Delhi and Dhoni in best shape for restart

Strong home core key if tournament returns

The Indian Premier League’s postponement due to the most cacophonous bubble bursting since Galileo rocked up to the Catholic Church and said ‘excuse me, lads…’ came just in time for cricket in the country to save some self-respect.

Gasps at the musclebound hitters launching the white ball into the sky were replaced by thousands gasping for air as the pandemic raged and although it was another form of heresy to suggest that the BCCI put crore before common sense, they got there in the end. Well, unless you’re Sourav Ganguly who has refused to call the raft of positives in the franchises a ‘bubble breach’. Sending players for scans in hospitals? Yeah, okay, Sourav.

The BCCI have, of course, been pilloried in every cricketing nation around the world for grimly keeping the show on the road while people died. And for staging it there in the first place. Ganguly, squirming uncomfortably with the hand of the Indian government high command up his jacksie, even attempted to reckon that Covid had taken everyone by surprise. He’s not had a good pandemic.

Yet that hasn’t stopped the countries lining up to try to grab a slice of the pie when (if?) the tournament resumes. A group of English counties have eyed an opportunity for some moolah, the Sri Lankan cricket board took a break from searching down the back of the sofa to send a waving hand emoji while the UAE, knowing full well they’ll get the gig, probably in September, have kept cool.

The franchises, of course, will do as they are told and turn up where they are told. But it is probably fair to reckon that Delhi Capitals, primed for their first title before the curtailment, might be pushing a little harder than most for a resumption.

Thanks to a remarkably-strong Indian core, the Capitals could probably win the thing without an overseas player. Wouldn’t that be something? It may even be something that would appeal to the tub-thumpers at the BCCI. For a country which is rather fond of telling the rest of the planet to butt out of their affairs, what better way to cock a snook than to go without international players completely, thus removing a significant obstacle this year to not losing out on the half-a-billion or so load of cash.

We’re not saying it’s going to happen, you understand, but if the IPL is going to come back this year then it will have to do so with squads depleted of some overseas imports. The Pakistan Super League, supposed to return next month in the UAE, is an example of that with most of the teams virtually unrecognisable. Which is just as well because the first half of that tournament was so long ago that no-one can remember what happened anyway.

Dhoni inspires his troops

With franchises surely likely to rely on more domestic talent, the Capitals are, well, capital. If they wished Delhi could field nine full India internationals. Shreyas Iyer, their captain, will be fit by the time of any resumption meaning the Capitals could be the one team which re-emerges stronger. The rise of Avesh Khan, up there with Harshal Patel for bowler of the tournament, meant that South Africa quick Anrich Nortje couldn’t get a look-in. While Axar Patel, Ravi Ashwin and Amit Mishra will all be back.

How about this for an all-India line-up? Shaw, Dhawan, Iyer, Pant, Vinod, Lalit, Axar, Ashwin, Mishra, Ishant, Avesh. There’s even scope for a bit tweaking. Vishnu Vinod, Ripal Patel and Lalit Yadav could alternate for two spots. Vinod and Patel are potentially belligerent and brilliant stars of the future while Lalit’s all-round qualities have already impressed. Anjinkya Rahane, India’s vice-captain, is on drinks.

That strong Indian core could make Delhi very difficult to stop indeed with the supplement of whatever overseas talent returns. And it is no surprise that they are 4.03/1 joint favourites. They share that mantle with Chennai Super Kings, who also boast homegrown power.

MS Dhoni has had a good pandemic, if you will. Dhoni refused to leave the team hotel until every member of his Super Kings team-mates had been despatched home. Dhoni, perhaps wearing fatigues and puffing on a big cigar, tried to evoke some ‘Vietnam-last-foot-on-the-battlefield’ vibe. Last time we checked they didn’t have suits, room service or 100 channels on the box in ‘Nam but the Indian media, as is their wont when it comes to Dhoni, loved it. But his team-mates won’t forget, either.

Mumbai are next best at 4.30100/30. They were struggling to find optimum form by the halfway stage. Often they can take time to get going and a short, sharp tournament to reach conclusion is unlikely to suit. One in September could also deprive them of their talisman Kieron Pollard. They would have been in a real hole without him. The Caribbean Premier League is due to start at the end of August. It raises the prospect of a new - and different - franchise versus ‘country’ wrangle. Does Pollard pick his Mumbai paymasters or his Caribbean brethren?

What happens to your IPL bets? This week on Cricket…Only Bettor

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