The Australian fizz had a lot to do with teams’ success in the IPL last season. In another few days, some of them will be available as well, but for certain teams the damage has already been done.
Take Knight Riders for example. When the team was built initially, it was done with Ricky Ponting as the backbone. Last season he could play only four games, and this time around not one.
Coach John Buchanan doesn’t hide the frustration about Ponting’s unavailability in the tournament, as they struggle to stay afloat. “Even though he played only four games last season, his leadership role on and off the field was crucial. It’s obviously sad to miss a player like him,” Buchanan said.
Not only Ponting’s leadership abilities, but also his batting skills are missed. “Any coach would obviously love Ponting in the middle-order. And let’s not forget his fielding abilities,” Buchanan’s words suggested how desperately he wanted the Aussie skipper in the line-up. Another player the Knight Riders miss sorely is David Hussey. “He’ll be available from May 8. But he is again another player whom we would have loved to have from the beginning. He would have given us so many options,” Buchanan added.
If KR are missing David, Team Chennai, too, would surely have loved elder brother Mike in the line-up. VB Chandrasekhar, Chennai’s cricket operations director almost snaps back when asked whether Hussey would have been a certainty in the XI. “It is stupid to ask such a thing. A player of Hussey’s class and calibre is always an automatic choice,” Chandrasekhar said, hoping to have the left-hander in the semis (if they go that far).
Another team, missing some key Australian players are Kings XI, Punjab. Shaun Marsh, their star opener last season, is not there with an injury, so is their ace pacer Brett Lee. Yuvraj Singh’s boys have struggled on both counts, with the left-hander choosing to open against Royal Challengers the other day. They have just about found the right opening bowling combo in Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Abdulla, but against a top batting line-up, it can always be a suspect. “A bowler of Lee’s calibre will always be missed. He was working with us so that we could have him fit for the latter part of the tournament,” coach Tom Moody said.
But the Aussie coach tries to dwell on the positives. “We can’t brood over who’s available and who’s not. Now, we have an opening attack in place and I think they will deliver,” says a gritty Moody. But the grittiest of the lot is surely Shane Warne, who doesn’t say a word in public about missing the services of the Most Valuable Player last season — Shane Watson.
But team sources revealed that Warne wants his boys to hang on in the tournament till Watson comes. “Watson will provide that crucial balance in the line-up, along with Yusuf Pathan. We’re just hoping to win a couple of more matches and stay in the hunt,” a team source said, hoping that the Aussie touch will help them relive the glory of 2008.