The difference could not be starker. Last season, Kolkata Knight Riders skipper Gautam Gambhir had scored a dismal 327 runs off 13 innings. This time, he has already notched up 226 in four matches.
The opener, who has racked up scores of 38*, 64, 90* and 34, is enjoying a revival in form this season, which has in turn helped Kolkata win three of their first four matches.
Armed with a modified batting stance after a stint in Perth under former Australia cricketer Justin Langer, Gambhir will be the top concern for Rising Pune Supergiants counterpart Mahendra Singh Dhoni when the teams meet at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium on Sunday.
With India opener Shikhar Dhawan scoring just 69 from four innings (before Saturday’s match against Kings XI Punjab), 53 of which came in one innings, Gambhir’s run of form also gives India another option in the limited-overs format. The Delhi batsman last played for India in a T20I in December 2012.
Another facet of the left-hander’s batting this season has been his partnerships at the top of the innings with another India discard Robin Uthappa.
The KKR openers have stitched together partnerships of 69 against Delhi Daredevils, 21 against Mumbai Indians, 92 against Sunrisers Hyderabad and 82 against Kings XI Punjab. In fact, each time the pair has laid a foundation for the team with a 50-plus score, they have gone on to win.
In sharp contrast, Pune’s opening combination of Ajinkya Rahane and Faf du Plessis have struggled to lay a platform for the team with opening stands of 78, 27, 10 and 12.
Another headache for Dhoni would be the fact that Pune’s bowling has not clicked so far in the tournament, despite the presence of veterans like Ishant Sharma, RP Singh, Irfan Pathan and R Ashwin.