With Indian Premier League approaching its conclusion, it is fair to look back and ask, ‘Would the tournament have been as entertaining without the Caribbean flavour?’ So far, the West Indians have bagged 12 Man of the match awards and Dwayne Bravo is one of the frontrunners for the purple cap with 28 wickets.
Here is a look at some of the West Indians who played an instrumental role in attracting the crowd to the stadiums.
It is impossible not to mention Chris Gayle while discussing the IPL. The imposing Jamaican amassed 708 runs in 16 matches at an average of 59 and a whooping strike rate of 156.29 this season. Gayle owned the Orange Cap for the majority of the tournament before being overtaken by Michael Hussey. In one of the matches he made Pune Warriors’ bowlers look like schoolboys as he treated them with utter disdain, scoring 175 off 62 balls. He made such a humongous impact on the audience that my coach Rajesh Sanil told me that his six-year-old son preferred watching him over Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting.
The stylish all-rounder, who does it all. Apart from keeping wickets, it is hard to think of a trait that Dwayne Bravo does not possess. He has been MS Dhoni’s go-to man with the ball, providing breakthroughs and stemming the flow of runs simultaneously. He is currently the frontrunner for the Purple cap with 28 wickets. As far as batting is concerned, he has not made big scores but has been making vital contributions at critical moments. Coming in the death overs, he has either finished off the innings with a boom or chased down a tricky score with ease. Apart from his contribution with bat and ball, he has been a livewire in the field.
The linchpin of Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunil Narine carried the baggage of bowling miserly and taking wickets. Where his team faltered to live up to the standards of being the defending champions, the mystery spinner stood out. He was the leading wicket-taker for KKR, scalping 22 wickets at a phenomenal economy rate of 5.46, including a hat-trick. Most of the times, the opposition was content in seeing him off and going bonkers against others.
The Mumbai Indians all-rounder is always in the thick of things. Kieron Pollard’s ability to hit sixes at will is something to die for. If you do not agree, ask Thisara Parera. His powerful strokes leave the swiftest of fielders to a misplaced block of woods. He has accumulated 349 runs so far and been one of the imperative cogs in MI’s success. His slow cutters have been handy and his efforts in the field would make the Superman envious. Be it a match winning catch to dismiss MS Dhoni early in the tournament or his one handed pluck to send Shaun Marsh back, he has been sensational. Pollard also occurred in an unusual instance, dropping Michael Hussey thrice off consecutive deliveries but as the cliché goes, ups and downs are part and parcel of the game.
He was made to warm benches for the first half of the tournament but once Darren Sammy got a go, he pounced onto it a lion after its prey. He played a significant role in the revival of Sunrisers Hyderabad, chipping in with bat and ball at critical junctions. With their batting being fickle, most of the times it came down to him to deliver the finishing touch or undertake a rearguard action and save some grace. The West Indian all-rounder proved to be a masterstroke as he turned out to be one of the best utility players of the competition.
Another Mumbai Indians batter, another big hitter. The worth of Dwayne Smith can be described in six simple words: He replaced the legendary Ricky Ponting. As the mouthwatering prospect of Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting opening the innings turned out to be nothing more than a photo op, MI sought favours from Dwayne Smith to provide a blistering start and he obliged. MI’s batting started to look more balanced and the burden on the middle order was shared. He has plundered 352 runs so far and without him, MI would not be where they are.
Kevon Cooper may not have been as attractive as his abovementioned compatriots but has been priceless for Rahul Dravid. His ability to bowl miserly has been worth its weight in gold for Rajasthan Royals. He has scalped 17 wickets so far at an economy rate of 8.32.
These players certainly made the IPL worthwhile. After the current spot fixing scandal and the revelation made by Delhi and Mumbai Police, some doubt looms over the next edition of the cash-rich league. If at all the tournament is scrapped, more than anything, the trademark Caribbean celebrations, dances and send-offs will be missed the most.