Virat Kohli and 10 IPL Players to Watch in the Next 7 Days and Why
Virat Kohli is among a collection of superstars who are yet to hit the heights expected of them in this season's ongoing Indian Premier League.
Watching the Indian phenomenon, who set alight the recent ICC World Twenty20, will undoubtedly be compelling viewing this week, as Kohli looks to steer his talented Bangalore side towards the upper reaches of the points table.
However, Kohli isn't the only player to keep an eye on this week.
Through both poor form and unexpected success, there will undoubtedly be an array of storylines that will keep the tournament's observers gripped over the coming week.
Across the following slides, we examine 10 players to watch closely over the next seven days of the IPL.
It hasn't quite gone to plan for Virat Kohli in the latest edition of the IPL thus far.
In six innings at the helm of his powerful Bangalore outfit, the pre-eminent Indian star has compiled a meagre 105 runs at a relatively subdued strike rate of 110.52.
Those numbers are in stark contrast to those registered by Kohli at the recent ICC World Twenty20, where the precocious talent blasted 319 runs at an average of 106.33 to effectively end the discussion regarding the identity of the world's most glittering batsmen.
Consequently, watching the Bangalore captain over the coming seven days will be fascinating viewing, as he attempts to steer his star-studded but under-performing team towards the standard being set by the runaway Chennai and Punjab outfits.
Successfully navigating that path while attempting to rediscover his own personal form will be a challenge Kohli has rarely faced in his sparkling career to date.
Can "The Big Show" keep it up? His opponents will hope not.
It's hard to remember a more spectacular stretch of T20 batting than the one currently being put together by Australia's Glenn Maxwell.
After shining in Bangladesh at the World T20 where he clattered his runs at a colossal strike rate of 210.00, the 25-year-old has stunned crowds in the UAE and India at this season's IPL with some of the most daring performances ever witnessed.
Carrying on from his magnificent performances in Australian colours, Maxwell has crunched 345 runs from six innings in this tournament so far, doing so at a strike rate of 196.02.
In doing so, the limited-overs phenomenon has led Punjab to the top of the tournament's points table, and should he continue his blistering run of form, George Bailey's side will prove mightily difficult to overcome.
Essentially, the question is: Can Maxwell continue like this?
Taking charge of a team for the first time can be a daunting enough prospect on its own. But when that occurs under the glaring spotlight that exists on the subcontinent, the tribulations of the player in question can be compelling to observe.
That is certainly true for Shikhar Dhawan who, after making a strong impact for Sunrisers Hyderabad in 2013, has ascended to the captaincy for the franchise for this season's tournament.
What has resulted has been a tense-looking Dhawan throughout the competition thus far; a man who has appeared distinctly different from the unflappable character who had performed brilliantly at the top of India's line-up since the beginning of last year.
Like Kohli, the left-hander is attempting to recapture his own form with the bat, while at the same time trying to haul his struggling team towards the semi-final places on the points table.
With opportunities to do that against Rajasthan and Delhi this week, Dhawan's performances will be intriguing to watch.
The IPL is supposed to represent the natural habitat of England's untameable beast in Kevin Pietersen.
However, despite the nature of the tournament seemingly presenting a hand-in-glove fit for the English renegade, Pietersen has struggled to get going so far.
After missing his side's opening three matches, the South African-born star has failed to pass 26 in his four innings, leaving his Delhi Daredevils outfit second last on the points table with the competition's worst net run rate.
Watching Pietersen respond to his own struggles, in addition to those belonging to his team, will be one of the tournament's major storylines over the next seven days.
Certainly, the 33-year-old possesses the blistering talent capable of turning the course of this year's IPL on its head, but it also must be remembered how much Pietersen thrives on momentum and how difficult it can be to turn form around in the frenetic T20 arena.
As Australia's muscular line-up stumbled at the World T20 in Bangladesh, one felt that the cool Steve Smith represented the perfect counter-balance to the team's misguided hubris.
In the subsequent and ongoing IPL tournament, that perception has become more evident as the composed Australian has helped his team to an impressive 5-2 record.
While far from the competition's most prolific players, Smith's intelligent cricket drove Rajasthan to victory over Kolkata in a deciding super over last week, and it was only Glenn Maxwell's heroics that prevented his late-innings blast from delivering another victory over Punjab a week earlier.
What has also been evident in this IPL campaign is that Shane Watson's Royals appear to embody the cricketing nous that is so obviously inherent in Smith. Despite a paucity of world-recognised stars, Rajasthan is a team equal to far more than the sum of the squad's parts.
As the franchise looks for another strong week to strengthen its grip on a semi-final place, Smith's cool contributions could prove pivotal to the team's fortunes.
Like a handful of others on this list, Darren Sammy arrived at this season's IPL with a burgeoning reputation as one of the world's finest T20 players.
After thumping the West Indies into the semi-finals of the ICC World T20, the often unruffled West Indian captain looked set to be a powerful weapon for Sunrisers Hyderabad in this season's glamour event in India.
Instead, Sammy has struggled with the bat in limited opportunities, while his work with the ball has been far below the standard expected by the team's captain, Shikhar Dhawan.
Sammy's malaise is reflected in his numbers to this point, with just 62 runs from six innings and just three wickets at an economy rate of 10.90.
With the Hyderabad team looking top heavy, it could be time for the imposing 30-year-old to move up the order to make better use of his hitting ability, which in turn could relieve a degree of tension from Sammy when he has the ball in hand.
Based on results across the last two seasons of the IPL, it's clear that Dwayne Smith is among the most influential T20 players on the planet.
In 2013, the West Indian batsman helped to power the Mumbai Indians to the IPL title with consistently forceful hitting at the top of the team's order.
Now a component of the imposing Chennai Super Kings, Smith appears capable of propelling his team to triumph this year after completing a sensational seven-game stretch in which he's hammered 335 runs at a strike rate of 146.28.
That was on show against Delhi on Monday, as Smith bashed 79 from just 51 balls to see MS Dhoni's team canter towards its chase of 179.
If Smith continues his current form alongside Brendon McCullum, Chennai will be impossibly tough to stop for the remainder of the IPL.
Throughout the recent World T20, the likes of Sunil Narine, Rangana Herath and Ravichandran Ashwin attracted both attention and plaudits for their sublime spinning performances against the world's most powerful strikers.
That theme was always expected to continue in this season's IPL, and Narine in particular has been brilliant for Kolkata with his deceptive variations.
However, little-known Yuzvendra Chahal is also making a name for himself at this year's tournament, having claimed seven wickets at an economy rate of just 5.69—the best mark among the competition's top 50 bowlers.
After struggling to make an impact with Mumbai, the 23-year-old leg-spinner is proving to be an extremely useful option for Virat Kohli's Bangalore side, which has had to lean on its bowlers far more than one would have thought, given the team's star-studded batting line-up.
If Chahal can continue to stifle opponents, he could become the find of the tournament.
Just how much more heartache can Gautam Gambhir take in this season's IPL?
Indeed, it has reached the point where it's impossible not to feel a touch of empathy for the former Indian star, who is enduring a miserable campaign thus far.
After narrowly avoiding the dreaded "Audi" by scoring one run against Punjab on April 26 to break a string of three consecutive ducks, the Kolkata captain has watched his side squander two fantastic opportunities against the Rajasthan Royals in successive weeks.
The latter of those matches will likely be remembered for one of the most stunning collapses ever witnessed in the IPL, as Kolkata lost six wickets for two runs in the space of seven balls after being comfortably on the way to a handsome victory.
Watching Gambhir attempt to restore the confidence and morale of his beleaguered side will be fascinating to watch this week.
When Bangalore took on Punjab last Monday, it briefly looked as though the IPL was ready to witness another unfathomable performance by Chris Gayle.
In his first six balls faced, the powerful West Indian crunched two fours and two sixes to set alight an encounter bristling with superstar talent.
Unfortunately, Gayle succumbed to Sandeep Sharma with his next delivery, which immediately set a Bangalore collapse in motion.
This week, Gayle and his side face the struggling Mumbai Indians before taking on the table-topping Punjab outfit again, presenting two glorious opportunities for the king of IPL cricket to seize control of the tournament.
Should he do so, both Punjab and Chennai will be looking anxiously over their shoulders.
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