Mumbai:Even as the third season of the Indian Premier League enters its home stretch, three captains -- Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Anil Kumble -- have the chance to achieve the distinction of becoming the first Indian skipper to lift the coveted trophy.
Only retired Australian Adam Gilchrist, who has guided defending champions Deccan Chargers into the semifinals for the second tournament running, stands as the odd man out among the four captains who have their teams in the semifinals.
The winners of the first two editions of the cash-awash T20 League - Rajasthan Royals in 2008 and Deccan Chargers in 2009 - were led by Australian legends Shane Warne and Gilchrist respectively and the home crowd would like to see the trend change this time around.
Dhoni and Kumble were thwarted at the fag end in the first two years as their teams Chennai Super Kings and Royal Challengers Bangalore faltered in the summit clash and had to be content with the runners-up tag. The duo has been presented with another chance to come good with their teams, having made it to the last four this year too.
Meanwhile, Tendulkar's Mumbai Indians are enjoying their best-ever run in the tournament's three-year history so far and have made the last four for the first time in the event's short history. Dhoni would have the first crack at spoiling Gilchrist's party when the Super Kings take on the Chargers in the second semifinal on April 22 at the D Y Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai.
The scenario this year is similar to the inaugural edition when three franchises led by Indian players - Delhi Daredevils (Virender Sehwag), Kings XI Punjab (Yuvraj Singh) and Chennai Super Kings (Dhoni) - qualified for the semifinals. But it was the tournament underdogs Rajasthan Royals, led
admirably by Australian leg spin legend Warne, who emerged as the winners.
Last year too, the situation was similar when the tournament was held in South Africa. Again an Aussie, Gilchrist, lifted the trophy, pipping
Kumble's Royal Challengers Bangalore, Virender Sehwag's Delhi Daredevils and Dhoni's Super Kings.
Overseas players led the individual performances too in the first two editions and this time around the Indians have a golden chance to corner the glory. In the first-ever IPL match between Kolkata Knight Riders and the Royal Challengers, New Zealander Brendon McCullum, representing the former, smashed a breath-taking 158 not out, the tournament's first century which also remains the highest individual score till date.
Six other foreigners - Andrew Symonds, Mike Hussey, Shaun Marsh, A B de Villiers and Sanath Jayasuriya -- scored centuries before young Manish Pandey became the first Indian batsman to score a ton for Royal Challengers in 2009 in South Africa.
Left-arm pacer Sohail Tanveer of Pakistan produced a devastating spell of bowling against Chennai Super Kings as he recorded the best-ever bowling performance in a T20 match with figures of 6-14 en route to becoming the tournaments highest wicket-taker with 21 scalps in just 11 games in 2008.
Marsh scored 616 runs in just 11 matches and soon found a berth in the national squad, while compatriot Shane Watson shone with both bat and the ball (472 runs, 17 wickets) to revive his sagging international career and also become the 2008 Man of the Series. Among the Indians, Gautam Gambhir was the lone batsman (second in the list with 534 runs) to feature in the top six, while S Sreesanth (19 wickets) was the only one in the top four list.
In 2009 the batting chart was led by another Australian Matthew Hayden (572 runs in 12 matches), while compatriot Gilchrist (495 in 16 matches, 18 dismissals) was named as the Man of the Series for his all-round display and inspiring leadership.
In the current edition an Indian player is all set to dominate the individual batting honours. Tendulkar is leading the run chart with 561 runs in 13
matches, with Jacques Kallis of South Africa snapping at his heels, while left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha (20 wickets in 14 matches) has topped the wickets tally.
Even the highest score in the tournament so far has come from the blade of an Indian Super Kings' Murali Vijay (127 against Rajasthan Royals).