After months of speculation that the entire seventh edition of the Indian Premier League could be held in South Africa owing to general elections in India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India's decision to announce United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh as off-shore venues has caught a few teams on a sticky wicket. For teams that built their sides around quick bowlers are now pondering how to counter spinner-friendly conditions in the Gulf. At least 16 matches will be played in UAE (Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi) between April 16 and 30.
During the IPL auctions in February, several teams picked their main players assuming that South Africa will be the first-choice overseas venue. When the general elections clashed in 2009, the IPL was shifted to the Rainbow Nation. But a combination of factors instead forced BCCI to opt for UAE and Bangladesh (optional venue for second phase from May 1-12) this time. While Arabian conditions should make life simpler for batsmen, teams that picked an extra pacer or two could be in for some tough times. (Related: IPL gives 'tainted' Sharjah to redeem its dubious image)
For instance, Kings XI Punjab, who built a very strong all-round unit, picked just one frontline spinner in Murali Kartik and a rookie off-spinner in Shivam Sharma. Kings XI picked up a lot of exciting Indian domestic pacers like Shardul Thakur, Mandeep Singh, Sandeep Sharma and even bought Himachal pacer Rishi Dhawan for a whopping Rs 3 crore. Now coach Sanjay Bangar will have to redesign his strategies.
Even new-look Delhi Daredevils beefed up their fast bowling department as coach Gary Kirsten explained the move by saying, "There is a possibility that the tournament may be held in South Africa should the dates clash with elections in India. So the pacers will come handy." Delhi have just left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, who has done well for Delhi consistently in the past, and tall leg-spinner Rahul Sharma whose form has been topsy-turvy in the tournament so far.
Here's a look at how the teams are placed with respect to their fast bowling and spin bowling options
|TEAMS||FAST BOWLING OPTIONS||SPIN OPTIONS|
|Chennai Super Kings||6||3|
|Kings XI Punjab||7||2|
|Kolkata Knight Riders||5||3|
|Royal Challengers Bangalore||8||2|
From the look of it, it seems like Rajasthan Royals have managed to strike a balance in terms of the number of fast bowling and spin options. With two new additions to their spin department in Pawan Negi and Samuel Badree, Chennai Super Kings too look well placed with Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja to lead the way for them while Kolkata Knight Riders will have to rely on the trickery of Sunil Narine, the experience of Piyush Chawla. All-rounder Shakib-al Hasan's familiarity to the conditions will also determine KKR's fate in the tournament, specially if the tournament moves to Bangladesh in the second leg. They also have the U-19 sensation Kuldeep Yadav in their ranks who could be more than handy on slow tracks. (Also read: Life ban for any players involved in match-fixing, warns BCCI)
The Royal Challengers Bangalore, who spent a lot of their money on batsmen and fast bowlers, will yet again feel the pinch as they have to rely on the veteran Muttiah Muralitharan, who is definitely past his prime, and left-arm spinner Shadab Jakati, who did not play a single game in 2013. Sunrisers Hyderabad's fortunes rest on the shoulders of Indian leg-spinner Amit Mishra and his understudy, Karn Sharma. The duo formed a lethal pair in the 2013 edition.
While the teams will look at every option of spin, frontline or part-time to deliver the goods, it is the fast bowling department where they will need to strike a chord. In a bid to field more spinners, a lot of quicker bowlers will be left to warm the bench this year.
Why not South Africa?
According to a Times of India report, Cricket South Africa demanded an exorbitant rate of Rs. 180 crore to host the tournament. In contrast, BCCI will need to shell out only one-third of that amount (Rs 60 crore) on staging the event in UAE and Bangladesh. While the move to UAE and Bangladesh is logistically and financially viable for the teams, the team strategies are set to take a sound beating.