Tuesday, April, 23,2024

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IPL OFF TO A CRACKING START AS INDIAN PLAYERS VIE FOR SLOTS IN T20 WORLD CUP SQUAD

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has kicked off in grand style this season and has created a wave of excitement in its first week itself. Besides controversies, the glamour and the social media ‘chutzpah’, fans have been treated to excellent cricket by all teams. The current IPL season holds special significance as it precedes the T20 World Cup which begins just a week after the final. In such a scenario, the IPL is a crucial opportunity for youngsters to catch the eye of the selectors and also for the veterans to prove that they are still relevant in the T20 format. All this promises high-octane cricket as players strive to excel at the world’s most expensive cricket league.

It was an emotional start to the tournament though as Dhoni stepped down from the captaincy of the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) just a couple of days before the first match with Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB). Ruturaj Gaikwad took over from the 5-time IPL winning skipper. Dhoni is playing his final IPL and has clearly stated that he will be hanging his boots after the 2024 season.

The CSK campaign, under the new captain, began in style as they registered their first victory and defeated RCB by 6 wickets. While RCB posted a strong total, it was overhauled by the CSK batsmen with 8 balls to spare. In fact, after the first two games, CSK is at the top of the points table and undefeated along with Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) and Rajasthan Royals (RR).

In sharp contrast, another 5-time IPL winner Mumbai Indians (MI) have had a sloppy start with 2 losses in as many games. Unfortunately, instead of their cricket, it’s the controversies surrounding the leadership of the team that has kept MI in the headlines. The rival camps and divisions in the team have been fueling the rumor mills crazy and in both their matches, MI failed to chase the target which has pushed them to the bottom of the table.

It is already proving to be a season of big totals and high run-scoring. Till now, the batsmen have dominated the season. Interestingly, while all the talk before the tournament was about Virat not being in the scheme of things for the T20 World Cup, he has topped the run scoring charts till now. He holds the Orange Cap with 181 runs but has been unfortunate that RCB has lost 2 out of 3 games, despite his good form.

With only a few slots actually fixed for the World Cup team, many youngsters have been performing excellently to capture the remaining spots. Tilak Verma was phenomenal against the Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH), scoring 64 of just 34 balls even as MI fell short chasing a record 277 by 31 runs. From the SRH side, Abhishek Sharma was explosive in his 23 ball 63 knock as he hit the fastest ever fifty for an SRH batter in IPL history.

Among the rising young stars, none has shone as brightly as Riyan Parag from RR. His 84 not out in 45 balls ensured RR a competitive target against Delhi Capitals (DC). He played another splendid innings in the first match against Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) of 43 and is one of the reasons why RR is off to a fine start this season. He was almost written off after a poor show last season but has now made a great comeback and is currently 3rd on the top scorers list!

On the bowling front, India will be delighted that its top pacer- Jasprit Bumrah has continued his rich vein of form and picked up 3 wickets in the first match. In the second match, the record-scoring encounter against SRH, he was the most economical bowler on the night. Importantly, Indian fans would hope that he stays fit and ready for the World Cup as he will be the key weapon for India in their quest for an ICC title after a decade.

Although Bumrah is not in the top 3 wicket takers after the end of the first week, another pacer occupies the top spot in the list. Bangladesh fast bowler Mustafizur Rahman holds the Purple Cap with 6 wickets. His slow cutters have deceived most batters and he has led the CSK attack well.

As the IPL progresses, the anticipation for the World Cup is intensifying. Amid the frenzy, players must tread carefully to avoid injuries that could jeopardize their chances for the upcoming T20 World Cup. Even as they compete hard to win in the IPL and get a spot in the national squad, players need to maintain peak fitness and ensure that they perform at their best for the ultimate cricketing showdown.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Siddhaarth Mahan The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi film industry

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