As the IPL comes to a controversial end, some outstanding performances have dominated the last week. There were three teams in the fray for the fourth and final place in the playoffs and they did their best to try and edge themselves in.
The Royal Challengers had to win their final game against Chennai to put pressure on the Hyderabad team, and they did that in style in a rain curtailed game where Virat Kohli showed his rising stature as a batsman by smashing a quickfire half century. He led from the front by opening the innings in an eight overs per team game, and with Gayle as usual hammering the ball into the stands, it was a terrific farewell to the Bangalore fans by their team.
They may not have qualified, as the Hyderabad team won the next day and so beat them on points, but the win over their southern neighbours was a delicious one for Kohli and his gang. They know that for next year they will have to look long and hard at getting all rounders and also some local batsmen who can take the load of Kohli, Gayle and de Villiers.
The Hyderabad team played a brilliant final game to qualify, but looked as if they had expended their all in doing so, for they lost to Rajasthan despite Steyn once again bowling like the wind and making the batsmen look pretty inadequate.
The experience of Brad Hodge got the Rajasthan team over the line, but they too could not get past the Mumbai team who packed too many punches with their batting.
Experience also was the key in Azhar Mahmood’s display in the last few Punjab games. Given the chance to bat at the number three position, he grabbed it and blasted his way around in the company of Adam Gilchrist and gave the team a whiff of a chance to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, poor squad selection meant that they did not have replacements for players out of form, and so they had to go empty handed one again.
Two other senior batsmen, if one may use that word, have batted brilliantly in the tournament. Dwayne Smith for the Mumbai team and Mike Hussey for the Chennai team. Both open the batting, and in their own way, score at a terrific rate to pressurise the opponents.
Smith is a powerful hitter who smokes sixes just like fellow West Indians Gayle and Pollard do, and Hussey shows that orthodox batting also has a place in this format of the game.
Suresh Raina is another who is at home in this version, and he will be the first name in the selectors list when the T20 format teams are chosen. But it is Azhar Mahmood, for his batting and bowling, who is the Ceat International cricketer of the week.