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IPL 2019 – West Indians, Controversies, Chennai’s Supremacy and Bangalore’s Woes

Andre Russell has been in great form for KKR
Kieron Pollard has been in great form for Mumbai Indians
Chennai Players celebrate a wicket
Royal Challengers Bangalore looking at another disappointing start to the IPL

With the World Cup 2019 a few weeks away, one can only limit the amount of cricket one can watch, let alone play. There have often been times where I have personally felt that there is just too much cricket if there is a series after the Indian Premier League (IPL).

However, like each of its previous editions, this season of the IPL has already seen its fair share of glitz, glamour, controversy and thrill. Here’s a look at what and who have made news for the right and wrong reasons so far this season:

 West Indians: T20 cricket and West Indians have their own love story. The IPL too has seen a fair amount of the entertainment and the class which the men from the Caribbean bring along. While Chris Gayle continues to turn back the clock, new kid Alzarri Joseph set the stage on fire by picking up a six-wicket haul on debut and recording the best ever IPL bowling figures in the process. Kieron Pollard has taken a couple of attacks to the cleaners while Dwayne Bravo has been ruled out for a couple of weeks with a hamstring tear. Sunil Narine has made a few meaningful contributions with the bat but isn’t quite his old self with the ball. The man who has stood out though is Andre Russell. He has found the right balance of aggression and patience and has muscled his way to some powerful scores with some deft touches included in them as well. His 302 runs have come at a mind-boggling strike rate of 212.67 and contains 29 sixes.

Controversies: The IPL is never shy of controversy. Be it the spot fixing incident with the Rajasthan Royals, or the clip showing a teary eyed Sreesanth, after a slap from Harbhajan Singh, it has seen it all. This time though, it started off with Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) Captain Ravichandran Ashwin ‘mankading’ Jos Buttler in their match against the Rajasthan Royals. Not only did it result in a collapse for the Royals, who looked all set to win the game, but it also created an uproar in social media. If that wasn’t enough, “Captain Cool” – Mahendra Singh Dhoni lost his cool in a recently concluded match against Rajasthan to challenge an umpiring decision against his team. He was eventually fined 50 percent of his match fees, but it also went on to show that tension can get to the best of the people. If that hasn’t been enough, this season has been marred by poor umpiring decisions that have led to the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) and KXIP losing games by margins.

 Chennai’s Supremacy: When they won the title with a dad’s army last year, everyone questioned if they would be able to repeat the feat this year. While the same army is a year older, they continue to flourish under the captaincy of Dhoni. Even though they have had to be on the receiving side of a slow Chepauk wicket, the calmness and composure with which they have handled situations make them favorites to retain the title. While a few of their players in Suresh Raina, Shane Watson and Shardul Thakur haven’t had the best of campaigns, it only takes one match for them to turn things around. The lions from Chennai have definitely come roaring and teams have already found it hard to match their supremacy. With the old warhorses Harbhajan Singh and Imran Tahir showing to the world that there is plenty of fire left in the belly, they are destined to seal a play-offs spot.

 Bangalore’s Woes: Six games and six losses. Incompetency with the bat, hapless with the ball and sloppy in the field – that’s how one would sum of RCB’s season so far. Retired former India opener Gautam Gambhir questioned Virat Kohli’s T20 captaincy skills at the start of the season and the performance of his players has only made critics doubt him more. With AB de Villiers struggling to live up to his lofty standards post his retirement, RCB have struggled to put on the runs they require for their inconsistent bowlers to defend. While Yuzvendra Chahal has been a shining light, the experienced Tim Southee has been woeful. Add to that RCB’s chop and change policy in every game and it explains why they are at the bottom of the table. They have called in Dale Steyn as a replacement overseas player to bolster their bowling, but patchy performances might confine them to a bottom of the table spot this season.

 Smith no match for Warner: Both had a point to prove as they returned to high profile cricket after serving out their bans, but the manner in which David Warner has exploded since his return, is no match for Steve Smith. He is the highest run scorer in the tournament so far, having amassed 349 runs at a strike rate of 146.6 to go along with a hundred and three fifties. With Usman Khawaja mounting pressure on him with runs in the ODI arena, Warner had to prove that he is still devastating. And boy has he done that! Steve Smith, on the other hand, has whimpered to 174 runs at a modest strike rate of 110.1. While he did manage to play a fighting innings on a tough wicket in Chennai, he has barely matched the lofty standards he had set prior to his ban. With the World Cup squad announcement just, a couple of days away, Warner is definitely ahead in the race to get selected ahead of Smith.

 Of course, there are a lot of celebrities who quietly observe the action from the stands but be rest assured that it will be cricket that will continue to hog the limelight for the rest of this IPL. Whether it would be for the right reasons or wrong, remains to be seen!

©Cricket World 2019