The cash-rich Indian
Premier League is set to mark the beginning of a new era in cricket.
Money in abundance has changed the way the game is looked at off the
field and that will, hopefully, boost the quality on the field as well,
THE best of world cricketers, corporate honchos, a host of Bollywood stars and the playing facilities as good as the best. It sure looks like the Indian Premier League has found its recipe for success. Launched with a lot of fanfare last year, the League, which unfolded on Friday with the matches spread over eight venues across the country continuing up to June 1, promises to be a heady cocktail high on glamour quotient.
Having come into being as a knee-jerk reaction to the Indian Cricket League and galvanised into action as a result of the sudden victory Mahinder Singh Dhoni and Co achieved in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa last year, the IPL looks set to alter drastically the way the game is played, governed and viewed across the globe.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India was the last among regular cricket nations to announce a domestic T20 tournament. But the Indian team that stunned one and all to emerge T20 champions was least prepared for the event. The historic win out of the blue and the euphoria it generated across the country made the BCCI sit and take notice of the untapped potential of Twenty 20 format.
The DLF IPL promises plenty of action at a frenetic pace. Cricket buffs would sure be waiting with bated breath to witness the spectacle of Sachin Tendulkar batting along with Sanath Jayasuriya (for Mumbai Indians) or Brett Lee sharing the new ball with S Sreesanth (Kings XI Punjab) or renewal of fresh rivalry between Shane Warne (Rajasthan Royals) and Muttiah Muralitharan (Chennai Super Kings) as 59 matches are slated to be played within 44 days. It would be equally tempting to see the plight of bowlers when the deadly duo of Adam Gilchrist and Shahid Afridi take guard for the Deccan Chargers.
Forgotten seamers L. Balaji and Ashish Nehra will appear for Chennai Superstars and Mumbai Indians, respectively. Both had successful careers ahead of them before injury forced them out of the game for long periods. While Balaji last played a Test against Pakistan in mid-2005, Nehra, the architect of the magnificent Indian win against England in the 2003 World Cup, appeared last in a Test against Pakistan at Rawalpindi in 2004.
For those not very familiar with cricket, if any, the presence of the biggest names in Bollywood like Shahrukh Khan, Hritik Roshan, Akshay Kumar or Preity Zinta could be too hard to resist.
Apart from the biggest names in international cricket, it is the presence of intrepid and talented, but largely unknown youngsters in the competition that is sure to enliven the proceedings. These are the players, who have already realised the dream of rubbing shoulders with the biggest stars the game has seen and raked in moolah beyond expectations. They are sure to be itching to steal the thunder of the bigger stars on the home turf knowing full well what such performance could mean to them.
ICL Edelweiss 20s Challenge and ICL 20s World Series have been eye-openers in this regard. Nobody knew who Ibrahim Khaleel, Ganapati Vignesh, Raviraj Patil, Tamil Kumaran, Abu Nachim, T.P. Singh or Ali Murtaza were untill they matched their skills with those having rich international experience at their disposal. The bunch of completely unknown players caused quite a stir by defeating the star-studded teams of ICL Pakistan XI and the ICL World XI on the way quite convincingly. The Indian players proved that they probably deserved exposure to showcase their skills at the highest-level.
Corporate backing and the meticulous handling by Lalit Modi, chairman and the driving force behind the IPL, has bestowed the League’s financial muscle. Asian countries, always looking up to the BCCI for support, were only too willing to tow its line, but discordant noises starting coming from the Australian and English boards. Cricket Australia initially opposed the players willing to play in the ICL or the IPL. But the eagerness of the players to play in the IPL suggested that, if forced, they were ready to curtail even their international careers.
As it stands today, the IPL was not something that could be wished away. A player playing in the IPL will get twice as much money for playing for just six weeks as a cricketer earned by playing round the year and having to trot around the globe with bag and baggage. Defiant Michael Vaughan, former England captain, said it would be naive to think that England players will not be playing in the cash rich League.
But the moot point is how will the sub-continental spectators, used to watch their heros playing for the country, react when Harbhajan, playing for Mumbai, ensnares Punjab skipper Yuvraj, castling him through his gate or the latter clobbers Harbhajan for successive sixes?
IT was like yesterday once more. Whatever off-court differences they may have had, Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi closed ranks when it came to serving the cause of the country. They reinvented the on-court chemistry they were famous for to fashion a memorable doubles victory against Japan in the Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I second round in Delhi to sew it up for India.
Happy days were here again when they went on a rewind mode. They had last joined hands in the Doha Asian Games in 2006, but there were simmering differences then. But the Grand Slam duo displayed exemplary sportsmanship, complimented each other superbly, to record an impressive victory over the Japanese duo of Takao Suzuki and Satoshi Iwabuchi, who were defiant till the very end.
With ‘Lee and Hesh’ ensuring an unbeatable 3-0 lead for India, they could have execused themselves from playing in the reverse singles when Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj pulled out due to medical reasons. Had the reverse singles been conceded, India would have been fined $10,000. But their image got a nice boost when they volunteered to play the reverse singles. It was understandable that Bopanna and Prakash were not in a position to play on the third day after scoring grueling five-set wins on the opening day. Even on the first day, Bopanna had played with a heavily strapped knee.
No wonder, a die-hard assemblage of tennis fans was pleasantly surprised when Mahesh and Leander came on court for the reverse singles. Mahesh had not played a singles match for seven years. Thus, it was sporting of him to have taken the court and made an earnest effort to match the fast moving, tough-playing Kei Nishikori. Mahesh pushed himself hard till his weary legs could take it no more to match the 18-year-old Nishikori.
Leander, on the other hand, put players much younger in shame with the kind of athleticism he displayed while tackling Satoshi Iwabuchi. Leander took the battle to the wire, and could have even clinched the rubber, had he not faltered in converting two break points at the crunch. Perhaps, Leander and Mahesh wanted to test their endurance and stamina before the Beijing Olympic Games in August.
Leander showed what a committed, true blue sportsman he was when he remarked after the 3-2 Davis Cup triumph over Japan: "When you play in Davis Cup, you don’t play for yourself, not for your team, but for your country. We come and go, but the country’s image is greater than that of individuals".
Unfortunately, a section of the media were selectively fed negative stories, even when the players were putting their best foot forward on the court. But Leander added in good measure that he was not only looking forward to the Beijing Olympics, but also beyond--the Davis Cup World Group play-off tie in September.
Well done, Team India
HEARTY congratulations to Team India for convincingly beating the strong South Africans in the Kanpur Test. With this victory the Indians escaped the ignominy of being beaten at home. The visiting team after their glorious victory in the second test started bragging, ala Australians, about the game plan they had worked out to tackle the Indian team. This game plan probably ‘spun out’ differently for them. Sourav Ganguly deserves credit for his gritty performance at a time when wickets were tumbling at the other end. Dhoni was other big factor that helped India save the series.
Why Kings XI Punjab?
I am surprised that Preity Zinta and her partners decided to name the Mohali IPL team as "Kings XI Punjab". It is a mouthful of words, which do not flow too well, and would be awkward for the various commentators to pronounce during the matches. She could`A0have easily come up with a better name, for example, "Punjab XI" or "Sher-e-Punjab" would have been much better reflecting both Punjab and its people.
Shangar S. Nandra, Hillsborough, NJ