The Tale of two debutants
: Mohd Afaque Alam
With the end of the group stage, the ninth season of the Indian Premier League has reached to its penultimate over and everyone has already talked about Kohli’s brilliance in tough situations against mighty opponents and Mustafizur Rahman’s ability to vary his pace at will. Kohli’ hunger for runs in all formats of the game keeps him way ahead of his counterparts and his ability to stand tall against all odds, enjoys love of even those who love to hate him. While knockout matches of the tournament is about to begin, it would be great to look back and see where two new teams of the tournament stand and how they performed in this season.
On 14th of July 2015, when Chennai Super kings and Rajasthan Royals were suspended form the cash-rich league for two years for the betting activities of their key official Gurunath Meiyappan and Raj Kundra during the 2013 season, IPL was at the verge of losing its charismatic power to attract viewers of all ages but then on 8th of December 2015, IPL’s governing body decided to replace two suspended teams by two new ones to keep the competition’s balance intact and to make it as entertaining as previous seasons were.
Gujarat Lions, one of the two new franchises, selected a team full of energy and confidence and gave the responsibility of captaincy to Suresh Raina who is considered one of the best T20 players on home soil and IPL’s all time great. He had little experience of captaincy in domestic competitions as well as a few international matches in the absence of regular captains. A well-settled team with world’s two best openers in the format and great combination of domestic and international players made it a team to beat. They started the tournament with a bang and never looked back. Their openers gave strong starts consistently and were well backed by in-form middle order. As a result of their collective efforts, they ended up the group stage at the top of the table.
The other team of the two, injury-hit Rising Pune Supergiants led by ever reliable captain Mahindra Singh Dhoni who led suspended Chennai Super Kings to the trophy twice, seemed too much off color. Apart from the first game of the tournament against Mumbai Indians, they never looked confident on the field. M S Dhoni himself looked so much confused that I started to believe either he is someone else with same name on his jersey and with the same face, standing behind the stumps, leading a team of losers or he has lost his magic wand that won him name and fame all over the world. His own performance as well as his team selection in this edition was not satisfactory though he showed glimpses of his old days in the last match against Kings XI Punjab where he stayed till the end and won the match on his own.
One can always argue that it was more a tactical mistake made by KXIP’s inexperienced Captain Murali Vijay than Dhoni’s blistering innings that won the match but no one can deny what it takes to hit those sixes in the final over of the match. I still believe that tactically he has the ability to bounce back and that too with a bang and to surprise those who think his days are gone.