It was in Bangalore that Glenn Maxwell was the subject of a bidding war before Kings XI Punjab snapped him up for Rs 6 crore. On a mellow February morning it presented the opening act of IPL 7. Three-and-a-half months down the line, as the show returns to the garden city for its culmination on Sunday, the Punjab team management will bask in reflected glory of making the right choice.
Maxwell was the million-dollar man for Mumbai Indians last year but was not retained by his old franchise. Punjab pounced on the opportunity, outbidding others.
With 552 runs in 15 matches at a strike-rate of 188.39, Maxwell provided the X-factor that Punjab so badly needed. Though his form has dipped since the IPL moved to India, Maxwell’s initial pyrotechnics gave Punjab the confidence that they can go the distance this time.
Sunil Narine, unlike Maxwell, didn’t go under the hammer as Kolkata Knight Riders never thought about parting company with their shining light. He was retained by his franchise and once again justified his retainership fee of Rs 9.5 crore by taking 20 wickets in 15 matches at an exceptional economy rate of 6.01. Without Narine, Kolkata would not have played their second IPL final in three editions.
Twenty20 specialists are always in demand in the IPL, but not many of them live up to their reputation like Maxwell and Narine.
The Australian, however, is facing a sudden dip in form with only 35 runs in his last five matches. But he would still be Punjab’s best bet to take the game away from Kolkata. To perform the task, Maxwell, however, has to rein in Narine in the middle overs and it could be a fascinating contest between the two.
Class-acts, however, can outshine typecasts, even in this format. Virender Sehwag proved it once again with his 58-ball 122 against Chennai Super Kings in Qualifier 2. It was not the only awe-inspiring innings last night as Suresh Raina almost overshadowed him with a scarcely believable 25-ball 87 but ended up on the losing side. But Sehwag shouldn’t mind, for not only did his effort take his team to its first final but also gave him a big confidence boost ahead of a tougher challenge — the final.
Impact-wise, Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav are the best fast bowling pair of this tournament and their combined tally against Punjab this season reads nine wickets (Morkel 5, Yadav 4) in three matches. They will test Sehwag with pace and bounce. If the veteran opening batsman can repeat his Wankhede performance, Punjab have a real chance.
Robin Uthappa aspires not to be a stereotype and considers Test cricket his Holy Grail. But he must thank this IPL for providing him with a platform to revive his career. A total of 655 runs in 15 continued…