It has arrived almost six months late but the fervour and vigour of IPL is finally upon us. Along with the much awaited contests between the eight franchises, the IPL also presents intriguing battles between players highlighting the recently evolved trend of match-ups. Here are the top five player battles from the league’s history which have enthralled fans:
Shreyas Gopal vs Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers
Having made his debut in IPL debut in 2014, Shreyas Gopal did not get consistent chances in the XI until he was taken by Rajasthan Royals in 2018. Gopal has made beating the best his habit and his favorite victims have been none other but two of the most celebrated batsmen in the competitions’s history - Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers.
In the four games between Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore since 2018, Gopal has dismissed both Kohli and de Villiers every single time he has bowled to them - Kohli thrice in three innings and de Villiers in each of the four innings. Moreover, the duo has managed only 45 runs against Gopal underlining their struggle against the leggie - majorly in picking his googly.
Since RCB’s batting revolves largely around these two, RCB have not been able to beat RR since 2018 owing to Gopal’s brilliance. Gopal's spell of 4 for 16 against RCB in 2018 helped RR to qualify for the play-offs in what was a knockout game for both teams.
Amit Mishra vs Kieron Pollard
While Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers have struggled against the guile of Shreyas Gopal, Mumbai Indians’ Kieron Pollard has hammered India’s most experienced leg-spinner in the competition, Amit Mishra. Pollard has tonked 135 runs off only 79 deliveries from Mishra. He has also carved Mishra for 14 sixes - the most by any batsman against a particular bowler in IPL history which further establishes Pollard’s superiority.
During the clash between Mumbai Indians and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Dubai in 2014, Pollard demolished Mishra for 47 runs off 18 balls which comprised of five maximums. The only time Mishra got the better of Pollard was in 2015 while playing for Delhi Daredevils. The two players did not come up against each other in the 2019 season.
Ravi Ashwin vs Chris Gayle
Chris Gayle is one of the toughest batsmen to contain for most of the bowlers but even in his prime, Ravi Ashwin holds the edge over him. While Gayle is always seen respecting the off-spinners - strike-rate of 113.2, his least against all kind of bowling in IPL - he still averages 35.9 runs per dismissal against them. However, Ashwin knows how to get him out dismissing him four times in eight face-offs.
Aware of Gayle’s struggles against Ashwin, MS Dhoni gave Ashwin the new ball in the 2011 IPL final. Ashwin responded by bagging Gayle on the third ball of the innings for a duck which paved the way for Chennai’s second IPL title. Just few days ago, Ashwin had also dismissed Gayle in the fourth over of the innings in the qualifier for the final, which Chennai won again, thanks to Ashwin’s dominance over the swashbuckling opener.
The two match-winners have not turned up against each other since 2015. Ashwin did not feature in 2017 and he has been in the same team as Gayle’s for the subsequent two seasons in 2018 and 2019. With Punjab trading Ashwin to Delhi, the contest between one of the most aggressive openers and off-spinners in T20 cricket can catch eyeballs again in the 2020 season.
Lasith Malinga v AB de Villiers
Lasith Malinga is the all-time leading wicket taker in IPL. However, none of his 170 scalps in IPL involve the prized wicket of AB de Villiers. On the other hand, the maverick South African batsman has milked Malinga for 124 runs from the 61 balls he has faced from him.
De Villiers’ unique style of playing 360 degrees which keeps his body low eventually puts him in a great position to counter Malinga’s yorkers or low full-tosses coming in from a slinging arm. As a result, a heavy majority of de Villiers’ runs against Malinga have come through the leg-side.
During his incredible knock of 41 off 11 balls against Mumbai in 2015, de Villiers slammed 22 runs off five balls against Malinga. In the two games versus Mumbai in 2019, the Bangalore batsman smashed an aggregate of 48 runs off 15 balls.
Malinga has a pretty average record against RCB and de Villiers convincing record against him is a big reason behind it.
Sunil Narine v Rohit Sharma
While Rohit Sharma has a similar average against spin and pace in IPL, his strike-rate against spinners is only 110 as compared to 145.1 against pacers. The Mumbai Indians’ skipper doesn’t go after spinners, especially if it is the mystery of Sunil Narine who has also nailed him a record six times in IPL, the most by any bowler.
Five out of the 10 times these two have come up against each other (minimum 5 balls between the two), Rohit has scored at a strike-rate of 110 or less. On other 5 occasions when their contest has been curtailed to less than five deliveries, Narine has taken him thrice.
Four times, Rohit has been dismissed by Narine on his homeground - Wankhede Stadium - giving a sweeter tinge to the off-spinner’s mastery over one of the greatest batsmen of modern-day cricket.