Kings XI Punjab captain George Bailey and Kolkata Knight Riders captain Gautam Gambhir hold the IPL 7 trophy after a press conference on the eve of the final. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT Photo)
About the many things Sir Alex Ferguson said he liked about Paul Gascoigne was that he always played with a smile. (At Lazio, Gascoigne once wolfed a bar of chocolate thrown at him from the stands.) Ferguson’s interest in cricket isn’t known but if the great Scot has spent some of his retired life watching IPL 7, he would have possibly said the same about George Bailey.
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Through this T20 league, there has been little that could sour the Kings XI Punjab skipper’s essentially sunny disposition. Sure, Bailey plays his cricket hard – he’s Australian, don’t forget – but he never forgets to be a sport who would applaud a good shot from an opposition batsman. Like many in this competition, there’s a lot riding on Bailey but unlike them, it seems to sit lightly on him.
Granted it hasn’t happened often but even after his team’s loss, Bailey hasn’t lost his composure. Given his withering sarcasm after Friday’s defeat, can that be said about MS Dhoni anymore? With a smile, Dhoni shot from his lip at Chennai Super Kings’ bowlers after being scathing at the lack of responsibility shown by some of his 'international batsmen.'
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Soon after, KXIP coach Sanjay Bangar said on television that Bailey has got players in the team to tell jokes before a game. On Sunday, he will come up against a man as likely to do that as bat right-handed. Eyebrows arched, forehead creased Gautam Gambhir is a high-voltage presence on the cricket field, the epitome of intensity.
Gambhir leads from the front - literally - when the Kolkata Knight Riders bat and has had a huge role in scripting their turnaround at the Kotla against Delhi Daredevils. KKR have since won a record eight games in a row and none other than Wasim Akram has praised Gambhir’s attacking instincts as captain.
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Bailey, on the other hand, comes low down the order often demoting himself for reasons such as continuing the left-right combination. And though he has scored a game-changing 13-ball 40 or a 10-ball 17, the Kings’ maiden run to the final will be remembered for the batting of Glen Maxwell, David Miller to say nothing of the irrepressible Virender Sehwag.
The opener and the finisher, Gambhir and Bailey, have shown that there can be different routes to the same destination. Late on Sunday, one of them will be smiling. Or will they both?