The average cricket fan is an intelligent person who knows what he or she wants from the sport. In the old days, the game of cricket was a slow contest where men wore white flannels and everything was considered to be gentlemanlike.
As times changed, the shorter version came into vogue through the ODI format, first with each innings lasting 60 overs, then 55 and then 50 overs-a-side. Just as each sport has seen modifications being made for the action to get faster, cricket, too, was not to be left behind. People sneered at the introduction of the T20 format, saying this was just slogging and slam-bang stuff with no purity in the game.
Those people have been proved wrong. Even as Test cricket tries to reinvent itself through changes and there being even a possibility of day/ night Tests, the T20 brand has become the ‘in’ thing. Fans have still not forgotten the fantastic performance from Team India under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni as they demolished the Australians 4- 0 in the recent Test series at home.
Yet, in less than three days from now, all talk will be of big hitting, athletic fielding and bowlers striving to deliver dot balls in the Indian Premier League. The first match between defending champs Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils will set the tone for the long- winding competition, which lasts over 45 days.
Just take a look at some of the statistics from the last edition of the IPL. In 148 innings, 857 wickets were taken by the bowlers and 21,321 runs were scored by the batsmen. In addition, there were 1,132 extras to add spice to the fare dished out.
Much to the delight of the spectators, 732 sixes were hit, interspersed with 1,911 fours, and fans watching in the stadia and on television readily lapped it up. Each season of the IPL has seen innovations being made. In the formative years everything revolved around glitz and glamour. Add to it the presence of cheergirls inside the arena, and cricket seemed like a sideshow.
However, in the last two editions, cricket has become the most important thing and teams are constantly trying new ways to make contests livelier. Today, if someone tells you the IPL is pyjama cricket in its richest form, that’s not true. The T20 format provides for great viewing as there is serious action at every point, no matter who is playing.
The other day, someone was mentioning at the Kotla that while viewership for Test cricket is dropping, the T20 format has new takers. We all know that venues like Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune get good crowds.
So why has a decision decision been made to take the IPL to new venues like Ranchi and Raipur? I spoke to some of the franchisees and their answer is that the IPL has takers in these cities as well and the infrastructure is amazing.
Anyone who knows a thing or two about Ranchi will vouch that this is primarily a hockey-loving city. But with one man answering to the name of MS Dhoni now doing almost everything right, Ranchi has become a cricket city too. As for Raipur, Delhi Daredevils will be playing here and the response from the crowd will be worth watching.
What is in store needs no guesswork. The hype has begun in right earnest, though Tamil Nadu’s decision to keep the Sri Lankans out of Chennai is in bad taste. I had written last week on why Chennai should not be a venue and matches should’ve been shifted.
Since that is not going to happen, it does make things a bit difficult for some teams in finding the right mix in the playing XI. One team which has promised a lot and never delivered in crunch situations is Delhi Daredevils.
Last year, they played very well but could not sustain the form till the end. And that is perhaps the reason why they have now hired Jeremy Snape as their performance coach. As one who has studied psychology, he has played a huge role in helping South Africa shed the chokers tag in the international arena.
Now that the Daredevils have been hit by the absence of Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder, Snape has to ensure Mahela Jayawardene’s side can get going and also sustain the form.
If you take a look at the teams in fray, the fight for being in the top four will be interesting. As per depth, form and the ability to soak in pressure, Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata are capable of going the distance.
If one is to contrast the captains in charge of various teams, there is an interesting mix. While proven skippers like Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir have good records, it will be interesting to see how Virat Kohli can fire up Royal Challengers Bangalore. Then again, with golden oldies at the helm of Rajasthan Royals, Kings XI Punjab and Mumbai Indians, how Rahul Dravid, Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting lead their sides will be viewed with particular interest.
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