Mumbai: For years, the IPL has been a big bonanza for fans of T-20 cricket but the edge of the seat entertainment dished out in this year’s topsy-turvy league has gone well beyond the realms of a script writer’s dream. Just as the canvas has grown larger with 10 teams and 70 plus matches, the thrills and spills have multiplied manifold with most matches turning into nail-biters that are strictly not meant for the faint-hearted.
New entrants like Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants have performed much above expectations, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bengaluru are grooving a lot better than before. Unfortunately, for loyal fans of two champion teams – Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings – this has been a nightmarish season as the two fancied sides are huffing and puffing like old worn-out vehicles.
However, fans of the game have certainly been delighted with the big bang displays of the new boys on the big stage. Granted superstars like Jos Butler, Dinesh Karthik, Andre Russell, Yazuvendra Chahal or Mohammed Shami have been remarkably consistent in their performances, yet it’s the youngsters that have become the central focus in this IPL season. To name just a few, the likes of Umran Malik, Shivam Dube, Devdutt Paddikal, Ravi Bishnoi, Prasidha Krishna, and several others have literally set the turfs on fire.
Practically, every youngster is vying for a place in their respective nation’s team for the T20 World Cup in the latter part of the year in Australia. But from the Indian standpoint, a worrying point to have emerged from the IPL till now is the woeful batting form of their superstars, Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma. There have been calls from the ex-head coach of the Indian team, Ravi Shastri, and other experts for the two to sit out and rest for some time. Kohli’s case is especially terrible as he has been dismissed cheaply throughout the tournament including 2 golden ducks. He has now gone without a century since 2019 in 112 innings across different formats. While Royal Challengers haven’t done as badly as their ex-captain, they are still in the middle of the points table and need some momentum to climb back into the top 4.
Gujarat Titans, under Hardik Pandya’s captaincy, have sprung a delightful surprise and the boys have gelled well together. Their heist against Sunrisers Hyderabad in the last game was unbelievable. The team has the perfect balance of youngsters and experienced players. Afghan veteran Rashid Khan proved yet again why he is not just a star bowler but a more than capable batsman as he hit 2 sixes off the last 2 balls to steal a win from Sunrisers’ grip. The return to form of Hardik is also a welcome sign for Indian prospects especially as he seems fitter and stronger than before. Gujarat is the only team until now to have lost just one match and are tournament favorites as of now. But as Hardik put it after the win against Hyderabad that the team is cutting close in many games and “might run out of luck by the time the main games come.”
Meanwhile, the exceptional batting form of Jos Butler who’s hit 3 stupendous centuries as well as Trent Boult and Yazuvendra Chahal’s successes, has pushed Rajasthan Royals firmly insight of a last 4 finish. If they maintain their current momentum, there is no reason why they cannot take the trophy as a fitting tribute to their first Captain and mentor Shane Warne who died recently.
Lucknow Super Giants under the hawk-eye supervision of coach Gautam Gambhir have certainly been giant killers with K L Rahul leading from the front with two superlative tons under his belt. A lot was expected of Punjab Kings after they made a reasonably good pick at the IPL auctions in February. Though they are still in the race with some good victories due to fine performances from Shikhar Dhawan, Kagiso Rabada and Arshdeep Singh, the failure of big hitters Shahrukh Khan and Odean Smith does not augur well for them and they need to pull up their socks.
Kolkata Knight Riders’ slide continues unabated like that of CSK and MI. Indeed, the surprise package has been the combined effort of Sunrisers Hyderabad that has risen from the ashes and stormed into the Top Three in the points table. With each player chipping in with reasonable contributions and some exceptionally good fielding, SRH seems to be cruising under the Zen-like Kane Williamson. That Umran Malik tears up the opposition with blazing thunderbolts is of course another reason for India to rejoice since this genuine pacer is sure to give nightmares to the best of batsmen in the international arena, if picked in Team India.
With still a month left to play, IPL2022 is headed for a grand climax. No matter who ultimately becomes the Champions, Brand IPL and its paying public are set to be the big winners!