The first leg of IPL 7 has come to an end and one must admit – it has been an exciting season so far. We saw quite a few changes this season in terms of players moving from one team to another in an auction which was an eventful chapter in itself, the retirement of some key players and the rise of certain teams which had not performed that well in the earlier editions.
All the glamour and razzmatazz has been maintained though, if not bettered!
The commentary, the cheerleaders, the Bollywood music between overs and the presentations have picked up right where they left off last year.
Here are, to my mind, the top 7 defining stories of IPL 7 Phase 1:
1. Change of Venue: Due to elections in India, there was a lot of buzz about shifting the IPL venue, previously to South Africa where it has been hosted once before, but eventually zeroed down to the UAE. Sharjah will always be remembered for the famous indo-pak encounters in the past and in particular, the match where Sachin scored a hundred in bad light conditions and a sand storm! But yes, the UAE stadiums lived it up and they also did a great job attracting crowds. A friend of mine in Dubai, even made me jealous by deliberately highlighting the low price of tickets! All in all, UAE seemed to offer the right mix of hospitality, security, stadiums, good pitches and other facilities that are essential for hosting such a high profile tournament.
2. Maxwell’s scintillating form & Punjab’s comprehensive run-chases: Maxwell has definitely been the man of the moment this season so far – The single player who stood out like no other! Even though there is so much talk about Mumbai making him sit on the bench last season, I feel he has flourished as a batsman in the past year and has been looking for a chance to prove himself… and boy! What a rockstar he has been! The sweeps, the pulls, the hooks, the cuts, the reverse sweeps! He’s displayed them all. This is what the orange cap holder’s performance summary looks like:
He has also been a major contributor in the dramatic victories that Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have managed this season! The team has augmented into a major contender with some terrific run chases and interestingly enough, they have not entered the 20th over even once while chasing, even when they had been set a steep target of 206 runs!
3. Mumbai Indian’s disappointing form: The defending champions have been in completely dismal form this season despite having a relatively steady team and an adequate share of star players and performers. It is hard to believe that Mumbai haven’t managed a single win in its 5 encounters, despite having the likes of Rohit Sharma, Corey Anderson, Kieron Pollard, Mike Hussey, Lasith Malinga and Pragyan Ojha in their side.
But considering the fact that Mumbai are indeed a strong side, it will be interesting to see their tactics to return to performing as a strong unit. They will, of course, need to win all the remaining matches if they are to see themselves in the final four.
4. Chris Lynn’s unbelievable catch: This man is a live wire! He has virtually stunned everybody with that magnificent and implausible catch at the boundary – whether you’re a Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) supporter or not. That one catch changed the course of the match and what could have been an easy victory for the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) transfigured into KKR bagging the match.
That was a catch which cannot be justified in words, so here’s the link to the video again – The Sensational Chris Lynn Catch
5. RCB’s erratic exploits: RCB started off their campaign with a lot of confidence especially with their in-form and aggressive captain Virat Kohli and an array of match winners like Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers, Albie Morkel, Muralitharan, Parthiv Patel, Yuvraj Singh and Mitchell Starc. Their start to the IPL was extremely convincing with 2 back-to-back wins. However, the Chris Lynn and KKR episode changed it all and curiously enough, they seem to have lost their momentum and it does not appear temporary. They have ended up losing 2 more matches after the KKR match and Virat Kohli seems to have become all the more aggressive and animated on field (I really didn’t think there was scope for any more aggression in the first place!).
It is amazing to see how one bad over can change the fate of teams in a fast-paced format like T-20.
6. An Inspiring and avid set of coaches and mentors: IPL has seen some zealous ex-players as mentors and the recent trend of having a head coach and specialist coaches along with him has shown definitive results. Here’s the list of coaches for IPL 7:
It is reassuring to see players like Sachin, Kumble, Dravid and Laxman keep themselves associated with and give back to the game by being mentors to the team and sharing their knowledge. It’s also heartening to have virtuosos from across the world like Jonty Rhodes, Stephen Flemming and Allan Donald coaching young players at the IPL.
7. Super Over and the Boundary Rule: The most intriguing part of the T20 format is how the winner is decided in case of a situation where there’s a tie i.e. both sides score an equal number of runs in their 20 overs. We initially had the ‘bowl-out’ similar to the penalty shoot-out in football. Thereafter, the concept of super over was devised where each side bats for an extra over and the team scoring higher runs wins. To add a further twist to the tale, the question was ‘what does one do in the unlikely event that the scores are level even in a super over?’. Even though unlikely, the situation did arise in the match between KKR and Rajasthan Royals and the IPL rule for this is, the team scoring maximum boundaries will walk with the winning points! It is a very queer yet enticing rule and Steve Smith did a fabulous job of it! He was absolutely canny in reading the situation and reacted in a very safe and calculated way to ensure his team wins without taking any undue risks that would put him team’s chances in jeopardy.
Shane Watson’s reaction after the win was euphoric! The happiness, the passion was all there.
All in all, the Phase 1 of IPL was an action-packed, dramatic and engaging affair. From huge sixes to low scoring matches to belters to super overs – I think UAE has seen it all.
The fact that each team was playing on neutral venues was also a unique factor as opposed to the home ground concept in the Indian Editions. The IPL now comes back home and will be an entirely different ball game again as strategies will undergo massive changes.
So here’s looking forward to more action and drama and hoping the tourney only becomes more unpredictable and full of surprises as it progresses 🙂