New Delhi: The 15th edition of the Indian Premier League has passed the halfway mark after a month of high-octane action in the world’s richest Twenty20 cricket tournament.
AFP Sport looks at five talking points from the first half of the season.
1. Smiling assassin
Jos Buttler has smiled his way to the top of this season’s batting chart with three sparkling centuries for Rajasthan Royals. The soft-spoken Englishman has been a bowler’s nightmare with 491 runs in seven matches to take Royals into the top four of the 10-team table. His latest 65-ball knock of 116 against Delhi Capitals puts him in with a chance of chasing Virat Kohli’s 2016 record of 973 runs in a season.
“Jos has a cheat code for batting,” England fast bowler Jofra Archer tweeted.
2. Kohli flops
The former India captain and national superstar Kohli has been struggling with the worst slump of his stellar career after two successive golden ducks for Royal Challengers Bangalore. Kohli has managed just 119 runs from eight matches, following his lacklustre recent form for his country with the prolific run scorer unable to manage an international century for more than two years.
Disbelief after dismissal, a wry smile and a dejected walk back to the pavilion have been familiar sights for “King Kohli” this IPL season.
Batting great Sunil Gavaskar said it is “anxiety” to get going that is playing on the star batsman’s mind.
3. Powerhouses tumble
Mumbai Indians and defending champions Chennai Super Kings have won nine of the 14 IPL titles since the league was launched. But the powerhouse teams are languishing at the bottom of the standings with Mumbai winless and Chennai managing just two victories from eight.
Mumbai skipper Rohit Sharma, who has made just 153 runs, blamed his batsmen, including himself, after the latest loss to Lucknow Super Giants when failing to chase down 168.
Fans have backed a turnaround and Rohit has acknowledged their “faith and undying loyalty to this team so far”.
4. Titanic debut for Gujarat
IPL debutants Gujarat Titans have been the team to beat this year and sit on top of the table with six wins out of seven matches.
All-rounder Hardik Pandya has led from the front with 295 runs and four wickets off his pace bowling.
Afghanistan spin wizard Rashid Khan has also shone with the ball, and a match-winning batting blitz, while South African David Miller made an unbeaten 94 to stun Chennai.
Gujarat have also shocked two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders and former India opener Wasim Jaffer called them a “surprise package”.
5. Umpires get Pant fuming
Delhi Capitals skipper Rishabh Pant almost called his batsmen from the field to protest against an umpire’s call against Rajasthan Royals during an ill-tempered match last week.
The drama happened on the third ball of the final over when Obed McCoy bowled a high full toss that Delhi believed should have been called a no-ball for being above the waist.
Pant and assistant coach Pravin Amre, who walked on to the pitch, were both fined 100 per cent of their match fee. Amre was also suspended for one match.
Umpiring controversies are not new to IPL. Mahendra Singh Dhoni walked onto the field in 2019 to protest at a no-ball call and was docked 50 per cent of his match fee.