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United and purposeful, watch out for KKR

With matches taking place thick and fast, it's fair to say that the first phase is almost over. Some teams have played five matches, most others have played four games, and a majority have played nearly 30% of the 14 league ties each team must play in order to secure qualification to the next stage. Javagal Srinath reports Javagal says

cricket Updated: Apr 21, 2011 01:31 IST

With matches taking place thick and fast, it's fair to say that the first phase is almost over. Some teams have played five matches, most others have played four games, and a majority have played nearly 30% of the 14 league ties each team must play in order to secure qualification to the next stage.

Slow off the blocks
It's no secret that of the 10 teams, the Delhi Daredevils and Royal Challengers Bangalore have struggled to cope with the changes. Both have been at the receiving end of the shake-up following the auction, but now that the Australians have arrived in full strength and all international players are available, we are in for exciting times.

The next two weeks will be significant as the race for the top four slots will hot up. I'm sure the RCB will benefit from the arrival of Chris Gayle. It's a welcome development, given that not only does he bring explosive batting with him, he can also bowl four tidy, crafty overs of off-spin.

Gayle an asset
I was surprised that Gayle went unsold at the auction earlier in the year. He was with the Kolkata Knight Riders in the first three years, with a team that didn't get off the starting blocks. It has been an interesting time in Gayle's career, and he should value his inclusion in the RCB ranks because it has come after he was dropped from the West Indies squad for the one-day series against Pakistan.

It could be an absolute gain for the RCB and a total loss for the West Indies, because Gayle can be a match-winner. He and Tillakaratne Dilshan will bring a wealth of experience at the top, allowing young guns like Mayank Agarwal to bat with greater freedom.

KKR, warriors on top
Despite their top order collapse on Wednesday, The Pune Warriors and Knight Riders have established themselves as serious favourites at this stage. The Warriors have a strong batting line-up with the likes of Graeme Smith, Jesse Ryder, Yuvraj Singh and Robin Uthappa. The exciting Manish Pandey will be available from the next match onwards, and the Warriors will hope to bounce back from the top order implosion against Mumbai.

The Knight Riders not only have a strong batting line-up, but they also have four quality all-rounders in Jacques Kallis, Ryan ten Doeschate, Yusuf Pathan and Shakib Al-Hasan, and a quality paceman in Brett Lee. Under Gautam Gambhir, they have looked powerful, united and purposeful, and I see them going a long way this time.
Hawkeye