Published in www.cricketnext.com on 13th April 2011

Having conquered the world and also the hearts of millions of Indian fans by lifting the ICC World Cup at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium on April 2, the Indian cricketers soon got down to the frenzied business of playing the IPL without much ado.

The celebratory mood that enveloped the nation after skipper MS Dhoni scored the winning runs in the Cup final with a mighty six has still not abated, but the teams contesting the IPL are already into the thick of things.

Battle lines have been drawn and strategies are already being modified on the basis of the early skirmishes that have taken place between the ten contesting sides. The World Cup heroes have had mixed results in the opening encounters of IPL 4.

Dhoni continued his Midas touch by leading Chennai Super Kings to a pulsating 2 run win over a combative Kolkata Knight Riders team in the first match of the tournament. Yuvraj led his new Pune Warriors team to victory in their first match. Sachin Tendulkar shepherded the Mumbai Indians to an easy win over Virender Sehwag’s scrappy looking Delhi Daredevils. The Mumbai based team looked classy on the field with Tendulkar himself and the talented Rohit Sharma batting beautifully after Lasith Malinga had scalped 5 Daredevils wickets for a paltry 15 runs.

Sehwag has problems galore to handle for the Daredevils look weak this season and depend heavily on the captain. Venugopal Rao and Dave Warner need to perform consistently for them if they are to succeed in their campaign. Irfan Pathan too needs to regain his touch both with ball and bat for his new team.

Apart from the Mumbai Indians and Chennai Superkings, the Rajasthan Royals have appeared the most exciting side on display. Shane Warne has been magical with the ball all over again and does not seem to have lost any of his touch, four years after he retired. The master leg spinner has also been inspirational as skipper again and with the likes of Rahul Dravid, Johan Botha and Ross Taylor in the ranks, Warne’s team could go all the way. The not-so-small matter of Shane Watson’s availability (once he has finished slaughtering the Bangladesh team) would make the Royals even more formidable.

Jacques Kallis has been prolific with the bat in all editions of the IPL and started off with a bang this time too, scoring fifties in each of the first two matches to bag the Orange Cap. Other veterans like Adam Gilchrist and VVS Laxman have had mixed results till now. While Laxman played a few silken shots in his first knock, Gilchrist failed to get going.

The Sri Lankan duo of Kumar Sangakarra and Mahela Jayawardene suffered defeats in their first outings as skippers of the Hyderabad and Kochi teams, and thus failed to shrug off their World Cup final blues.

The new format of the IPL is such that only four teams will remain in the fray after the league matches are over and they will compete in an elimination round instead of a semi-final format.

Several talented young Indian players are on display once more and Indian cricket is bound to get even stronger over the years thanks to the IPL. Watch out, rest of the world!