As I had said in my previous blog, IPL will undoubtedly be a success in South Africa. The colourful country rubs off its vivacity on everything it comes in contact with.
But never did I expect to see anxious South African faces and joined hands praying for their favourite Indian Premier League team's win. Perhaps the IPL shift has been a blessing in disguise. The tournament has become global in every sense. For me the only problem is the duration of the tournament. It's just too long.
However, it's just not only the venue that has added zing to the event but also the way the tournament has gone so far. Though the first phase is over, no team has so far emerged as the clear favourite. Barring the Knight Riders, no other team has been thoroughly consistent, in winning or losing. (No malice intended!)
The points table looks cluttered and I am afraid Net Run Rate might play the decider of the semi-finalists.
However, I have made a list of some faces who hogged the limelight for good and bad reasons in the fortnight gone by:
BLOCKBUSTER: Who other than Yusuf Pathan? This guy looks like a man possessed whenever he takes field for the Royals. Winning the maximum number of IPL Man of the Match awards speaks volumes about him. His attitude, power-hitting and all-round utility, makes him an asset. For me he is the next Royal in command, after Warne steps down.
LEADER: There are contenders like MS Dhoni, Shane Warne and recently capped Anil Kumble, but my pick is Adam Gilchrist. We know what Dhoni's capable of and we have seen what Warne can do. Post Pietersen's departure, Kumble has done a fabulous job, steering his side to back-to-back wins. But Gilly was exceptional. Finishing at the bottom of the table last year, the Deccan Chargers started this year's campaign on a high. Four consecutive victories with Gilchrist leading from the front set alarm bells ringing across the other seven teams. Despite a few losses, the Chargers look strong. Very strong.
MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER: Shadab Jakati. The Chennai left-arm spinner surprised everyone with his skill. He picked four wickets against Delhi Daredevils and powered his side to victory. His delivery that dismissed Tillakratne Dilshan was one to be proud of. That simply left the Sri Lankan all-rounder clueless. He was equally instrumental in Chennai's win against the Deccan Chargers. Who knows, Chennai hit the jackpot with Jakati.
SURPRISE/SHOCKER: Okay it was Durban. So what if that was the place where Stuart Broad got the beating of his life. Hold your horses, I am talking cricket. Punjab captain Yuvraj Singh had slammed six sixes against England in Durban. And here he achieved another rare feat. A hat-trick. I was astonished. I'm a self-confessed Yuvraj fan and always think very highly of him. Still this was something I didn't expect at all. Perhaps even he never did. The first year of the IPL saw three hat-tricks, all from full-time bowlers (Balaji, Amit Mishra & Ntini), but this year's hat-trick belongs to Yuvraj... I still don't believe this.
BIGGEST FAILURE: The list is too long but my pick is Knight Riders skipper Brendon McCullum. A failed batsman and an uninspiring captain, McCullum not only let down his owners and his team, but also his own reputation. What magnifies his failure is the fact that he was a major success last year and was in prime form during the recently concluded India-New Zealand series.
VILLAIN: He might be the hero of over a billion hearts, but his stint as a cricket team owner has not made the fans happier, especially the ones from Kolkata. From backing Buchanan's multiple-captain theory to dethroning Ganguly and crowning McCullum, SRK has been under fans' fury. His statement that he would not return to South Africa till his team started performing, only added fuel to the fire. Mr Khan, just one small advice - What is sport without sportsmanship? You don't leave your son alone when he fails to perform, do you? Remember, it's YOUR team.
BEST CAMEO: Many of you might think Andrew Flintoff deserves it hands down but No. My pick is the canine that intruded into the ground during the opening match between Mumbai and Chennai. Its sudden appearance on the ground made us all forget it was South Africa. It made us all feel at home, where it is a regular feature (Only the breed was different).
Let's see what else the IPL has in store for us in the coming days.