The Indian Premier League has begun in right earnest and as the teams travel back and forth in the summer heat, you can be sure it is going to be a hard grind again.
The early going in the annual cricket carnival has thrown up interesting results, though if you happen to be a Delhi Daredevils fan, there is nothing to feel happy about.
There is no doubting that in the absence of heavyweights like Kevin Pietersen and Jesse Ryder, their batting does look fragile. But the bigger problem has been the inability of Virender Sehwag to play in the first two matches thanks to back spasms.
Viru and his bad back are well known to anyone who has followed his career, but given the grind of cricket in the IPL, to be fit for the long tournament will be very challenging.
On Saturday, at the Kotla, even as the Daredevils made a hash of their chase against Rajasthan Royals, the ability of bowlers to change the nature of a contest came to the fore once again.
If in the lung opener in Kolkata, Delhi were done in by the magic of Sunil Narine, on their home turf against Rajasthan, it was a terrible capitulation. David Warner had played his part and the hosts were well placed, but a rash of wickets spelt doom for Delhi. I think the man who made all the difference was Kevon Cooper, whose wicketto- wicket medium- pace came at a crucial time as Delhi needed just 22 off the last three overs.
Last season, Delhi had started very well, thanks to Sehwag’s solid batting and Pietersen’s heavy scoring. But now there seems a void in the line- up, though it was good to see Umesh Yadav and Ashish Nehra bowl well on Saturday.
It is very clear that it is not the big hitters who are hogging the headlines. In Kolkata, Narine spelt doom for Delhi.
In Bangalore, though Chris Gayle was in his element, it was the inspired bowling of Vinay Kumar which caught the eye as Royal Challengers Bangalore beat Mumbai Indians in a thriller. All this only goes to show that a lot of strategising is happening out there in the middle now and the big hitters aren’t the only ones calling the shots.
A similar trend was noticed in Hyderabad as well, where in a lowscoring match, the SunRisers defeated Pune Warriors thanks to the hot spells bowled by the dangerous Dale Steyn and leg-spinner Amit Mishra.
While it may be too early to predict that bowlers will have a bigger role to play in the IPL this summer, it is an indicator that despite having lots of sloggers in each team, contests will not be onesided.
Looking at the wickets prepared till now at various centres, there is a clear message from the Board of Control for Cricket in India that the pitches be sporting.
One of the grievances last year was that home teams were preparing wickets to suit their own bowlers. But today, just because Delhi has a predominantly medium- fast attack does not mean they will have an advantage at the Kotla.
Likewise, in Kolkata, Narine’s presence does not mean they can prepare tracks which will assist spinners outright. From here on till the end of the tournament, it is important that wickets at all centres be sporting. Much as we like to see lusty hitting in the IPL, the bowlers have adapted their games not just to survive, but also to change the course of a match.
Teams which have not started off well – notably Delhi – will have to do their homework all over again. Such is the format of the tournament that teams have to regroup fast and be prepared for non- stop cricket.
Coming to the crowd participation, it is clear some of the venues are doing good business vis-a-vis the sale of tickets. A place like Bangalore is struggling to accommodate all the fans queueing up to buy tickets at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, though it has a decent capacity.
Chennai will once again come into focus as more teams travel to the southern metropolis for away matches. With the Tamil Nadu government adamant that Sri Lankan players cannot play there, it is about time the Qualifier and Eliminator are moved out.
After all, there is no way there can be fair cricket at a venue where visiting teams have to leave out their marquee Sri Lankans.
No longer just cannon fodderBy S.Kannan | Mail Today – Sun 7 Apr, 2013 9:44 AM IST
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