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With 13 wickets from only six games, Sandeep Sharma is currently tied with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Mohit Sharma for the most wickets in Indian Premier League (IPL) 7. Shiamak Unwalla looks at what makes the young Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) medium pacer such a special find.
For the first time in six seasons of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) look like they may well reach the final four. On the face of it, the most obvious reason for their success is the duo of Glenn Maxwell and David Miller, who have been unstoppable with the bat. However, it must be noted that they haven’t struck gold in every match. And herein lies the major reason for Punjab’s success this season: they have a wonderful all-round side.
It is very easy — and also rather unfair — to attribute all the success of the Kings XI to “Killer Miller” and “SuperMax,” but the standout performer in many ways has been the unheralded medium-pacer Sandeep Sharma. The youngster didn’t play the first two games for Punjab, but has since taken a three-wicket haul on three separate occasions, twice against the same opponent.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Sandeep’s bowling has been his uncanny ability to take big wickets. He frequently strikes in his first spell, and invariably dismisses the most important batsmen in the side. He has taken 11 of his 13 wickets in his first spell, and has so far accounted for batsmen of the calibre of Gautam Gambhir, Dwayne Smith, Manish Pandey, Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli. He has bowled eight balls to Gayle, conceded four and got him out twice in two games against the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB). Against Kohli his record is even better: one boundary conceded and two dismissals in three balls bowled to him.
What this does is rob a side of any momentum it could possibly get at the top. His bowling performance against Chennai Super Kings (CSK) was crucial, even though his final bowling analysis read 4-0-37-1, because he was able to get rid of their main batsman, Dwayne Smith. In both games against RCB, he has caused them to go on the back foot very early, with the wickets of Gayle and Kohli in quick succession both times. When a team loses its two best batsmen within the first three overs, it will rarely be able to post/ chase down a big total.
Sandeep comes across as someone who loves to bowl. He usually has a smile on his face, and seems to enjoy talking about his bowling. This is heartening as it shows that he is a bowler with tremendous confidence. At the tender age of 20, he is already showing signs of being the leader of a bowling attack. He has comprehensively out-bowled Mitchell Johnson in terms of wickets taken and runs conceded, although it would be premature to call him India’s next bowling sensation. He is certainly someone to look out for, though, and in helpful conditions he is bound to be a handful.
With an eye on the upcoming tour to England, the Indian selectors could well be giving him serious thought. The idea of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Sandeep bowling in tandem on the swinging tracks in England is enough to make connoisseurs of new-ball bowling lick their lips in anticipation.
For now, Sandeep would do well to focus on maintaining his impressive run of form in this edition of the IPL, and go on getting the main batsmen of opposition teams out early. If he can keep running through the top order like he is now, Punjab will stand a very good chance of going all the way for the first time in the IPL.
(Shiamak Unwalla is a reporter with Cricket Country. He is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and Cricket fanatic who likes to pass his free time by reading books, watching TV shows, and eating food. Sometimes all at the same time. You can follow him on twitter at @ShiamakUnwalla)
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