While there are always uncapped Indian players (Akshar Patel, Chahal, Tambe, Pandey, Samson, Rahul) that win hearts of most viewers, it is inevitably the overseas players that walk away with the awards and plaudits. Experience guarantees a consistent excellence, and players from West Indies have won imaginations and become household names over the 6 seasons in India. T20 is an extension of their current flamboyance—a trait that rarely lasts more than 20 overs at a time. Short bursts of aggression and athletic ability has been their hallmark, and players like Bravo, Gayle, Narine, Smith, Pollard, Cooper, Samuels, Rampaul and even Chanderpaul have contributed to the T20 cricket league becoming the most successful franchise in world cricket.
This year though, at the T20 cricket league, players from an unlikely source have been the talking points. Australians have never figured out the shortest format of cricket. It has almost been a decade since T20 burst upon to the scene, and Australia have not won a T20 World Cup, only once reaching the final to lose to England in 2010. Their issues were further amplified by their sorry performance at the World T20 in Bangladesh last month, where they crashed out in the Group Stages after starting as one of the favorites. They are currently the no. 1 ranked team in ODIs and Tests, but have never figured in the top 2 of T20 rankings, where an Asian team has always ruled matters.
After a stressful and successful Summer, one of the landmarks in Australian cricket, with wins against old foes England and South Africa, the Australians are now treating the IPL as a wham-bam vacation, a de-stressing option after playing International competitive cricket continuously for months on end.
Let us take a look at the players that have set IPL-2014 alive with some memorable performances already:
Already close to 350 runs in 6 games, and the ‘Big Show’ has finally found his groove. Criminally underutilized in the national setup, Maxwell has decided to take matters into his own hands for his new team KXIP. As a result, they have 5 wins out of 6 and top the table, after three consecutive Maxwell 90+ scores, and a few lusty blows to boot. His bowling hasn’t clicked yet, but his outfield catches have been spectacular. He is, I dare say, the perfect T20 player.
Hasn’t contributed much with the bat yet, struggling to find the form that almost destroyed India in the ODI series last year. But his leadership has seen his underdog team top the table and challenge CSK this year. His rotation of bowlers, especially young Indian hopes like Sandeep Sharma and Patel, has been extremely advantageous to the national management. Overseas captains often find rough Indian diamonds in IPL cricket, and Bailey is following in the footsteps of Warne and Gilchrist already.
Wasn’t picked so that old horse Brad Hodge could play for the Royals in the first few games, but the management quickly learned the importance and need of young, resourceful legs in the team. Nobody has improved as a cricketer more than Smith over the last two years. Three splendid Ashes centuries and a useful contribution in South Africa has established him as a middle-order counter-attacker for Australian cricket, and he is in demand after being the star draw in the failed Pune Warriors team. His introduction into the Royals has shown results instantly—his energy has propelled them into the top 3, and he will forever be remembered for an ingenious defensive prod off Narine off the last ball of the Super Over against KKR to give his team an unlikely but important win. His fielding, needless to say, has been revolutionary.
Captain of the Royals, he has been a bit too flexible with his own position in the batting order. He needs to bat higher, but the results are coming anyway—thanks to a team overflowing with all-rounders. He has marshaled his resources well, taking the Royals legacy forward after being their most important player for a few seasons.
He has been Royals’ best bowler, leading his team to atleast a couple of wins after stepping up at crucial moments. His confidence is on a high after a rebirth in the ODI series against India, and is no mug with the bat. In case you forget, he holds the record for the fastest ever ODI century by an Australian now.
The man has stepped on the gas after a lackluster few games, and is now intimidating batsmen into submission. As a result, he doesn’t get the most wickets and leaks runs, but the bowler following him often finishes the job he started, playing on the minds of the frightened players. He has been a useful death bowler too, and his raw pace can go either way, but currently, there is nobody better than him in World Cricket except Dale Steyn. Didn’t have a good outing at Mumbai, but will relish a return to Mohali.
Only for THAT catch. He broke RCB hearts with possibly the most spectacular pressure catch ever seen. Lynn-sanity!
Has been a very good bowler for CSK, often taking wickets at the front end and setting the stage for Ashwin, Jadeja and Mohit Sharma. Will always be the unsung hero in a star-studded team.
Two 50s already, and hasn’t even hit peak form yet. He has been scratchy, but luck has been with him. He is hitting his stride, and you’d have to pity the team that bears the full brunt of his assault soon. It’s coming soon.
Has been the in-form partner out of the two at Sunrisers, and has made up for the failures of Captain Dhawan. He holds the record for the highest-ever International T20 score, and has only furthered his reputation since then, adding to the feathers on his cap this season with some stellar performances at the top.
Was the Daredevils’ best hope for a bit, until he was injured and is now unfortunately ruled out of T20 cricket league. Delhi will miss him the most, especially because they are struggling to find somebody to replace him. He was crucial in their win against Mumbai, and provides the much-needed height and bounce that Morne Morkel provided for them last year.