UAE captain Raza backs Mumbai Indians to do a Real Madrid
'Royal Challengers Bangalore to lay their hands on a maiden title'
The UAE’s cricketing fraternity are eager for the IPL to get underway and while the country’s captain Ahmed Raza backed the Royal Challengers Bangalore to lay their hands on a maiden title, he also reckoned that five-time champions Mumbai Indians could emulate the likes of NBA powerhouses Chicago Bulls, and also La Liga giants Real Madrid in winning three in a row.
“I’m a huge fan of the IPL so obviously I’m very much looking forward to it,” Raza told the Khaleej Times on Thursday.
You are treated to quality cricket with great cricket and great cricketers every single day over the 52 days. Obviously, not really going out and socialising much so that is the best thing you can do — sitting at home and watching some really good cricket and so much to learn from it,” he added.
And the RCB holds a special place in Raza’s heart not just because he was part of their training squad when last year’s tournament was held in the UAE.
“That was like a dream come true, just to be a part of that training squad, with RCB especially. Obviously, there was a lot to learn from the likes of AB (de Villiers), Virat (Kohli), the coaching staff. As a cricketer, you can’t ask for anything bigger than being part of the IPL, even though it was just being a part of the training squad,” Raza described his stint with RCB.
He also felt that this season would mirror last year and would be as exciting since there would be no home advantage.
“The level of cricket and the competitiveness of the tournament, we have seen a lot of players being very vocal about it that it was one of the most competitive tournaments they have played in, when it was played in the UAE,” Raza said,
“This season too will be similar to that because obviously, with the scheduling of this IPL, none of the teams are playing home games. So, that will obviously bring out the skill level of each team and how different teams will adapt to different conditions. As you are not playing home games, so there is no home advantage. This was something which we witnessed last year as well. These were somewhat alien conditions for all the teams because there was no home advantage. So, I’m expecting another really, really competitive IPL,” he explained.
But he picked out RCB and defending champions Mumbai Indians as the teams to beat.
“Honestly, it is very hard to look past RCB and not only because I was part of that team but I’ve always vouched for RCB ever since the first season. So, it is very hard to look past them. If it is not RCB then it will be Mumbai Indians. You look at that squad, the uncapped players (Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Rahul Chahar) are now capped players and it is a different mindset and a different body language that you get out there, playing for India. So, three uncapped players from last season are Indian players now. That makes a huge difference in their cricket, how they approach the game. So, if it is not RCB, my second pick would be the Mumbai Indians,” said Raza.
Raza also felt that the Mumbai Indians look good in their quest for a record sixth title and a hat-trick, in the same vein as Chicago Bulls, who claimed six NBA crowns, and La Liga Real Madrid’s stellar display in the Uefa Champions League.
“We have obviously seen the Chicago Bulls doing it, Real Madrid doing it, so if Mumbai Indians do it, that will hold them at an elite club level. And I’m sure they will be on a quest to do it three in a row,” the 32-year-old said.
Meanwhile, UAE’s young leg spinner Karthik Meiyappan, who too was part of RCB’s training squad along with Raza, said that he would be keeping a close watch on how the leg spinners fare.
“I will be keen to see the leg spinners bowling well in the IPL. Hopefully I will be sitting and watching most of the games, if not all of them,” said Meiyappan.
“That is something that I always do and hopefully I will be sitting and watching most of the games, if not all of them,” he added.
The 20-year-old too spoke about the might of Mumbai but felt RCB could turn the corner this time.
“Let’s leave Mumbai out of this because they are the best team out there. Other than Mumbai, I think I would put my money on RCB for this season. And it is not because I was with them last year. But it is more to do with the combination that they have got and the players that they have picked for this season is something exciting,” Meiyappan said.
Dubai’s renowned cricket promoter Shyam Bhatia underlined the power of the IPL.
“Today, the IPL is the most powerful tournament in the world,” said Bhatia.
“To be honest, I’m not that big a fan but I do watch the games. I have a lot of social obligations but when I'm at home, I will watch some of the matches and some interesting matches. It is fun at the end of the day and people love to watch it,” he added.
Bhatia, who owns a unique cricket museum in the emirate, also spoke about the strong teams this season.
“The Rajasthan Royals look strong on paper and they looked strong last time too. This is a top team and now they have Kumar Sangakkara as the director of cricket. But teams are about putting together a winning combination and that’s why you see Mumbai Indians doing better and always winning,” Bhatia said.
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