The Indian Premier League road show is bound for home following a brief soiree in the Middle East owing to security concerns emanating from the Indian elections. Following a round of five fixtures for each franchise, it is Kings XI Punjab who will be left wishing that they could roll up the wickets of Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Dubai.
Kings XI cruised along nicely in the desert, taking five wins from their five games against Chennai Super Kings, Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalore. Their terrific early form owes much to the devastating batting of Glenn Maxwell.
The Australian is miles ahead atop the run scoring charts with 300 runs at an average of 60.00 and a barely believable strike rate of 201.34. To say he’s in a purple patch is to understate things – Kings XI’s second top scorer, and the IPL’s fifth, is David Miller with 155 runs.
Maxwell tops the runs scoring charts, has hit the most sixes (17), has the highest individual score (95) and has the highest strike rate.
As you know, you need more than just runs to build a successful cricket team and Kings XI have been getting the best out of bowlers Lakshmipathy Balaji and Sandeep Sharma. Balaji, a man who flirted with international fame in eight Tests and 30 ODIs for India, has eight wickets so far. The 32 year old last played international cricket in 2012 in a T20 international. Whilst his ship has probably sailed in that respect, this is a reminder of his quality as a bowler.
12 years his junior, fellow right arm seamer Sharma has taken seven wickets. As Krishmar Santokie demonstrated for West Indies at the recent World T20, there is plenty of room for a canny medium pacer in this format of the game. He has taken as many wickets as his recently much vaunted Australian team mate, Mitchell Johnson.
It is still early days, but Kings XI already look a safe bet to finish in the top four.
At the directly opposite end of the table, Mumbai Indians prop up proceedings following a disastrous run of five defeats in five. For them, the return to home soil cannot come soon enough. The defending champions have been dire so far. Only Lasith Malinga has offered any promise to the Mumbai defence with eight wickets. The lack of runs is alarming and things need to turn around very quickly if Mumbai are to rescue a badly faltering campaign. As rings true in all sport, you cannot win a game or tournament early on, but you can certainly lose it. This is quickly becoming the case for Mumbai.
Elsewhere, perennial top four finishers Chennai are rolling along nicely in second place with four wins from five. They, too, look a safe bet (no pun intended) for a top four berth this year. Just below them with three wins from five are Rajathan. It is a promising start, but bigger guns lie just one win away behind them.
Kolkata, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi Daredevils all have two wins from five.
There is a long way to go and the pack will reshuffle itself a few times in the coming weeks. Already, however, it looks safe to pencil in Punjab and Chennai for the knock-out stages and to rule Mumbai out. It is also difficult to see anyone pinching the Orange Cap for the tournament’s leading run scorer from the head of Maxwell.
By Miles Reucroft