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‘Kings XI made smart buys at the IPL auction’

Calcutta: Former England all-rounder Isa Guha, who has injected plenty of glamour into the IPL-related studio shows, spoke to The Telegraph on Wednesday afternoon.

Isa, 28, is London-based and wore the national colours in all three formats between 2001-11. She was, in fact, in her teens on her maiden appearance for England — in an ODI against Scotland.

Excerpts from the interview...

Stand out team in this season’s IPL...

One can’t, at this stage, look beyond the Kings XI Punjab. By winning five out of five, they’ve taken everybody by surprise. (Glenn) Maxwell did the job in the first few matches and, then, the bowlers have taken over. Kings XI made smart buys at the IPL auction and they’ve actually got a very good team... Virender Sehwag and Cheteshwar Pujara at the top, followed by Maxwell, David Miller and the captain, George Bailey... Miller’s the more pleasing to the eye, effortless, even though Maxwell has the bigger hits. For a team to succeed, the players need to gel. That’s happening in the Kings XI.

Kings XI being the only team to have an Indian coach — Sanjay Bangar...

Coaches do have a role and, so, credit to Bangar... With the World T20 preceding the IPL, Bangar didn’t have many days to work with the full squad, but that didn’t become an issue.

Stand out captain...

I’m a fan of Mahendra Singh Dhoni... He’s instinctive and thinks out of the box. Even if the going’s not good, he remains unfazed. He’s again been impressive... Whether it’s captaining India or the Chennai Super Kings, he gets high marks.

Biggest disappointment...

The defending champions, the Mumbai Indians (MI)... As we speak, they’re at the bottom of the table. They need more than one or two players to come good, a spark to get them firing as they did in 2013.

[Later, MI lost yet again — their fifth defeat in as many matches.]

Top-five players (in random order) going into the final day of the UAE leg...

SUNIL NARINE (Kolkata Knight Riders): Narine’s in his third season of the IPL, but batsmen still haven’t figured him out. He continues to bamboozle with his mystery spin and, clearly, is the go-to bowler for Gautam Gambhir.

Wickets taken: 9 (economy rate of 5.35).

GLENN MAXWELL (Kings XI Punjab): Maxwell has the ability to come out guns blazing and set a scorching tempo. He has a strike rate of over 200 in this season’s IPL, which is phenomenal. That he had a good World T20 (strike rate of 210.00!) has helped.

Runs scored: 300 (strike rate of 201.34).

YUZVENDRA CHAHAL (Royal Challengers Bangalore): Chahal’s a leg spinner with so much of potential... Skilful, accurate... He has the right qualities to climb the ladder. What I like most is that reputations don’t bother him.

Wickets taken: 7 (economy rate of 5.31).

DWAYNE SMITH (Chennai Super Kings): Smith brings that aggression at the very top and gets his team off to a flyer... It’s a bit surprising that MI didn’t retain him, but I guess they had to choose between him and Keiron Pollard.

Runs scored: 240 (strike rate of 143.71).

SANDEEP SHARMA (Kings XI Punjab): Sharma’s only 20 and is bound to get better, become more mature... He’s got a good seam presentation and moves the ball consistently. Back to back MoM awards are a testimony to his talent.

Wickets taken: 7 (economy rate of 5.63).

Thoughts on Gambhir and his Knights...

Being a Bengali girl, I’ve got to support the Calcutta team... Despite having lost to the Rajasthan Royals on Tuesday, the Knights can take some comfort from that match... I’m glad that Gambhir finally got runs and that they went for the (Manvinder Singh) Bisla option and dropped Yusuf Pathan.

Stand out moment in this season’s IPL...

Chris Lynn’s catch of AB de Villiers, at the boundary, in the last over of the Royal Challengers’ innings. Lynn’s presence of mind was amazing.

[The Royal Challengers required nine, but lost by two runs, thanks to Lynn and a great 20th over from Ranganath Vinay Kumar.]

Finally... On what it takes to make a splash in the T20 format...

Playing without fear and having the belief that victory can be achieved from any situation... Having the ability to adapt... It’s also important to be clear in the head and to be prepared for plan A to fail. You need to be ready with a plan B and a plan C as well. Just in case...