would have benefitted from a change in captaincy mid-way through the season. There is precedent though for this – in 2013, Rohit Sharma replaced Ricky Ponting as skipper of Mumbai Indians, after the latter deemed his form wasn’t good enough to merit selection in their first-choice XI.

Sharma then went on to lead Mumbai to their first IPL title that season. It puts the focus on another aspect of this captaincy debate. Should an overseas player be the leadership choice of an IPL franchise?

This is a tricky issue as a maximum of four foreign players can be picked in any 11. The designated captain then must be someone who is an automatic selection in the starting team.

David Warner.

David Warner.

In the current scheme of things, only David Warner (Hyderabad) and Steve Smith (Pune, below) are two such overseas players who fit this description. Warner, in fact, is only one of three overseas captains to have lifted the IPL trophy, after Shane Warne (Rajasthan Royals in 2008) and Adam Gilchrist (erstwhile Deccan Chargers in 2009).

Since the 2009 edition, an Indian captain has lifted the title – MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Sharma (twice each) – before Warner broke that trend in 2016.

Perhaps it inspired the Pune franchise to take the massive decision of sidelining Dhoni and handing the captaincy charge to Smith.

After a slow start to this season, the franchise reversed their 2016 form and made it to the final on Sunday. It has proven to be a wellcalculated move. After all, Smith is arguably the best batsman – and indeed captain – in international cricket today, across formats.

In the end then, the question for Kings XI Punjab to ask is whether Maxwell belongs in the same category as Smith and Warner.

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Coulter-Nile stars as Kolkata defeat Hyderabad in rain-curtailed match

Sport360 staff 18/05/2017

Nathan Coulter-Nile’s three wickets helped Kolkata Knight Riders defeat Sunrisers Hyderabad by seven wickets (by D/L/S method) in a rain-curtailed Indian Premier League [IPL] Eliminator at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Wednesday.

Coulter-Nile came back into the side in place of Colin de Grandhomme and it proved to be a masterful selection as he dismissed Kane Williamson, Vijay Shankar and Chris Jordan to restrict Hyderabad to a modest total of 128-7 in their 20 overs.

The Australian fast bowler, after returning from a long injury layoff, has had an outstanding IPL season, taking 14 wickets in seven matches at an average of 15.21 this season.

After being put into bat, a slow start didn’t help Sunrisers’ cause as they could manage only 30 runs and lost the wicket of Shikhar Dhawan in the Powerplay.

David Warner and Williamson, then put on a 50-run stand for the second wicket, but that also took its time as the partnership lasted for 46 deliveries. Warner played an uncharacteristic knock before he was bowled by Piyush Chawla, having scored 37 from 35 balls which included two fours and two sixes.

The slog overs weren’t very fruitful for the Hyderabad-based franchise as well as they could manage just 30 runs in the last five overs.

Umesh Yadav was also impressive with the ball, picking up two wickets for 21 runs in his four overs.

A downpour followed at the mid-innings break which stopped play for more than three hours and when the rains finally stopped, Kolkata were given a revised target of 48 to win from six overs.

Although the match situation was heavily in favour of the batting side, the Knight Riders got off to a shaky start - losing three wickets with just 12 runs on the board.

Kolkata tried a new opening combination with Robin Uthappa and Chris Lynn coming out to bat at the top of the order, but the duo lasted just a couple of deliveries each and managed only seven runs between them.

The move to send Yusuf Pathan at number three also didn’t work as the big-hitting batsman was run-out for a golden duck.

Gambhir was still at the crease, though, and he used all his experience during his unbeaten 19-ball 32 to guide Kolkata to Qualifier 2 in which they will meet Mumbai Indians on Friday.

After the match, Gambhir was full of praise for his bowlers for setting up the win for the Kolkata-based franchise.

"A lot of credit needs to go to the bowlers. They set the game for us. The way they hung in there, the kind of batting line-up that Sunrisers have, they had to dig deep," he said.

BRIEF SCORES

Sunrisers Hyderabad 128-7, 20 overs [Warner 37, Williamson 24, Coulter-Nile 3-20, Umesh 2-21] lost to Kolkata Knight Riders 48-3, 5.2 overs [Gambhir 32*, Jordan 1-9, Bhuvneshwar 1-11] by seven wickets [D/L/S method].

Player of the Match - Nathan Coulter-Nile.

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LIVE IPL: Sunrisers Hyderabad vs Kolkata Knight Riders

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Scroll down for the scorecard [Sportzpics]

Kolkata Knight Riders have won the toss and elected to bowl first against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League [IPL] Eliminator at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru.

Both teams have made four changes each to their playing XIs, with the big news being that Yuvraj Singh is fit and will play this game after having missed Sunrisers’ previous match due to a finger injury.

You can follow every ball of the action with our in-play scorecard, commentary, and stats below.

We want to hear from you too, so share your thoughts with us by commenting at the bottom of the page or via Twitter and Facebook as the game progresses.

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