The Indian Premier League is back in action and with the first seven days of competition now over, it has left us with many talking points.
Player of the Week
There is but one name on everyone’s minds and that is not Chris Gayle. The marauder from the West Indies hasn’t yet made an appearance for the Royal Challengers Bangalore, and instead his crown has been taken up by Australia’s Glenn Maxwell. Such has been his hitting prowess on display that Mumbai Indians will not believe they let him go, forget his Kings XI Punjab team-mate Mitchell Johnson.
In three matches so far, Maxwell has scores of 95, 89 and 95, totalling 279 runs in three innings at an awe-inspiring average of 93. His consistency becomes more astounding when you consider his strike-rate of 212.97 runs scored for every 100 balls faced.
Against the Chennai Surper Kings he scored his runs off 43 balls, off 45 balls against the Rajasthan Royals and a repeat 43 balls against the Sunrisers Hyderabad. He has hit 28 fours and 17 sixes so far, and the next best is 10 by South Africa’s David Miller who also plays for Kings XI by the way.
The latter has only played a minimal role so far and Kings XI’s superb start to the season – six points in three games – is down largely to the heroics of one man. Maxwell has shown everyone watching why he is one of the most dangerous batsmen in this shortest format of the game. All of these runs have come through clean hitting, belligerent to the limit.
His antics have meant that the Kings XI chased down two tall scores from positions of great discomfort and the one time they batted first, they again put up a more-than-par-score target on the board. He is clearly the player to watch this season and there are at least nine more innings left for him to regale the IPL-loving masses.
Team of the Week
The Kings XI Punjab have finished week one of the 2014 IPL at the top of the points table, and this is just one reason for them to be hailed as the best team in the first seven days of competition.
The primary reasoning for this has to be the manner in which they have won all their three matches so far, that is decimating the opposition bowling attack.
They chased a mammoth 206 against Chennai Super Kings and then 192 against Rajasthan Royals. In a 20-over innings, setting such targets more or less assured the team fielding second of victory, but the Kings XI zoomed past the finishing line not once but two times running.
Then the Sunrisers Hyderabad asked them to bat first to break their rhythm, and Punjab still went on to set a high-enough target of 194 and then defended it.
All these three teams that have lost to the Kings XI were part of the knock-out stage last year. Critics will argue that much has changed since then. True indeed, for player auctions gave a fresh look to a majority of these sides. But it rings true both ways since the Kings XI are a much-changed side too and one that every team in the competition should be wary of.
Best of the Rest
It is a little too early to decide which the second-best team in the competition is. The points table will tell you that the Royal Challengers Bangalore are the only other unbeaten team in the tournament today.
In two matches, against the Delhi Dardevils and the Mumbai Indians, they have been comfortable victors. Even so, there are a lot of question marks around their bowling and indeed their batting prowess in the absence of Gayle, if only because it loses its consistent belligerence at the top of the order.
Chennai, the Kolkata Knight Riders and the Rajasthan Royals are on two points each, as are Delhi who have played one more game than these three teams.
The most successful team in IPL, Chennai have managed to retain the core of their previous squads and have enhanced it further with Dwayne Smith and Brendon McCullum at the top of the order.
Considering what these two can do together, they are surely not missing Murali Vijay and Mike Hussey. The loss to the Kings XI was a freak result and their convincing win over Delhi means they will be back in the thick of things soon enough.
At first glance then, Kolkata and Rajasthan have given glimpses of possessing a good mix of players, but both have their deficiencies. The former do not seem to have a plan B if their spinners are carted around. The latter are short on experience, if not on quality.
Disappointment of the Week
The Mumbai Indians and the Sunrisers Hyderabad have no points to show after having played two matches each in the first week.
It is astounding how after six seasons of IPL, with a think tank comprising of John Wright, Anil Kumble and Sachin Tendulkar, they still have not been able to sort out their batting order. This should be top of their priority list if they need to make headway in this tournament.
Hyderabad on the other hand have the second-best mix of players after Kings XI arguably, but things just haven’t clicked for them enough at a stretch.
Even so, the biggest crash-party has been hosted by Delhi Daredevils, who too have lost two of their three matches thus far. Their one win against Kolkata was largely down to JP Duminy’s clever batting. In the other two games, against Bangalore and Chennai, they were just hapless.
The disappointment comes through more so because Kevin Pietersen is not available to them due to injury, especially since a lot of hype was built-up that he is now with the squad for the entire season. It has affected their start and not much seems to have changed from 2013 in terms of the way they play their cricket.
© Cricket World 2014