The first week of IPL 13 has witnessed some mesmerizing performances from the Indian contingent. Not all have gone on to end on the winning side, but they have been exemplary in terms of impact and the quality of performance on display.
As Jonny Bairstow bullied his way through that SRH’s run chase in the 3rd match, it appeared Virat Kohli was beginning to run out of options. With just an over left of his trump card, it was evident that if the Royal Challengers had to start this edition on a winning note, Yuzvendra Chahal needed to make that over count.
Two consecutive deliveries in the 16th over knocked the fight out of the SRH camp. First up a loopy delivery that tempted Bairstow to go for an almighty heave, only to see his leg stump castled. Next up it was time to outthink the big hope for SRH in that middle order, Vijay Shankar. Shankar was completely done in by a superb googly.
Three nights later as KL Rahul and Mayank Agarwal began the Kings XI show, Kohli once again turned up at Chahal’s doorstep. This time it was Agarwal’s turn to get foxed by a googly.
The rookies light it up
At 25, Sanju Samson has played only 4 T20Is for India, and then comes a night at the iconic Sharjah cricket ground. 54 of his 74 runs came of sixes as the right-hander tore into the experienced Piyush Chawla and Ravindra Jadeja. Seven years ago, the Kerala boy was pulling Mitchell Johnson with disdain in the now-defunct Champions League. One hopes it’s a fresh beginning for this wicketkeeper-batsman as he has a habit of losing his way as the tournament progresses as seen in the last few seasons.
20-year-old Devdutt Padikkal averages 57.90 in 14 domestic T20 games, His strike rate a staggering 170.32. In the years to come, he could look back at his 13th T20 game with a certain amount of fondness. It was to be the first IPL game for the Royal Challengers in the 13th edition of the IPL, and Padikkal broke free. Being asked to open with the more illustrious Aaron Finch, the left-hander found the ropes at will.
Shubman Gill, touted to be the next big thing in India cricket, brought up a match-winning 70 to register first win for Kolkata. The KKR management not only have retained him ahead of established opener Chris Lynn and Robin Uthappa but also have delegated some “leadership responsibility” to this 21-year-old this season. Gill displayed all the qualities to reiterate the management’s faith in him.
The down South trio
Agarwal’s cricketing journey remains an interesting one. At school, the runs kept flowing as he modelled himself on Virender Sehwag. As the level of cricket went up, the right-hander was looked upon as a white-ball specialist. Then came the hard knocks of life and finally at the age of 27 he made his India debut as a Test opener. Since that day at the MCG, he has grown in strength as a red-ball player.
One look at the knock he played versus the Delhi Capitals in Kings’ opening encounter suggests this could also be the breakthrough season in his white-ball career. His strokeplay is orthodox but when someone hits Kagiso Rabada over his head, it tells you there is a fair bit of ammunition out there. The other aspect to take note is his opening partner is the captain of the side. The two of them go a long way back. At times one needs that assurance, and Agarwal will seek that from KL Rahul.
Rahul himself has played the knock of the season so far. 132 off 69 balls wasn’t just about breaking the back of the RCB attack. Also a statement that had plenty of intent and class. The seven sixes that flowed from his blade were not slogs rather they were classical in nature.
He has been candid enough to admit, that there were self-doubts leading up to this tournament. If this knock helps him to overcome them, it speaks well not just for his franchise but also for India.
Finally, with nothing to lose, Ambati Rayudu sliced open a quality Mumbai attack on the first night of the tournament. Two shots early into that innings told that India did miss a trick by ignoring him in the middle order in last year’s World Cup.
So where does Rayudu go from here? a hamstring niggle kept him away from the second game, but one gets the feeling that sooner than later the number 3 position in the CSK camp will be his for the taking.