Domination of veterans and the nail-biting thrillers
Almost half way through, the Indian Premier League 2018 might have showcased a few rising talents but the show has been totally dominated by the veterans of the cricket jamboree.
The bygone week has seen two centuries been scored from the blades of oldie Christopher Henry Gayle and Shane Robert Watson.
Age may not matter in IPL, but this has been so exceptional that one cannot refrain from applauding the two veterans. Gayle and Watson may not fall in the frame for national duties for their respective countries, but they still are the best in the shortest format of the game. They are the reasons for Kings XI Punjab and Chennai Super Kings cruising along, grappling for the top spots. If Punjab gets to the top one day, the very next day we see the yellow brigade take the No. 1 position.
Two-way race: Generally, it has become the two-way race for the top spot leaving the rest to fight it out for the third and fourth spots.
Gayle might not have featured in Monday night's match between Delhi Daredevils and Kings XI Punjab, but still the latter won to take the top position at least until Chennai Super Kings play Royal Challengers Bangalore on Wednesday. The Yellow brigade, who had to adopt Pune as their new home, will be again on the road to Bengaluru for the southern derby. The away wins have helped them a lot and they would wish to add one more to the kitty. Practically speaking all matches for Chennai are away games or at least the team considers so after having lost the chance to play in their own den.
Meanwhile, Delhi and Mumbai have been faltering both away and at home and that's the reason they are looking hopeless in the points table and if they do not recover in time, the coming week being crucial, the two franchises can rule themselves out of the race.
Old is gold: Coming back to the veterans, Chris Gayle after having two silent seasons in the IPL, began exploding when given the chance. There was no looking back as the West Indian proved his worth by scoring two fifties and a hundred in the three matches he has placed until now.
For Universe Boss Gayle it was his sixth IPL century (104 not out off 63 balls, 11 sixes, 1 four) and the first of the season forcing the tweeple to troll RCB and Virat Kohli for letting go their big man. Shane Watson, a former RCB man, too made the same impact when he shattered the morale of his other former team Rajasthan Royals at the Chennai's new home in Pune. His (106, 57 balls, 9 fours, 6 sixes) was the Australian's third IPL hundred having scored two for the Royals in previous seasons. The current crop like Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Ishan Kishan, Nitish Rana and Rishabh Pant (and yes also Shreyas Iyer and Pithivi Shaw in Monday's match) have indeed made their bat talk, but they have not done better than the two veterans. In fact, Gayle and Watson have also overshadowed the likes of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers, Rohit Sharma, Kane Williamson, Ambati Rayudu and Suresh Raina during the week.
The other factor evident during the course of the tournament has been the teams' over reliance on wrist spinners, mostly the leggies. In Tuesday night's match, the likes of Rashid Khan (man of the match) and also Mumbai's new man Mayank Markande (purple cap holder) have continued with their standout performances. Nevertheless, the matches have been thrillers to the core with the last-ball finish in Delhi on Monday night and the low-scoring clash in Mumbai on Tuesday night underlining the story thus far.
The author is the former Sports Editor of Times of Oman and a freelance writer.