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FPJ

It has been a week of entertaining cricket. The excitement promises to get even more compelling in the next week, with the battle to qualify for the Playoffs just begun. Ironically, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) have become the first team to be knocked out of contention in the ongoing season. All hopes are of course not lost for the franchise. Ruturaj Gaikwad batted well against RCB in their previous game and Sam Curran has been impressed with both bat and ball. It is around players like these that the team should be rebuilt for the next season.

Kings XI Punjab drew level with Kolkata Knight Riders’ tally of 12 points by beating them on Monday evening. The north Indian franchise is now fourth in the table, under a net run-rate that is better than KKR’s. The top three teams, Mumbai Indians, Delhi Capitals, and Royal Challengers Bangalore – should qualify for the playoffs, with the fourth and last slot up for grabs. As many as four sides are fighting for that one slot, but I do sense that Kings XI Punjab will make it. They have now won five matches on the trot and a winning habit is hard to shake off.

Chris Gayle, the 'Universe Boss', is at the top of his game, and so are the likes of Mohammed Shami, Mandeep Singh, and Orange Cap holder K L Rahul. Rahul’s performance as a batsman, captain, and wicketkeeper in the ongoing season has yielded him rich dividends, in the form of the vice-captaincy of the Indian ODI and T20 teams for the tour of Australia. Considering how Kings XI Punjab are playing at the moment, I will be surprised if they suddenly suffer a loss of form and momentum and fail to qualify for the Playoffs.

Of course, Rajasthan Royals cannot be written off, if you go by the way they played against the Mumbai Indians in their last game. Ben Stokes is in excellent nick and Sanju Samson has been rewarded for his consistency with a place in the Indian ODI and T20 teams for Australia.

A lot has been spoken and written about the T20 format being an abattoir of sorts for bowlers. The fact is that the shorter the version of the game, the tougher it is for the bowlers, with short boundaries and all that.

However, all hope is not lost. As a former left-arm spinner myself, I am proud of the way the ‘slow men’ are performing in the ongoing tournament. Rashid Khan, Varun Chakravarthy, Yuzvendra Chahal, the two Ashwins and Ravi Bishnoi, among others, have surprised many who expected them to be cannon-fodder for the batsmen in the shortest format. The way they have performed under pressure is nothing short of inspirational.

There is no better sight in cricket than a spinner on a song. Let’s hope that the slow men continue to deliver as the tournament approaches its climax.

The writer is a former Indian cricketer, also the founder-director of the

International Institute of Sports Management

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