KP and Gayle come to the IPL party
The big guns are starting to fire in the IPL. This tournament is made for the world super stars to strut their stuff on a platform where 'rock star' status in cricket-crazy India spurs them on to spectacular performances.
Kevin Pietersen has never shied away from the glamour side of the game and he is relishing the platform of the IPL at present. Pietersen has come back from a run-scoring drought that lasted for a long time. He recaptured his batting form for England and the lesser demands of the IPL are like pennies from heaven to him.
He is playing superbly on the flat Indian pitches. He also dominates the local Indian bowlers and he has a real presence on the field in this environment. The success that Kevin Pietersen is having has contributed largely to the fact that the the Delhi Daredevils is a force in the competition.
Chris Gayle is having a similar effect on the Royal Challengers Bangalore as Pietersen has on the Delhi Daredevils. The Gayle factor is huge for the Royal Challengers at the top of the order. He has awesome power and like Pietersen flourishes on the batting-friendly Indian surfaces. The small boundaries also add to the fear that Gayle inspires in the hearts of the bowlers.
It is crazy to think that a player like Chris Gayle is not on the international stage. He does pretty well following the international T20 circuit around the world, but surely sanity will prevail at some point so that we see him back in West Indian colours. The West Indies board must be targeting Gayle for the World T20 in September.
For those who follow the IPL, the tournament has just about reached the halfway mark. The Delhi Daredevils and the Royal Challengers Bangalore are in with a shot. So are the Chennai Super Kings who have a very well balanced squad. The Rajasthan Royals have been a surprise packet but they will find it difficult to keep the momentum all the way through the tournament, particularly away from home. So will the Mumbai Indians who have just lost Lasith Malinga to an injury.
It should pan out that Chennai, Delhi and Bangalore go all the way through to the playoffs. The true contest will be for the remaining position in the elimination round. That is what the form book suggests. However, this the IPL and the unexpected are always on the cards.
As has happened in the past the middle phase of the tournament is a cooling off period. The excitement of the early rounds has worn off. Everyone is waiting to see how things pan out before the intensity picks up again closer to the playoff phase. Hopefully the standard of play will remain high enough to justify the importance of the event. The challenge for the teams almost out of contention is to keep morale up and try and remain competitive to the end.
This is no easy task due to different pressure coming to bear on less successful teams. The competition becomes a long one for those teams. Players, coaches and management have to work hard to keep the intensity, interest and enthusiasm high enough to perform adequately against the more fancied teams. This is no easy task. It is much easier in a winning environment where self-motivation is less of a problem.