19th May: Pune Warriors v Delhi Daredevils, 10:30 GMT
Sunrisers v Kolkata Knight Riders, 14:30 GMT
16th-20th May: 1st Test, Lord's
19th May: 2nd ODI, Edinburgh
A highly entertaining tournament came to an end this past week and in between all the action and drama, it left a few pointers which redefined the way we ought to look at cricket in general, if not Twenty20 cricket in particular.
First up, the man himself, Lalit Modi is a shrewd businessman and a powerful organiser. He understands the power of cricket especially as an entertainment platform and brought it all this time to their television screens and homes, since he couldn’t get the Indian masses to the stadiums. Well some of them still did manage to find their way to the neighbouring continent and by the look of it, were mighty impressed with the way things went. Modi made happen not only a huge tournament away from India in three weeks, he ran it all without any glitches for five more, which just goes to show that this man’s resolve to give cricket a new direction will stand any test, pun unintended.
Second, the roaring success that the second season proved to be in South Africa now means that the IPL is now a global entity and Modi has realised that as well. Already he is talking about two seasons in a year, a long one back home and a short one abroad. Why this will be supported by the ICC is because they are looking at new markets, primarily America and probably China, and the people there are known to love a mix of entertainment and sport.
Third, the BCCI gave Modi full support in moving the tournament out of India, making sure that it all went ahead. They did so because they realised that this little baby is the source of all their power in world cricket today and if it didn’t happen this second time, probably it wouldn’t happen again. For India has the financial muscle since long but sooner or later, countries like Australia, England and South Africa will catch up, they always do and won’t let the ICC be manhandled by the Indian board. So, in order to maintain the pole position, the IPL is the carrot that is jingled at all of them. Add to it the fact that the huge success it proved to be after all, who wouldn’t want a piece of the pie?
Fourth, the pie is too big for its own size. Thirty seven days of the whole circus and personally, one was zapped of not only energy but also enthusiasm to follow the umpteen matches. And to imagine that this was the watered down version, the earlier one being slated to be a forty-five day event. Now that there is talk of two IPLs in a year, Modi would do well to tone it all down a bit for too much of anything just gets on the nerves, given enough time.
Fifth, and oh talking about getting on the nerves, those strategic breaks need to go, no two ways about it. Now that the tournament will be coming home in 2010, the idea should go out of the same window that it came in from, never mind the broadcasters. Mr.Modi, listen to the players, and the fans, just this once!
Sixth, conditions in South Africa made the tournament a closer affair than previously anticipated. Spinner friendly pitches which also supported seam bowling a lot made the equation between the bat and the ball a bit more balanced, and therefore the monopoly that the willow-wielders enjoyed in the first season was never there. Proof of it was that a majority of the young Indian players who ply their wares in the domestic circuit struggled to get going. It was their real test which seldom few passed.
Seventh, the second season of the IPL brought to the fore again two concepts. Now one wouldn’t go so far as to say that this is something new to cricket, but definitely something new to T20 cricket. Never before going strong in the middle overs and building a base for the late innings surge was seen in this shortest format of the game to be a major move, definitely not in the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, but it will be of prime importance this time around in England in 2009. Also will be seen a growing number of dibbly-dobbly bowlers, Chris Harris like, who will be sharing a whole lot of bowling loads in England and giving their respective teams the necessary balance. For this may not be the birth of the part-time bowler but it is surely the re-birth of them!
Eighth, that the conditions separated men from boys has already been established. The fact of the matter is that they also gave credence to the adage that age is just a number. Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Mathew Hayden and Anil Kumble are but few of the names who belied their birth dates and rose to the occasion. Even Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar managed decent starts but somewhat fizzled out during the next few weeks. The bottom-line is that the ball doing as much as the bat, it was their hair greyed playing cricket for over two decades that came to the fore. This entire age hullabaloo also brings in point that the upcoming Indian talent, yet again bred on tailor made pitches, might just struggle when the legacy of Tendulkars and Dravids finally meets its upcoming end!
Ninth, those Aussies surely know how to win. If there was any doubt that only Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting were adept at winning trophies by the dozen, think again! For now it seems clear that just about any one from their ‘invincible’ team could have donned the skipper’s cap and gotten the same results, with Shane Warne and Adam Gilchrist fulfilling their leadership legacies at the Indian Premier League, two years running. The one other thing that did come out of it all more clearly than even the first one is that John Buchanan’s credentials can now seriously be questioned. Did the team he coached even need him? For they must have won for so long, not with his contributions but in spite of them.
Tenth, with all this positive energy, there was bound to be something negative as well. There is a new threat on the horizon. Last year, Dale Steyn said that the IPL was like a paid holiday. This year Chris Gayle went a step ahead when he stayed on the ‘holiday’ while his team mates sweated it out in a practice game in England ahead of their Test series. And when he finally had to go join them, he was no longer interested in the five day game and sulked around as his team went around. His ‘not-mention-worthy’ comments mean that the players are now fully awake to the power of T20, both financially and otherwise, and whether it is a good thing or bad, time will decide!
Eleventh, beyond anything and everything, the game of cricket is a great leveller. Last year the underdogs Rajasthan Royals triumphed. This year the conditions made sure that no one team was favourite or an underdog for that matter, but the teams that had seen much shame and discontent about twelve months ago, came back from the dead and fought for the title in the Bull Ring. It is this spirited display by Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers that gives Kolkata Knight Riders enough hope to pick themselves up and look ahead to next year.
© Cricket World 2009