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IPL 2012 Team Preview: Kolkata Knight Riders

The first three editions of the gala Indian Premier League was a tale of talent sans temperament, promise sans performance and class sans consistency for the Kolkata Knight Riders. Plagued by controversies and infighting, the Knights in shining gold were left languishing in the dark bottom half of the table. Easily the most glamorous team of the IPL, KKR failed miserably on the field. The baseless multiple-captaincy theory, dethroning Sourav Ganguly from the captaincy post and eventually discarding the Maharaja of Kolkata further added fuel to the fire. However, 'A bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you fail to make a turn'. Realizing this, Team owner, Sharukh Khan, the largest cinematic superstar in India tightened the screws and pulled his Knights out of the mire. Change was the need of the hour then for the KKR and a major overhaul of personnel and a cool head in new captain, Gautam Gambhir worked wonders for Sharukh's men as a tide of rejoice, relief and positivity swept the Kolkata camp. The think-tank learnt its lesson that the success of an IPL team is directly proportional to the strength of the Indian contingent and after a heavy bidding war, the city of joy laid its hands on Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan. KKR had to pay a bulk of its quota to get the duo on the board. Nevertheless it was a worthwhile bargain as the fourth season finally saw the Knights break into the semi finals of the grand spectacle.

Cut to 2012. The Knight Riders are the strongest team on paper, perhaps second only to the 'Impregnable Chennai Superkings'. They possess a bevy of international stars, momentum-shifting all-rounders, outstanding Indian talents and an astute coach. In a nutshell, Kolkata has a enviably balanced mix of youth and experience. Kolkata Kinght Riders added Brendon McCullum, Sunil Narine and Marchant de Lange to its repertoire in the 2012 Players Auctions. One will have to admit that KKR's well-researched purchases were nothing short of intelligent. Only a fool will rule Sharukh Khan's Knights out of the knock-out rounds and the ruthless Knight Riders will go all out in their effort to clinch their first piece of silverware. One can expect KKR's spirit to thunder over the oceans and rumble in the arena. Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo!

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IPL 2012 Team Preview: Pune Warriors

The year 2011 marked the birth of Sahara Pune Warriors in the Indian Premier League. It was an expensive baby, the stork had to be paid with a whooping 370 million of the big fish! Captained by World Cup 2011 hero, Yuvraj Singh, Pune was one of the most talked about sides prior to the tournament. However, it turned out to be a forgettable debut for the Pune Warriors. Bereft of ideas and short of confidence, Pune huffed and puffed to finish just above the Delhi Daredevils.

Soon, their top most warrior, Yuvraj was diagnosed with a non-malignant lung tumor and was advised to fly to US to undergo chemotherapy. Although Yuvraj is fast recuperating from the illness, he has been completely ruled out of the IPL. The franchise boycotted the auction and nearly walked out of IPL 5 after a bitter spat with the BCCI over the non-acceptance of their demand to add Yuvraj's price to their auction purse. Things went from bad to worse as Pune became controversy's favourite child. The ugly public dispute, however, was eventually laid to rest and a truce was achieved when the top brass of the BCCI agreed to restore Pune's auction purse($1.6 million) and grant them the license to purchase players who were not sold in the February 2012 auctions and also foreign players outside the auction pool. The Warriors though suffered another setback with a knee-injury forcing Aussie all-rounder, James Hopes to skip the tournament. It may be recalled that Delhi traded Hopes and Ashok Dinda to Pune towards the end of February.

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IPL 2012 Team Preview: Mumbai Indians

tendulkar_iplAfter failing to live up to the expectations in the first two seasons of the IPL, the Mumbai Indians produced strong results in IPL 3 and IPL 4 to become one of the most feared teams in domestic T20 competitions. Led till last season by Mumbai's and arguably the world's greatest batting exponent, Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai Indians have no dearth in talent and posses a plethora of match winners who can single-handedly take the side to victory.

Stand-in skipper Harbhajan Singh led them to glory in the Champions League tournament last year, and has been rewarded with full-time captaincy of the Mumbai team for this coming season. After faltering at the final hurdle in IPL 2010, MI, despite a strong start that saw them notch up 8 wins in first ten games, failed to qualify for the finals and finished third in last edition. Mumbai will be in action on the inaugural day of IPL 5 as they take on the defending Chennai Super Kings in Chennai on April 4.

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IPL 2012 Team Preview: Royal Challengers Bangalore

After an abysmal opening season, the wheel has come full circle for the Royal Challengers Bangalore. From being the most lethargic team in the IPL they have made an incredible surge to the top of the league. The Southern powerhouse has been a model of consistency, reaching the finals twice and semi-finals once in the 4 seasons. The Royal Challengers, who were also the runners-up of the 2011 Champions League T20, will leave no stone unturned in their quest to add the 2012 IPL trophy to their bare treasure-chest as they look to avoid tripping at the final frontier once again.

The captaincy baton has been passed on from two Karnataka bulwarks - Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble to Daniel Vettori, the perennial fighter from Kiwi land. Just like their owner, Dr. Vijay Mallya, the 33-year old is also a masterclass tactician. Among the IPL franchises, the team with the abundant wealth of 'Impact players' is Royal Challengers, without an atom of a doubt. A monstrous batting unit, a reliable pace attack coupled with two spin wizards makes for an explosive winning combination. While the Bangalore think-tank showed the door to Johan van der Wath and Nuwan Pradeep, they snapped up the industrious Ranganath Vinay Kumar ($1 million) and the illustrious Muttiah Muralitharan ($220,00) in the February 2012 Player auctions.

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Thomas takes Titans into MiWay T20 Challenge Final

Alfonso Thomas produced an heroic all-round performance at SuperSport Park on Sunday to earn the Nashua Titans the dual prizes of a place in the final of the MiWay T20 Challenge as well as a ticket to the Nokia Champions League. In the best traditions of T20 cricket the match against the Chevrolet Knights went down to an eliminator over which the Titans won by 13 runs (19 runs to 6).

During the match proper it looked as though the Knights had held their nerve well enough to win in normal time. But Thomas had other ideas hitting two sixes including one off the last ball from Jandre Coetzee to tie the scores and set up the eliminator over. It was a remarkable over as it also included four dot balls.

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Lions qualify for MiWay T20 Challenge Final

The bizhub Highveld Lions will finish top of the MiWay T20 Challenge log regardless of the outcome of their last match against the New Age Impi on Wednesday and thus have automatically qualified for the final and will host that match on April 1 at the Bidvest Wanderers Stadium.

Even if the Nashua Titans draw level with the Lions on 35 points they cannot move past the Lions as the latter won both the league matches between the two teams.

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Lions lead MiWay T20 Challenge

The bizhub Highveld Lions went top of the MiWay T20 Challenge on net run rate when they beat the Nashua Titans by 7 wickets with 45 balls to spare at SuperSport Park on Friday evening. The Lions and the Chevrolet Knights both have 18 points while the Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras have moved into third place on 16 points after also scoring a bonus points victory by 35 runs over the New Age Impi at Sahara Park Willowmoore.

All three games played on Friday resulted in bonus points wins with the Chevrolet Warriors beating the Sunfoil Dolphins by 10 wickets at Sahara Stadium Kingsmead. The Warriors remain in sixth position although they are now just three points behind the fifth placed Dolphins.

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Chevrolet Warriors get some points on the board in MiWay T20 Challenge

The Chevrolet Warriors, one of the most successful sides in this format over the past few seasons, finally got their MiWay T20 Challenge campaign under way on Wednesday evening when they beat the New Age Impi by 36 runs at Sahara Park Willlowmoore.

The Warriors did not do quite enough to earn a bonus point but, having lost their first three home games on the trot, they will have been relieved to get some points on the board. Already they have been strengthened by the return of Colin Ingram and Rusty Theron from T20 duty with the Proteas in New Zealand and will be regaining the services of Johan Botha and Wayne Parnell as well at the end of the ODI series on Saturday.

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Chris Morris scripts victory for Highveld Lions in MiWay T20 Challenge

Chris Morris produced a superb all-round performance to lead the bizhub Highveld Lions to a bonus points victory over The New Age Impi in their opening MiWay T20 Challenge match at Senwes Park on Friday evening. The Lions won by 61 runs after making 153/7 and then dismissing the competition newcomers for 92.

The Impi had looked well in the game after winning the toss and reducing the Lions to 108/7 in the 17th over. But then Morris took charge with an unbeaten 31 off 13 balls (3 fours and 2 sixes) to propel his side to a respectable total. The only surprise was that Morris batted as low as No. 9 as he gave a wonderful example of clean hitting on a surface on which most of the other batsmen struggled.

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