Five batsmen who could set the sixth season of the IPL on fire with the willow.
It is that time of the year again when 'tracer bullet' will be heard every other minute and gems like 'As you grow older you get better, unless you are a banana' will be bandied about every evening. A six from MS Dhoni on TV will not be followed by a replay, but by a frolic of skimpy clad cheerleaders cheering the shot and the fall of Sachin Tendulkar's wicket will be celebrated. It is Indian Premier League time and the sporting extravaganza's sixth edition promises to be another cracker.
Here then, is a look at a few batsmen who look set to thrill fans with the willow.
Born to play T20s and an IPL superstar, 'Gaylestorm' has so far pulverized every bowling attack that has come against him and to expect the Orange Cap holder for two consecutive years to just fire will be a gross underestimation. With the best IPL batting average of 50.11, the Jamaican is the main force behind Royal Challengers Bangalore's success in the tournament. In just 43 matches, Gayle has amassed 1804 runs - second to Suresh Raina's tally of 2254 runs in 81 matches.
Gayle, who has hit 129 sixes so far - the only batsman to have more than 100 sixes to his name in IPL -roared back into form just ahead of the league against Zimbabwe in the home series cracking a century against the minnows. Instead of going slam bang from the word go, Gayle tends to explode after getting his eye in, thus taking the run-rate to dizzying heights in no time. It' tough to envision Gayle tampering with this method of scoring in IPL 6.
He might be criticized for being a fish out of pond in Tests, but in the IPL Raina leads the way and transforms himself into one of the best T20 players after donning the bright yellow of Chennai Super Kings. An important cog in the wheel of the Dhoni-led team, Raina has played the most number of IPL matches (81) and is at the top of the run-scoring charts (2254). Normally batting at Nos 3 or 4, his massive heaves over the midwicket region have led CSK to many victories. Raina had a pretty average IPL 5 and will be raring to give it a go this time around.
AB de Villiers
Probably the best limited-overs player in international cricket, the South African is a true allrounder capable of leading the side apart being an exemplary fielder and a master of T20 batting; add to that his wicketkeeping skills and de Villiers is the epitome of an IPL rock star. Aided with red hot form, his scores against Pakistan in the recent series - 31, 103*, 61, 36, 121, 36, 65, 4, 128, 75 and 95*, de Villiers will be too much for the bowlers and teams to handle even if they succeed in withering the 'Gaylestorm'.
The captain of the defending champions, Kolkata Knight Riders, Gambhir finished IPL 5 as the second highest run-getter with 590 runs in 17 matches but there were rumours that he might miss a few matches due to jaundice. The Delhi batsman, though, has quashed such reports and insists he will be ready to take the field as the leader of KKR. Dropped recently from the Indian Test squad, Gambhir would be aiming to get into the good books of the selectors and get his form back. KKR would be hoping that their captain can retain his last 2012 form as well.
Quinton de Kock
The 20-year-old South African is viewed as a long term prospect to replace de Villiers behind the stumps for the country, and the Highveld Lions opener comes into the IPL with a big reputation as a hard-hitter and as a replacement for Kumar Sangakkara for Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Johannesburg-born de Kock recently smashed 126 runs in a South African Twenty20 Challenge match - the highest score made in the country in the shortest form of the game. With five fifties and a century to his name in domestic T20s so far, de Kock could pack a punch on the flat Indian tracks and has the potential to be the breakthrough star of this season.
These are just a few of the plethora of world class batting talent on display in IPL 6 and a few notable mentions for the list would be Virender Sehwag and David Warner (Delhi Daredevils), Mandeep Singh and David Hussey (Kings XI Punjab), Ajinkya Rahane (Rajasthan Royals) and Rohit Sharma (Mumbai Indians).