A look back at the first two weeks of the IPL and what has been notable about it, in particular the way teams have been dependent on certain individuals.
Chris Gayle scoring = RCB winning Ravi Rampaul and R Vinay Kumar can say otherwise, but Royal Challengers Bangalore's success is interlinked with Chris Gayle. The big-hitting West Indian has clicked big time in two of RCB's four matches, and both times they have won. Of the three times Gayle has failed, RCB have lost twice. The time they did win owed to a spectacular innings from Virat Kohli, but that was a one-off. Gayle's two single-digit scores have come in defeats to RCB. Much like in 2011 and 2012, the team's fortunes rest on how Gayle bats. It's one of the truisms of the IPL.
Harbhajan and Ponting can get along c Ponting b Harbhajan. Yes, it actually happened and you can thank the IPL for making it happen. The two cricketers, who first locked horns in 1998 when Harbhajan was a young upstart and Ponting still to become a world-beater, are now sharing a dressing room and getting along rather famously, at least on the field.
A brief history of the two: in his first season of international cricket, Harbhajan gave Ponting a send-off after dismissing him during an ODI in Sharjah. Ponting replied in similar manner. Since then there has been no love lost. In seven Tests against Australia, Harbhajan has dismissed Ponting ten times - five times caught. In ODIs, Harbhajan has had Ponting's number thrice, of which two were caught.
On the night of April 9, however, a very different sort of dismissal was marked in the IPL scorecards - c Ponting b Harbhajan. Ponting, captaining Mumbai Indians in IPL 6, have Harbhajan the first over of Delhi Daredevils' chase at the Wankhede Stadium. Unmukt Chand got a leading edge and Ponting ran to his right, dived and came up with an outstanding one-handed catch. One of the first to embrace the Australia was Harbhajan, who in fact leapt onto his skipper and embraced him in a bear hug that the shutterbugs had a field day with. Who says money can't buy you friendship?
Age doesn't matter if your mind's young Rahul Dravid was named coach of Rajasthan Royals for IPL 6, having captained the side last season. At the age of 40, Dravid has made two half-centuries in four innings and leads Rajasthan's run charts. In the first game he smacked 65 off 51 balls to claim the Man-of-the-Match award. Against Pune, after top-scoring with 54 off 48, the only fifty of Rajasthan's innings, Dravid plucked a sensational one-handed catch at short midwicket off a flat-batted pull shot from Robin Uthappa. Keeping fit and in shape with a bunch of young cricketers seems to have kept Dravid in top shape.
Steven Smith should be playing a lot more To see Steven Smith sit on the bench for Pune Warriors' first four matches left a lot of people, including some on-air commentators and former players on Twitter, very surprised. With a reputation of being a superb fielder and innovative hitter of a cricket ball, Smith's being omitted from the playing XI of a side lacking bit hitters did seem odd. Especially considering he was a regular in IPL 5.
When finally given a game for Pune's fifth match against heavyweights CSK, Smith played a match-winning hand of 39 off 16 balls to set a competitive total, and then he held three outfield catches as the hosts were deflated. Smith was a shoo-in for Man of the Match, making the team's decision to bench him for four matches all the more puzzling.
Ravindra Jadeja is RCB's bogey man Rewind to April 12, 2012 in Chennai. CSK, chasing 206 to win, were left to score 42 off the final 12 balls. Albie Morkel looted 28 of those in six deliveries from a hapless Virat Kohli, and in the final over Dwayne Bravo top-edged a no-ball for four and slashed a one-handed six over third man before Ravindra Jadeja edged the last ball to third man to seal an unforgettable win. Seemingly out of the contest after MS Dhoni fell on the last ball of the 18th over, Chennai pulled off an outrageous victory.
Cut to April 13, 2013 in Chennai. CSK need 29 from 12 balls, then lose MS Dhoni and Dwayne Bravo in the 19th over bowled by Rampaul. That leaves the target at 16 from six balls, with Jadeja batting on 26. The first ball from RP Singh goes for four, the second for six down the ground. Six needed off four. RP concedes a single, double and single to leave Jadeja needing two runs off the final ball. And what happens next? With a strong on-side field, RP bowls it short and wide and Jadeja slashes, only to slice it straight to third man. As RCB started to celebrate, the umpire's outstretched hand was spotted and instead it was CSK who erupted. RP had bowled a no-ball. The déjà vu was unmistakable. Last ball, Jadeja slashing the ball to third man for the winning runs.
"Only Sir Jadeja can get out and win the match," was the viral joke doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook after the humdinger. But jokes apart, Jadeja is shaping up onto a real RCB bully.