After the thrilling action over the weekend, the Indian T20 League is gearing up for another week of intense action, as teams continue to jostle for a place in the top four.
Over the past few days, we have seen players making a return to form or a comeback from injury or simply marking their return in the playing XI with a brilliant performance.
Over the next three matches, I'll be keeping a keen eye on these following players:
Chennai – Ambati Rayudu
He was brilliant in the season-opener against Mumbai and I had him primed for a big season in that #3 position vacated by the absence of Suresh Raina. He missed a few games through injury but overall he’s been excellent for Chennai. He has already notched up 237 runs in just seven outings with the bat and for someone who’s never been known for his big-hitting ability, he does have a decent strike rate of 129.50 this season. He played a valuable knock against Delhi after a top-order collapse and was a bit unlucky to end up on the losing side, but regardless, he’s been great and I expect him to continue in the same vein for the remainder of the season.
Rajasthan – Robin Uthappa
Who doesn’t love a redemption ark? And we might be witnessing one with Robin Uthappa. He was having a pretty mediocre season and was even benched for youngster Yashasvi Jaiswal, but has been drafted back into the playing XI for the past few games. I don’t know what exactly prompted the decision, perhaps it was Uthappa being vocal about it to the team management, but he was sent to open in Rajasthan's last match and we saw a glimpse of the old Uthappa, who was so good for one of my teams, Kolkata, back in the day. He’s bought himself at least a couple of more innings as the opener with his performance against Bangalore and I hope he can capitalise on it.
Punjab – Chris Gayle
Punjab finally had Chris Gayle available to play and the Universe Boss showed why they were so desperate for his return to the starting XI. Batting in a new role at #3, Gayle smashed an entertaining half-century, playing a huge role in Punjab's victory over Bangalore and followed it up with a handy 21-ball 24 against Mumbai on Sunday. With Punjab’s middle-order struggle, I really believe Gayle can up the ante and take the team back to the winning ways.
Delhi – Axar Patel
One of the unsung heroes of Delhi's incredible season so far has been their lanky all-rounder, Axar Patel. He won them the game with the bat in their last game against Chennai, smashing Ravindra Jadeja for three sixes in the final over when Delhi needed 17. But what has truly gone unnoticed is how good he’s been with the ball for Delhi. Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje may be the ones who are stacking up the wickets column for Delhi, but the pressure Axar builds in the middle overs with his tight bowling and economical spells has benefited the team and its pacers immensely. His economy this season is just 5.50, which is just mind-boggling considering how high-scoring the season has been. I really enjoy watching Axar bowl and he will certainly be one to watch out for from the Delhi team.
Kolkata – Lockie Ferguson
The bowling action concerns of Sunil Narine forced Kolkata to do something I believe they should have done a while back, which is drafting Lockie Ferguson back in the playing XI. He was exceptional against Hyderabad, giving away just 15 runs in his four overs and also picking three wickets. His Super Over was simply sensational, bamboozling Warner with an off-speed delivery and then dismissing Abdul Samad with a peach. The Super Over may not count in the official statistics, but Lockie picked up five wickets in 4.3 overs for Kolkata while conceding just 17, by far the best I have seen him bowl in the Indian T20 League. Kolkata should persist with Ferguson and Pat Cummins as the two front-line pacers in the team.
Bangalore – Chris Morris
Bangalore raised a lot of eyebrows during the auction when they splurged big on Chris Morris, who spent the better part of the last two seasons on the bench at Delhi, but their decision is proving to be a masterstroke and the South African is delivering big time for Bangalore. So far in four matches, his economy rate is a scarcely believable 5.25, and he’s also picked up nine wickets, second behind Yuzvendra Chahal in the leading wicket-takers list for Bangalore this season. He's had only one opportunity with the bat so far and he ended up scoring 25 off eight balls in their loss against Punjab. Morris has elevated Bangalore to a different level since his return from injury and I expect him to continue his stellar form in the upcoming matches.
Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @IndianT20League