Biggest talking points of IPL 2017

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MS Dhoni and Kieron Pollard [Sportzpics]

This IPL has seen some great action on the field and also, there were a few things off the field that caught our eye during the course of the season.

This edition saw more than its fair share of confusion, acrimony and bad luck.

Here, we look at four talking points from this year’s tournament.

INJURIES PLAY SPOILSPORT

Indian Test stars Ravichandran Ashwin, Murali Vijay, and KL Rahul were ruled out of the tournament due to injuries even before a ball was bowled. Others such as Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammed Shami missed the start of the season due to niggles.

There were other absentees from the tournament such as Quinton de Kock and Mitchell Marsh which wasn’t ideal for a tournament of this magnitude.

And as the tournament wore on, players like Brendon McCullum and AJ Tye picked up injuries. By the final stages of the tournament, a decent amount of the players had either been injured or left the tournament to be with their national teams.

GOENKA’S HARSH TWEETS ON DHONI

Before the season began, Rising Pune Supergiant made a surprising decision to replace MS Dhoni with Steve Smith as the captain of the team. With Dhoni not in great form at the start of the tournament, Harsh Goenka – brother of RPS owner Sanjiv Goenka – took pot shots at the former Indian captain on Twitter which did not go down well with many people.

Dhoni’s wife Sakshi Singh Rawat took to Instagram at the time to post a picture of her sporting Chennai Super Kings (Dhoni’s former IPL franchise) colours and a passage about karma, which is assumed to be a reply to Goenka’s tweets.

A post shared by Sakshi (@sakshisingh_r) on

Interestingly, after Dhoni played a superb knock to help Pune reach the IPL final on Tuesday, Goenka posted a tweet praising the wicketkeeper-batsman.

Guess, good sense finally prevailed.

POLLARD AND MANJREKAR’S MISUNDERSTANDING

Mumbai Indians’ Kieron Pollard was irked by some criticism from former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar during a match against Kolkata Knight Riders and the West Indian cricketer let his thoughts known in a series of tweets.

It all started when Pollard assumed Manjrekar had questioned his ‘brain’ and then unleashed a Twitter tirade, saying: “@sanjaymanjrekar u feel any positive can come out of your mouth bcuz u get pay to talk u can continue with your verbal diarrhea”.

Manjrekar later clarified on Twitter that he never used the word ‘brainless’ to describe Pollard’s batting and was instead talking about his range.

“Said “Does he have the range?” Using terms like ‘no brains’ or ‘brainless’ not my style. I can be critical but never insulting,” tweeted Manjrekar.

Manjrekar was proven right as the IPL’s official website uploaded a video of his commentary during the said incident. The Indian commentator and Pollard also met each other later in the tournament which was great to see.

NO GAMES FOR CHIRAG SURI

Chirag Suri became the first UAE cricketer to get picked by an IPL team as he was bought by Gujarat Lions for his base price of INR 1 million at this year’s auction.

The 22-year-old, though, did not get to play a single game throughout the season. Even when the Lions were reduced to just four overseas players in their squad due to injuries and international commitments, Suri was overlooked.

Speaking to Sport360 after Gujarat’s exit from the tournament, Suri was pleased with the experience despite sitting out of all 14 matches. “It was a bit difficult for me not to play but it was a great experience for me,” he said.

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IPL 2017: Player of the Day - Nathan Coulter-Nile [KKR]

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Coulter-Nile celebrates a wicket with Suryakumar Yadav [Sportzpics]

Nathan Coulter-Nile has been impressive in the Indian Premier League [IPL] this season and he delivered once again for Kolkata Knight Riders in their victory against Sunrisers Hyderabad.

The Australian pacer took three wickets as Kolkata booked a meeting with Mumbai Indians in Qualifier 2, which will be held on Friday at the same venue.

First, he took the wicket of Kane Williamson at a crucial juncture of the game as the New Zealand skipper had just built a 50-run partnership with David Warner.

Coulter-Nile would then bowl a superb 19th over where he conceded just three runs and took the wickets of Vijay Shankar and Chris Jordan.

A spell of 3-20 from four overs saw Coulter-Nile win his third Man of the Match award this season.

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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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