Dhoni's contributions paid off for the team
The first round of matches in season four of the IPL was all about captains getting their act right, says Bikash Mohapatra.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's emphatic 91 not out against Sri Lanka, a captain's knock that ensured Team India its first World Cup in 28 years, is still afresh in memory.
The man himself though has gone ahead and excelled again, in different colours.
Just six days after guiding India to that memorable world title, Dhoni ensured defending champions Chennai Super Kings a winning start in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League.
A quickfire 29, three stumping efforts and expectedly astute captaincy from the 29-year-old meant the holders got the better of a Kolkata Knight Riders side with an ensemble cast, winning by just two runs.
It is imperative to mention here that in the said match, Dhoni's opposite number, Gautam Gambhir, bought for a whopping $ 2.4 million, scored just one and struggled as a captain as well.
Since that opening fixture, all the 10 teams have played a match each. And, a noticeable feature is the fact that all the sides that ended up winning had their captains contributing, or, shall we say, leading from the front.
When the captain flopped, the team suffered as well.
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Tepid start for Warne
Shane Warne is another perfect example.
Having led an unfancied Rajasthan Royals to the crown in the inaugural edition, when they were least expected to win, the 41-year-old has returned to lead them again this season.
Having played hardly any cricket since the last IPL -- thanks to his television assignments, columns et al -- Warne might have been forgiven for getting off to a tepid start.
But the Australian displayed his magic of yore.
While he impressed with the ball, figures of two for 21 confirm the same, it was his captaincy that made a mark again.
His decision to move Johan Botha to the No 3 slot proved a masterstroke, the South African scoring an unbeaten 67 to ensure a comfortable eight-wicket win over the Deccan Chargers.
For the record, Kumar Sangakkara, the Chargers' captain failed to open his account in the match.
Image: Shane Warne
Vettori donned his role as RCB captain with aplomb
Daniel Vettori, the newly-appointed captain of Royal Challengers Bangalore, traveled to Kochi on the day of the match.
However, the excitement of leading a new team seemed to spur him on.
The 32-year-old, who relinquished New Zealand's captaincy after the World Cup, took to his new role with aplomb.
His impressive bowling effort (one for 1), coupled with astute captaincy, ensured his side a comfortable six-wicket win over debutants Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
In the said match, Mahela Jayawardene, the home captain scored just 18 and failed to help the team build on a magnificent start.
Image: Daniel Vettori
Tendulkar led from the front
The Master Blaster was at it again.
Days after winning that elusive world title, Sachin Tendulkar led Mumbai Indians to a comprehensive away win over Delhi Daredevils at the Ferozshah Kotla.
The captain led from the front, scoring an unbeaten 46, as the finalists of last year won by eight wickets to get their campaign off to a winning start.
Moreover, Tendulkar ran out his opposite number, Virender Sehwag (19), when Delhi batted. That proved crucial.
Need we explain why?
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Yuvraj's crucial cameo got Pune out of trouble
Was it a mistake by Kings XI Punjab?
They first stripped Yuvraj Singh off his captaincy in season three and made no effort to hold on to him for the ongoing season.
The result, the Player of the Tournament in the just-concluded World Cup plotted his former team's downfall.
Yuvraj, now leading debutants Pune Warriors India, came in at a time when his side was in a spot of bother and played a crucial cameo to guide the Pune side home at the DY Patil stadium.
For the record, Adam Gilchrist, the new captain of the Punjab outfit, could manage only one.
This is the story so far.
In a format that gives less room for error, the onus is on the captain to set an example for the team.
The trend that witnessed in the first few matches of the tournament could eventually end up deciding which team emerges champion.
May the best captain win!
Image: Yuvraj Singh