By Karthik Parimal
The fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) has already featured a few exciting contests. Players who were expected to steal the show have done so by playing to the galleries thus far. There have also been quite a few individual performances by some unexpected names that have injected life into this IPL. However, it is the men from the Caribbean who have livened up this tournament that probably would have been a sombre carnival in their absence. The likes of Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kevon Cooper have made their presence felt within the first few days of this season’s IPL.
Pollard has been an integral part of the Mumbai Indians’ (MI) side since the last few seasons. A livewire on the field, Pollard has the ability to bail his side out of trouble with his all-round performances. His innings of 64 against the Rajasthan Royals (RR) that propelled MI to their highest score in this IPL gave us a glimpse of his dexterity with the bat.
Later in that game, he picked four wickets to give his side a thumping win. Although these are still early days in the IPL, Pollard is currently the leading run-scorer for MI, and also the third highest wicket-taker, behind teammates Munaf Patel and Lasith Malinga. There is no dearth of entertainment when Pollard is on the field. His celebratory dance after taking a catch or dismissing a batsman is a delight to watch. He certainly adds a lot of value to this Mumbai Indians’ squad.
Gayle, too, is an equally destructive force with the bat, and it is no wonder then that the Royal Challengers of Bangalore (RCB) depend so heavily on him to get them off to a flying start. He was instrumental in steering RCB to the final of the Champions League in 2011. In the six games he played, Gayle scored 257 runs at an average of 42.83 and a strike-rate of 178. A few months prior to the Champions League, Gayle grabbed the Orange Cap for scoring the highest number of runs in the fourth edition of the IPL. Despite having played only 12 matches, he amassed 608 runs at a brilliant average of 67.55 and strike-rate of over 183.
By the looks of it, Gayle is all set to replicate those performances this time around as well. This was evident during his stupendous knock of 68 in just 35 balls against the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) a few days ago. It would augur well for RCB if he keeps going.
Another West Indian player who has contributed tremendously to his IPL franchise’s progress since the last few seasons is Dwayne Bravo. Like Pollard and Gayle, Bravo too can be destructive with the bat, efficient with the ball, and can charge up his side with some electrifying performance on the field. Not surprisingly, Bravo is currently among the leading run-scorers in this year’s IPL despite not having scored any fifties yet. This shows how vital his contributions have been coming lower down the order. His 18-ball 43 against the Deccan Chargers (DC) was a testimony of his adroitness with the bat. Also, his unbeaten 25 of 15 balls that helped CSK chase down a mammoth 205 against the RCB highlights Bravo’s importance in the side. There is no doubt that as the tournament progresses, Bravo will continue to play a significant role for Chennai.
This IPL has thrown into spotlight another young West Indian in the form of Cooper, who has already come up with some match-winning performances for Rajasthan Royals (RR). Albeit having played for Trinidad & Tobago (TT) earlier, Cooper shot to fame only recently. He is currently the highest wicket-taker for Rajasthan having picked eight wickets in just three games. He also showed that he was no mug with the bat when he walked out to the middle in the penultimate over of the game against the Kings XI of Punjab. With such performances, he can soon expect to be a part of the West Indian Twenty20 squad.
It has been a Caribbean show in this IPL thus far. With the T20 World Cup commencing in just a few months, it could be a positive omen for the West Indies. The fact that they have such brilliant all-rounders at their disposal is definitely a huge bonus. Moreover, West Indies as a team appears to be improving with every game it plays. Players like Pollard, Bravo, Cooper and, possibly, Gayle when teamed alongside Darren Sammy, Ravi Rampaul, Sunil Narine etc. cannot be taken lightly. Together, they comprise a formidable unit, at least in the shorter version of the game. The other nations must be wary of the West Indies in the forthcoming T20 World Cup.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)