The IPL has been lit up by outstanding performances with many magic moments created by overseas players. Chris Gayle is still the 'Universe Boss' and stalwarts Warner/ Pollard/McCullum /Sunil Naraine ( with ball and bat! )continue to dominate proceedings in the T20 tournament. Hashim Amla (silky smooth and classy) has asserted himself and we caught a glimpse of the destruction that ABD, Kane Williamson, Jos Buttler, Glenn Maxwell and Chris Morris can cause. Not to forget the huge impact made by Rashid Khan.
Among Indians though, Suresh Raina may have deflated KKR on Friday night but a subtle power shift is unfolding as young India makes a move to occupy centre stage. Their surge has pushed established stars to the periphery and comes at a time when some seniors look jaded and faded, desperately needing form and fortune to arrest what appears a rapid decline.
Next Gen Batsmen
Leading the youth charge is Nitish Rana, the left hander who surprised everyone by his Viv Richards-like savagery, not least the Delhi selectors who almost gave him the sack midway during the Ranji season. He is a special talent, his skills illustrated by one amazing stat from the innings against Kings: he hit 8 sixes but not one boundary!
Daredevils Sanju Samson, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer belong to this new, young fearless group who swing their bats with style, speed and swagger. Of these 3, Rishabh is the most devastating- against KKR he tore into India's pace bowling leader Umesh Yadav smashing 26 in one over.
Similar flashes of brilliance were created by Manan Vohra, Manish Pandey, Manoj Tewary and Kedar Jadhav--players of proven quality who announced their arrival in earlier IPLs. Ishan Kishan has loads of ability and Pune's Rahul Tripathy looked good in the short time he spent in the middle.
Among bowlers, Kuldeep Yadav continues to baffle batsmen who struggle to make out which way the ball is spinning. Leggie Chahal, the strike bowler at RCB, is always threatening, a genuine wicket taking option.
The Pandya brothers get the vote for being the surprise package among young Indian talent. Both read the game well and show great maturity to seize key moments in a tight game. Given that both are all rounders, with different skill sets, they add immense value to MI.
One heartening feature of India's emerging talent pool is it contains a bunch of young fast bowlers. Basil Thampi is the yorker expert, a priceless asset for any bowling unit at the death. Siddharth Kaul showed tremendous composure in two games to take Sunrisers across the line in tense situations.
While India's youngistan imposes itself on the IPL, the seniors are having a quiet tournament. None more than MSD, a master of this game, whose misfortune does not seem to end.
First the controversy of losing the captaincy at Pune, then the complete lack of form with the bat. This IPL, Dhoni is scratchy, searching for rhythm, a shadow of his normal imperious self.
Suresh Raina singlehandedly took down KKR but Yuvraj Singh, an absolute superstar, is in some despair, his efforts more hit and miss compared to certainty of the past.
Is this a temporary stumble, a minor blip in his outstanding journey or an age induced slump that is difficult to arrest ?
Mohammad Shami, another regular, returning from injury is on the fringes, benched most of the time. Same with Ishant Sharma who joined Kings after a snub in the IPL auction. He had a rude welcome to the IPL, clobbered for 58 in 4 against MI. His Delhi colleague Ashish Nehra seems to have lost momentum after a reasonable start and Ravindra Jadeja is waiting for the big moment to arrive. Amit Mishra is also not the the force he was in previous IPLs.
Among batsmen, Rahane, Wridhiman Saha and Dinesh Karthik have had an indifferent, on-off IPL. Gambhir has been good in parts and Robin Uthappa, batting at number 3, is in awesome touch. With his outstanding record, Robin is deeply respected in the T20 circuit as a match winner. The Daredevils have invested big time in Karun Nair but till now his bat has remained cold.
Bhuvanesh Kumar, the IPL’s highest wicket taker, is keeping the flag flying for senior cricketers. He bowls at the end, is deadly accurate and gives little away to batsmen. Harbhajan has bowled some good spells but unlike Bhuvi he is not always a 4 over option for his captain.
While the young players are ahead of their seniors at the halfway stage of the IPL the situation could change quickly. As the business end of the tournament approaches the experience and superior skills of established stars will come into play.
It would be a mistake to underestimate Virat or Dhoni or Rahane or Jadeja or..........