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Caribbean cricketers seek IPL showcase

Caribbean cricketers seek IPL showcase

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For at least nine members of the disappointed West Indies semi-final team in the just concluded T20 World Cup, the seventh edition of the Indian Professional League (IPL), which opens in Abu Dhabi on April 18, offers an international opportunity to showcase their talents and to re-state their desire to challenge for the 2015 One-Day International World Cup as well.{{more}}

The Caribbean, with 12 players contracted, has the third largest non-national contingent in India’s leading professional T20 competition. Its 12 ‘disciples,’ led by Chris Gayle, still the IPL’s biggest drawing card among non-nationals, include the likes of Windies’ skipper Darren Sammy, Dwayne Bravo, the spin-twins of Narine and Badree, Dwayne Smith, Russell, Santokie and Rampaul, all of whom were in the T20 World Cup. They will be joined by the big-hitting Kieran Pollard, eager to re-establish himself on the world stage after missing the World Cup through injury, young pacer Jason Holder and Kevon Cooper, who has competed at this level before.

This year’s IPL has been affected by the month-long Indian elections with security concerns forcing the first three weeks’ matches to be played in the Middle East. Additionally, allegations of illegal gambling, match-fixing and corruption have clouded the integrity of the tournament, with the Indian Supreme Court threatening to ban two of the prominent teams, among them the only double-crown winners Chennai SuperKings, led by Indian captain M.S. Dhoni. This has hampered sponsorship and this year’s auction of players saw much more modest bids than in the past.

That being so, the IPL still remains the premier unofficial T20 competition in the world and attracts the cream of the crop from every country save Pakistan, India’s neighbor and traditional bitter rival. It will have to do this year without Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar, who had the satisfaction of seeing his team, Mumbai Indians, win the trophy last year in his final season before retirement.

Mumbai, in spite of retaining Pollard and obtaining the services of rising star Krishmar Santokie, will be hard pressed to retain the trophy this year. New Sri Lanka skipper Malinga will be back, Yorkers and all, but the line-up, including ageing stars Harbhajan and Zaheer Khan, along with the retired Australian Mike Hussey, will face stiff competition from the likes of Sammy’s Sunrisers Hyderabad, Chennai and Gayle’s Royal Challengers Bangalore.

The Sunrisers, besides Sammy, have an awesome striking force with the Australian duo of Warner and Finch, and their captain Shikhar Dhawan, eager to redeem himself after a poor World Cup. The bowling is formidable as well, led by South Africa’s Dale Steyn, widely acclaimed as the top paceman in the world, backed up by the Indian trio of Ishant Sharma, Bhuveneshwar Kumar and leg-spinner Amit Mishra, fresh from a fruitful World Cup.

The Caribbean threesome of Bravo, Badree and Smith add strength to Chennai’s claims alongside Dhoni, Ashwin, Raina and Jadeja. They will have to contend with RCB’s ‘Big Three’, Gayle, World Cup Man of the Series Virat Kohli and the South African A.B. deVilliers, surely the most potent batting combination. Narine’s wily bowling will give his team, Kolkata Knight Riders, a chance, even though the batting on paper looks to be not at the level of rivals.

Narine will be first out of the blocks, up against Pollard and Santokie on Wednesday, April 16th with Gayle’s much-anticipated return to IPL action the day after.

Renwick Rose

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