Having played 10 matches each so far, the difference in quality of cricket shown by each of the eight teams has been quite stark. While defending champions Mumbai Indians and Delhi Daredevils have hardly given their fans much to cheer about, traditional giants Chennai Super Kings have once again showcased excellent temperament. Others like Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore have had a topsy-turvey tournament. One side though has managed to scale new highs like no other and has left both experts and critics stunned. Indeed, Kings XI Punjab have had a fairytale of an IPL so far.
Kings XI Punjab have been the team to beat this year - winning eight of their ten games. Six lifeless seasons in the past meant the team management needed to sit down and plan their strategies with precision. The franchise invested in skilled hitters and talented bowlers during the auctions earlier this year. It was a move that was going to pay rich dividends with coach Sanjay Bangar as the mentor.
While Bangar's local knowledge may have helped Kings XI, the likes of Glenn Maxwell, David Miller, Sandeep Sharma and skipper George Bailey have set the stage on fire with their superb cricketing skills. Maxwell for instance, was Punjab's biggest buy at a whopping price of Rs six crores. The Aussie did not disappoint -Â scoring 517 runs for his team and hitting big when it mattered the most.Â With four 50-plus scores in this tournament, the 25-year-old has helped his team chase two scores of 200-plus - one against Chennai Super Kings and the other against Sunrisers Hyderabad. His partnershipÂ with 'Killer' Miller has been one of the highlights of this year. Add Virender Sehwag's return to form and it has made for a terrific trio.
Kings XI through have not been just about strong veterans striking form and foreign imports going ballistic. Local players have also stepped up to the occassion and have performed for the team, making the Kings look like the true 'monarchs' of T20 cricket. Players like Manan Vohra, Wriddhiman Saha, Aksar Patel, Sandeep Sharma and Rishi Dhawan have performed to their potential - giving valuable support to the seniors.
The bowling -much like the batting card - has several feats to its credit. While Ashes hero Mitchell Johnson has taken 10 wickets this season, young Sandeep Sharma has been a revelation with 14 wickets. TheÂ 20-year-old has opened the bowling and his 'partnership' with Johnson has been lethal - one being a swing bowler and the other using his pace to good effect.
With all the components of this rampaging machine working in harmony, skipper Bailey can fancy his team's chances of not just storming into the playoffs but claiming the elusive title as well.