As a former cricket expert and a writer, I never found any joy in writing about IPL matches. No, I don’t belong to the “purists” who think IPL is killing cricket, I just never found enough material to analyse and pen down.
Yes, the “Yes” Bank maximums were always there but that’s not what cricket is about, is it? For me, the IPL is a good two months of fun, where I can sit back, relax, enjoy and marvel at KKR’s innovative ways of losing games.
However, when you are entertained, you do need to leave a note of appreciation. The Kings XI Punjab have amazed me this season. I had always had a soft spot for the Mohali side because of their owner and their kit. My heart skips a beat whenever I see Priety Zinta’s dimples and I certainly admired their kit’s strong resemblance with Arsenal.
That was it. But this season, they have added a few more to that list.
It started with the auction. They meant business, bought big and landed an ensemble of very useful players. What struck was their clarity in thinking. The management knew who and what they wanted. Everybody acknowledged the business they did but no one ever anticipated the devastation that they have caused till now.
Kings XI Punjab has been destructive yet beautiful. Their batting can strike fear into any opposition and their bowling, the weak link, has begun to gain structure. However, the most refreshing and attractive part (apart from PZ’s smile) has been their free-spirited display and their intent to entertain.
The Maxwell-Miller show has been phenomenal and their performances have rubbed off confidence on the rest of the squad. Right now, they look invincible. Sandeep Sharma is swinging it a mile, Akshar Patel is bang on target and even Virender Sehwag is showing flashes of his brilliance.
But against the Royal Challengers, it was Shivam Sharma who took every cricket lover’s breath away.
Who is Shivam Sharma?
Go Google him. Even Cricinfo doesn’t have much idea – Delhi U-19s, right-hand bat, right arm off-break – that’s all you will get.
According to Cricinfo, the game against RCB was his debut at national level and what a debut it was. No, I am not talking about the wickets he took or the tight line he bowled. This 1993 born turned the clock back and took us into the era where off-spin bowling was an art-form and not a super market of 36,000 variations.
A high-arm, side-on action coupled with an impressive turn on the toes, this 21-year old bowled traditional off-spin for four overs and foxed the mighty batting line-up of the Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Much like Graeme Swann, he flighted the ball, imparted loop, got it to drift and made Yuvraj Singh and Albie Morkel dance to his artistry. He pitched the ball on off-stump and turned it away from the left-handers. He got lofted by AB de Villiers a couple of times into the stands but not for a single delivery, did the young man from Delhi cut down on his flight and pushed it through.
He probably doesn’t know how to bowl a doosra and perhaps lacks the expertise of the carrom ball. He may not go on to play for India and might never become a star, but what he did with traditional off-spin against RCB, should be a lesson for the likes of Harbhajan Singh, R. Ashwin and Sunil Narine.
That’s what Punjab has done commendably this IPL. They have let their players be fearless. According to Glenn Maxwell, there’s no pressure to perform in this side. No one talks about finals and all everyone is worried about is enjoying the next game.
And boy, aren’t they enjoying themselves! The captain is ever smiling and although, I am not a fan of George Bailey, you can’t deny the calmness he has brought to this team. He isn’t the greatest cricketer on the park but he looks in control. He hardly comes out to bat, waltzes around the field in the most laid back manner, doesn’t wave his arms around and looks to be having fun even when the opposition is on top.
And it is this “having fun” attitude of the Kings XI that’s sending chills down the spines of the opponents. Even the Chennai Super Kings collapsed in front of them, twice.
Frankly speaking, Kings XI Punjab has been one of the underdogs for some time now. So, who deserves the credit for this turn around? Who masterminded their resurgence? Priety Zinta? Ness Wadia? George Bailey? Sanjay Bangar? Or is it just “one of those” seasons where everything falls in place?
Experts will have a dozen of opinions for what has clicked for Kings XI but as a cricket fan, do you really want to analyse something that’s so entertaining?
I certainly don’t. That’s the beauty of IPL, it guarantees entertainment. The Kings XI have nailed it so far – the perfect cast, a great script and a sensational opening sequence.
Can they deliver a killer ending?
I really don’t care. The Punjabis are in the house and are rocking it Yo Yo style!
This 2014 edition of Kings XI Punjab is already Priety Zinta’s biggest blockbuster till date!