NEW DELHI: Former Indian batsman VVS Laxman sounded elated at the rousing start of the 14th edition of the Indian Premier League with a thrilling opening encounter between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.
In his column for the Times of India, Laxman wrote, “Season 14 of the IPL could not have asked for a better start. Defending champions Mumbai Indians and star-studded Royal Challengers Bangalore went toe-to-toe in the opener, the latter prevailing in a last-ball thriller. Harshal Patel was the star with his five-for, the perfect illustration of what the tournament intends to achieve. The IPL is a platform where talent meets opportunity. Harshal has been around for a while now, but performances like these on this stage do wonders for your confidence.”
Prithvi Shaw hit a 38-ball 72 in the second match as Delhi Capitals beat the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Chennai Super Kings by 7 wickets. And Laxman was effusive in his praise for Shaw.
“It was great to see Prithvi Shaw play with so much freedom in the second match. The volume of runs and the way he made them; suggest he is hurting from losing his place in the Indian team. That’s great to see from a youngster who has so much cricket ahead of him,” Laxman opined.
Kolkata Knight Riders beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 10 runs in the next match and Laxman, SRH mentor, didn’t hide his disappointment at the loss.
“It was disappointing for us at Sunrisers Hyderabad to go down to Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday. The 10-run margin might suggest a close contest, and while it’s true that we were two hits away from victory, I don’t think this was a complete performance by any stretch of the imagination. The bowlers will be especially hard on themselves. We pride ourselves on the strength and character of our bowling group, but we served up too many wide offerings in the Power Play and allowed Nitish Rana and Rahul Tripathi to get on top of us. The notable exception was the always-brilliant Rashid Khan. His mesmeric bag of tricks a treat to watch,” Laxman added.
Kolkata limited Hyderabad to 177/5 despite a quickfire 55 from England’s Jonny Bairstow and an unbeaten 61 by Manish Pandey.
“While we took our catches smartly, I felt we lacked the energy in the field that is generally our USP. Admittedly, it was the first match of the season and we have identified the areas that need work on. I am confident we will come back strongly in our next match against RCB on Wednesday,” Laxman wrote.
Half centuries from Nitish Rana (80) and Rahul Tripathi (53) formed the core of Kolkata’s 187/6, after being put into bat, despite Hyderabad making a strong comeback in the last five overs by claiming five wickets for 42 runs.
“While we had allowed KKR to score perhaps 15-20 runs more than par, we were confident at the halfway mark that we had the batting depth to chase the big target down. Our plans were hit by the early dismissals of David Warner and Wriddhiman Saha, but Jonny Bairstow and Manish Pandey resurrected the innings without allowing the required rate to get out of hand,” Laxman added.
Bairstow, who made 55 off 40 balls, and Pandey had raised Hyderabad’s hopes with a 92-run stand for the third wicket, but Australian fast bowler Pat Cummins brought Kolkata back into the game when he removed Bairstow.
“Jonny batted superbly, as we needed him to with Kane Williamson still needing a volume of batting in the nets to regain confidence after his elbow injury. But once Jonny got out, we lost momentum until Abdul Samad arrived with 38 needed off 12 balls. With a giant first ball six off Pat Cummins, the young man showcased not just his skills and talent, but also the composure and self-belief that is certain to take him places. It would have been great if he and Manish had taken us over the line, but despite being below par, we scrapped all the way and that’s something to build on,” Laxman signed off.