Many believe the Indian Premier League is an event, whose aim is to provide entertainment to cricket fans. But while some get carried away with the glamour and the entertainment attached with the cash-rich tournament, it is like any other series for veteran cricketers, especially captains, who are under enormous pressure to lead from the front.
Captains like MS Dhoni are world known for their unique ability to soak pressure under any situation. But IPL 7 is a new beginning for cricketers like Kevin Pietersen, Shane Watson, George Bailey and Shikhar Dhawan who will start afresh as the captains of their respective teams.
Pietersen - the talismanic England right-hander received massive support from cricket fans all across the world, who were miffed with ECB`s decision to drop him from their squad, following humiliating defeat against Australia in the Ashes series.
Pietersen is one of those rare right-handers, who make batting look so elegant. While a cover-drive from the willow of a left-hander is often a treat to watch, KP`s strokes all across the ground, can make the day for a cricket fan.
It will be an important edition for the Daredevils, considering they didn`t retain any of their players. Pietersen has entertained ardent cricket fans with his breathtaking batting, but while he said some days ago that he didn`t have to prove anything to anybody, he will for sure want to add to England`s woes with a good show. The Daredevils ended up being at the bottom of the points table last year, and the team management would have high expectations from Pietersen.
Rajasthan Royals is another squad which will have a new skipper in Shane Watson. After the last year`s edition, the Rahul Dravid-led side was marred with controversies, as some of its cricketers were found guilty of spot-fixing. At a time when the team was recovering from the tough phase, Dravid led his side brilliantly in the Champions League T20 2013, where the team made it to the final and was defeated by Mumbai Indians.
Shane Watson has big shoes to fill, as a cool-headed Dravid kept the players away from any controversy that triggered on the field, and was the first one to apologise, if a player got into one, with the opposition. Watson has had temperamental issues in the past, and it would be interesting to see his approach towards the game, with that added responsibility on his shoulders.
Watson has played 55 matches for Rajasthan Royals where he has picked 48 wickets and has scored 1785 runs. His team will have some of the most established names and the team management would want him to lead the side to their second title.
Another Australian who has been handed over the command of a team is George Bailey. The Australian T20 skipper will lead Kings XI Punjab, a team which ended up fourth from bottom, after winning eight matches out of 16, in IPL 6.
George Bailey is one of those rare Australian skippers who haven’t got their share of praise from the experts. When he led the Australian team that toured India recently, in absence of Michael Clarke, he looked unstoppable and thrashed the Indian bowlers irrespective of the format and the situation. But surprisingly, he was totally off-colour in the ICC World T20, where Australia lost three matches and were knocked out.
While several overseas players would make their captaincy debut in the IPL, it will be interesting to see the performance of Shikhar Dhawan, as he leads Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Sunrisers Hyderabad impressed everybody with their fighting spirit last year. It is a team which is deprived of world class cricketers, but just like Rajasthan Royals, the team has hard-working youngsters who are determined to make their presence felt whenever they are given the opportunity.
Dhawan has been an integral part of the Indian cricket team, ever since he made his debut against Australia at Mohali last year, and his fans would be eager to see, what he has to offer as a skipper. The Sunrisers were among the top four teams last year, and Dhawan would certainly want to improve their record.
IPL will once again have a touch of glamour, which has been its highlight since inception. But while the seventh edition could possibly draw curtains on some careers, it sure is a beginning for a new batch of leaders.