The 2014 Indian Premier League (IPL) has seen some astonishing displays from players from different teams alongside some shocking results. Defending champions Mumbai Indians (MI) are rock bottom in the points table without a single victory from any of their first five matches while Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) have surged to the top with a 100% record.
KXIP have managed to reach the knockout stages of this tournament only once, which they achieved during the IPL's inaugural season in 2008. Since then the highest finish they have managed was the fifth in the subsequent season and the number of victories registered in one campaign never exceeded eight.
The Mohali based outfit have finished all their scheduled matches in the United Arab Emirates and will now begin the round of matches scheduled in India. Ahead of their sixth match against MI at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, IBTimes UK takes a peek at the catalysts behind KXIP's rise in IPL 7.
The franchise owners made some significant changes from their previous squad and managed to hold on to six players including David Miller and Manan Vohra, who were retained prior to the auction.
Among the stellar names, they let go of David Hussey and lost the valuable experience of the retiring Adam Gilchrist. However, they made some significant purchases to bolster their squad.
The purchases made by KXIP included a list of big names beginning with, Virender Sehwag, Cheteshwar Pujara, Lakshmipathy Balaji, George Bailey, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Johnson.
Performance of New Signings
Balaji has twice been part of the IPL winning teams, CSK in 2010 and Kolkata Knight Riders in 2012. He registered the IPL's first ever hat trick when he was under CSK's roster in 2008, against his current employers.
Although the 32-year-old has not played a single match for India since 2012, he has been quite active for his home state of Tamil Nadu at the domestic level. The fast-bowler's experience has proved crucial this year for KXIP as he is their highest wicket-taker with eight scalps in five matches.
Johnson came into this tournament having missed the opportunity to play in the 2014 T20 World Cup for Australia because of a toe injury. However, the 32-year-old has enjoyed some brilliant time on the pitch in the last few months; giving England and South African batsmen very little breathing space, especially in Test matches.
He has carried on his fine form from his national side into the IPL for KXIP, proving that he is a bowler for all forms of the game. Johnson, who was part of the IPL winning MI team last year, was their joint highest wicket-taker with 24 wickets to his name.
This year he already has seven wickets to his name and is one of the front-runners for the 'Purple Cap,' allotted to the player with the highest number of wickets in the tournament.
Aside from competing with bowlers from other teams for the honour, he is also competing to become the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with his teammate Balaji. However, this is certainly an advantage for KXIP as their team's performances could receive a tremendous boost due to their individual contributions in the upcoming matches.
Maxwell featured only in three matches last year for MI and managed to make only 36 runs in total. However, the 25-year-old Australian has been the best batsman in IPL 7 so far. He wears the 'Orange Cap,' given to the highest run scorer through the course of the tournament, having scored 300 runs in five matches.
Although the all-rounder has scored only 21 runs in the last two matches, his tally includes the devastating knocks of 95, 89 and 95 from the opening three matches. His antics with the bat not only powered KXIP to victories but also earned him the Man of the Match award on all three occasions.
Maxwell is unlikely to curb down his batting prowess and will be eager to hold on to his status as the number one batsman in this year's tournament. One can certainly put their money on him to once again send the ball beyond the boundary ropes when the T20 affair resumes in India after a day's break on 2 May.
Sanjay Bangar's appointment as Head Coach
Sanjay Bangar's appointment has borne significant fruits for KXIP this season. After Darren Lehmann took over as the helm of the Australian Cricket team last year, the franchise decided to ditch their hierarchy of having former Australian cricketers as their coaches in favour of their own compatriot.
Bangar's playing career for India began in 2001 and ended in 2004. He played in the previous editions of IPL under the now dissolved Deccan Chargers and KKR in the past. However, the all-rounder has an experience of nearly 20 years in First Class Cricket, playing for the Railways till 2012 before eventually choosing to retire in January 2013.
Earlier this year, the 41-year-old, who was managing the India A side, was roped in by KXIP. It may have been considered as a huge risk given the competence of coaches from rival teams; but so far, it has worked out positively for all parties concerned with the Mohali based outfit.
George Bailey's Captaincy
Bailey has amassed over two years of experience as captain of Australia's T20 team since taking over the mantle from Cameron White. His previous stints in the IPL came in 2009 and 2010 under CSK where he played only four matches cumulatively in both seasons.
Although he has not contributed exceptionally with the bat, he adds a respectable part of the experience and charisma, which partially fills the void left behind by Gilchrist's retirement. One would certainly expect the 31-year-old to provide a captain's knock in the upcoming matches especially when his team are in dire need.