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26 Apr 2009 10:49
Kevin Pietersen’s inability to inspire an abject Bangalore side and Andrew Flintoff’s injury grabbed the headlines after a frantic opening week of the Indian Premier League.
The Twenty20 tournament, moved to South Africa after a clash with Indian general elections created security concerns, began last Saturday when Newlands witnessed a double-header followed by a
spectacular opening ceremony.
A flurry of cricket has seen 11 matches played and two washed out across three cities and while some tense ties have kept fans on the edge of their seats, ex-England skippers Pietersen and Flintoff created most intrigue.
The duo are the most expensive IPL players this season, after being bought for $1,55-million each at the pre-tournament auction, with Pietersen going to Bangalore Royal Challengers and Flintoff to Chennai Super Kings.
However, a Challengers outfit owned by Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya lie bottom of the table after losing three of four matches.
Pietersen has been unable to inspire the team and was twice out for a duck in four innings, leading many to question his hefty price tag.
“It’s a long competition and if we can win the next nine games we’ll be okay,” the England star said after the latest loss this weekend against Punjab.
“We just need to get winning, it’s a habit and as soon as you start winning everything starts to become okay.”
While sounding calm and confident, Pietersen’s frustration has been clear and he received a warning from the organisers after showing dissent over a dismissal in Port Elizabeth.
England teammate Flintoff returned home for ankle surgery after featuring in just three matches for Chennai, raising doubts over whether he should have committed to the IPL at all.
The 31-year-old has battled injuries throughout his career and undergone a number of ankle operations, and will miss England’s upcoming series against the West Indies.
Having insisted that playing in the IPL would benefit his fitness, Flintoff faces criticism for putting cash before country, although Pietersen has defended the duo’s participation in the Twenty20 extravaganza.
“It’s going to be difficult for boards to pull players out of tournaments like this when you’re playing with the best players in the world,” Pietersen told the Guardian.
“You can’t have one rule for some and another rule for others.
But it’s a huge blow come the summer for England.”
AB de Villiers’ unbeaten century for Delhi Daredevils has been the highlight of an event in which scores on average have been lower than last year due to weather conditions and the nature of the pitches.
The tournament has largely passed without a hitch although a fierce row between suiteholders at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg and the IPL over rights to the boxes was resolved only after protracted negotiations.
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