It's been one week since the IPL started and it has already thrown up spectacular cricket, surprising results and the prospect of much more excitement to come.
We capture the good, not so great and avoidable action you might have missed in the tournament so far
Quality of Play
The cricket is stunning, truly kadak with batting more brutal than before and pace of play remarkably quick. Earlier, batsmen took time(a few balls!) to feel their way and assess conditions; now, all processes are completed in the dressing room itself. At the crease, once play is called, its plain aggression and time for surgical strikes! Batsmen hit top gear from ball one as team targets shift to 200 instead of 170-180.
Changed Team Approach
Most visible is Kings XI under new mentor Virender Sehwag whose declared IPL manifesto is 'attack at all costs'. Political parties might be guilty of reneging on electoral promises but Kings are true to their word, their approach is always positive and intent so clear, it is for all to see.
Maxwell and Miller are habitual destroyers but even Amla, otherwise so sober and sedate, is happily swinging his bat and having an enjoyable thrash. KKR too has adopted this strategy-executed brilliantly by Chris Lynn at the top of the order .
New Cricket Shot
The sliced hit over point (once trademarked and patented by Sehwag) is the high point of batting fashion this IPL. Batsmen punish fast bowlers using pace on the ball, a shot which is low-risk-high-value in the power play specially on grounds with short boundaries. Nobody plays this better than Maxwell.
Clearly, legbreak is the flavour of the season with teams picking Imran Tahir, Rashid Khan, Adam Zampa, Yajvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Piyush Chawla, Baroka, Amit Mishra ahead of other slow bowlers.
Not surprising because clever leg spin is an attacking option that brings wickets and depresses the run rate. Particularly effective against confused foreign players unable to make out which way the ball is spinning.
The remarkable success of leggies is in contrast to the (almost) complete demise of orthodox off spin. Harbhajan in Mumbai is a fringe option and Sunil Naraine, so mysterious earlier, is not the force he was. Apart from these two, other off spinners figure in the endangered species list.
Surprisingly mixed results here. Ground fielding is consistently terrific but catching at times quite horrible. Players are fitter, faster, more athletic as they chase down practically everything in the deep and cut boundaries with fantastic dives. But Naman Ojha, Mandeep Singh, Rishi Dhawan, Brendon McCullum and Natarajan dropped sitters they would normally hold in their sleep.
Magic Match Moments
Slaughter: Daredevils cutting Rising Pune Supergiant down to size. The contest was pathetically one sided and the margin of victory so big it was almost an innings defeat in a 20 over game!
Suicide : Daredevils demonstrated exceptional skills to lose to RCB when the match was in the bag.At the post match presentation captain Shane Watson( sheepish grin on his face) could barely hide his joy.
Not to miss the delicious irony of Pawan Negi (bowling his first over, the last of the match) delivering the knockout punch by hitting Rishabh Pant's leg stump.Negi was playing against his previous employers (Daredevils) who shelled out a staggering Rs 8.5 crores but released him later !
Murder : Chris Morris smashing 38 from 9 with stunning shots that lit up the Pune skyline.Before that Chris Lynn/ Gautam Gambhir's opening stand against Gujarat to win the game with overs to spare.The way the two were going even 220 was gettable .
Great Escape and Surrender :Mumbai making 60 of the last four to get past KKR.It was a match for KKR to lose and they did just that going down in a spectacular manner .
Stars Players Who Made an Impact
Among Indian players, Sanju Samson, Kedar Jadhav, Hardik Pandya and Nitish Rana were the rising stars, all struck decisive blows with the bat in crunch situations. They belong to the new breed of 'no fear' IPL-trained cricketers who are high on self belief and unwilling to show respect to reputations.As the old cricket saying goes - they play the ball, not the bowler !
Among foreign players, Rashid Khan is the new sensation, his googles too hot for batsmen to handle. His is an incredible fairytale journey of an 18 year old from the wilderness in Herat (Afghanistan) to the giant stage in Hyderabad ( India).
Among established stars, AB de Villiers dazzled everyone with his brilliance playing shots others won't dream of attempting. Nobody matches his versatility,his range of shots,his sheer class.
Players You Might be Wondering About
MSD has had an unusually quiet start to the IPL causing people to ask 'Mahi maar kyon nahin raha'? Dhoni, a master of this format, is scratchy, searching for rhythm. Will he find form? Wise people feel Dhoni's revival is only one knock away, the guy is due a big one !
As the IPL rolls on attention will also focus on T 20 superstars, Rohit Sharma, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh. Rohit is coming back from a long injury break, Raina looks rusty and weighed down by captaincy and family responsibilities. Yuvraj blazed away imperiously the other night as only he can but it will be interesting to see if he can stay the course over 14 games.
Other Points, In Case You Missed
# Without DRS, the umpiring is inconsistent and patchy, downright awful at times.
# The opening ceremonies were ......er,ok just forget it. Someone asked a valid question: how does a tacky filmy dance routine enhance a top sporting event ?
# Kevin Pietersen in the commentary box is a massive gain. KP is technically astute and hugely entertaining- a real rockstar .
Bizarre fact of week one of the IPL
Spare a thought and shed a tear for Eoin Morgan and Kane Williamson - international captains benched by their teams and yet to get a game. Faf Duplessis has had one forgettable hit while Darren Sammy, another captain, is missing - absent, yet to report.
The big moment everyone is waiting for :
Virat's return- hopefully on April 14. Without his energy RCB looks like a drink that has gone flat !