It is that time of the year, when no big-banner Bollywood movie releases and Ekta Kapoor does not come out with a sensational and tear-wrenching soap(which after my mother finishes watching, blames me for being a bad son in real life, as if I was the very son in the tv serial who threw the stupid old woman out of her own house..) And all this because this time of the year is owned by the lisping Lalit Modi, IPL commissioner for the last 2 years, who brings a plagiarized version of Club football to India, repackaged in the form of Indian Premier League or IPL “treeeetiiyyyaaa” as Amitabh Bachchan would scream were he to host this particular cricket extravaganza.
The history of IPL so far:
IPL 1: It was runaway success with the crowds lapping it up, partly because of the shrewd division of cricket teams into region based teams which promoted unprecedented show of jingoism and partly because of the high-octane cricket played all around. Shane Warne, who most Australian players regard as the best captain never to have captained Australia, did something amazing. He picked up a team of also-ran and motivated them through some mysterious means (most of the reasons provided by media is bull shit. How can you motivate someone by calling him “superstar” or “rocket”. Well people call me the “Usual” and back in college, even worse, but this never spurred me to go and achieve great things in life. Similarly a tournament spread over a month and 63 matches needs more motivation than just calling special names. And hell no, calling names never motivates anyone :D) However I have nothing else but respect for Warne, because irrespective of his methods, his team outperformed everyone and they beat Chennai Super Kings(led by Dhoni) in a peach of a final. The picture of Yusuf Pathan running towards Warne with the bat and arms raised will be etched in the minds of cricket lovers for a long time to come.
IPL 2: Full Drama, sometimes putting even Shahrukh Khan’s recently released MNIK to shame, ensued with respect to the grave situation of security in the country. Mr. Chidambaran, the much maligned home minister of India then, decided enough is enough. “yaha desh ki lagi padi hai aur inhe cricket ki padi hai.. jao.. nahi dete hum security cover. jo ukhadna hai ukhad lo..“(Translation for people like my dear friend @kranium256: The entire country is in turmoil, and you morons can only think about cricket. Do what you want but I am not providing any security cover) So after this, BCCI announced that they would be shifting IPL outside India and after doing a lot of calculations and ensuring that their pockets would be more than full, they decided to go with South Africa as their host for the IPL. Lalit Modi worked day and night and ensured that IPL schedule was beset by only a week and when the event did start, it was a cracker. Twists and turns galore, the event which again witnessed high quality cricket and even more record-breaking TV viewership, culminated in an emotionally charged final between the last 2 place holders of IPL 1(Deccan Chargers and Bangalore Royal Challengers). Deccan Chargers came up trumps and with that Adam Gilchrist became the face of numerous statues in almost every traffic square in Hyderabad(Also suddenly Deccan Chronicle became the highest selling newspaper surpassing, the mighty and shitty,Times of India(I call it “shitty” because TOI made a fool of me with regards to date of CAT results and earned me collective scorn of a lot of my friends, who continue to eyeball me even today for that rookie mistake and “mighty” because only TOI as an organisation can get away with something this heinous). Jokes apart, the IPL 2 was again a roaring success and only strengthened people’s idea regarding IPL as a wonderful revenue model for cricket.
Now back to IPL 3:
IPL 3 started on the same lines as IPL 2, although this time the Indian Government had no role to play in the drama, with players threatening a mass pull out from the event. Whenever it comes to security, Australia is the first country to chicken out. Their board is the first one to announce, “We are unhappy with security provided and this puts our players in grave danger, with a perceivable threat to their lives”(this line has been totally made up by me just to give you the picture) and then an in-fighting starts where the retired players want to play and the new ones scurry for cover. I mean seriously, what the hell!! if a country is organizing an event on such a scale, is it dumb enough to ignore security?? Also, how the hell can they provide you with security details? if they did, how would it remain secret anyways ?? However Lalit Modi showed fantastic composure and obduracy and warned the players in no sweet terms, that if they boycott this event, they would be penalised heavily and the penalty would definitely involve losing out on money. He made his intentions very clear and the response was prompt. Ravi Bopara(who plays for England and Punjab Kings XI) who had earlier declared, “Cricket is my living and in many ways my life. But it is not worth dying for” was the first one to announce his arrival in India and soon most, no all the players followed. Suddenly even Australian cricket board(CA) became fine with the security arrangements. Lot of players taking advantage of the new revolution, Twitter announced how happy they were about playing in India as the crowd in India was amazing and the playing atmosphere and blah blah blah. Nonsense, if you were always so happy and excited about playing in India, then why create so much of drama in the first place.
Since then, however it has been all smooth sailing, with the IPL wave reaching a memorable crescendo in the jaw-dropping opening ceremony at the D.Y.Patil stadium in Nerul, Navi Mumbai, although some people did complain about the length of such a ceremony and its futility with respect to cricket. Well, cricket is not simply cricket anymore, it comes with its own added baggage, something everyone has taken a liking to, apart from the purists of course.
It’s been only 5 days into the tournament and we have already witnessed some mind-numbing innings, one by Yusuf Pathan in that 37-ball carnage and one today by Jacques Kallis. Yusuf Pathan at the moment likes to play only for Rajasthan Royals for he looks a pale shadow of his IPL form when he plays for the country. The 37-ball 100 witnessed some shots of terrifying monstrosity, with everything that flies in the air coming in grave danger of being hit by a bullet/rocket, call it what you may. Kallis on the other hand, has now combined his efficiency and consistency with his tough physique to deadly effects. Chasing 204 takes some doing and it becomes even more special, when you start and finish it off yourself.
Delhi have been their usual self, collecting points and victories with an Australian like ruthlessness. They have a few chinks in their armor, but they generally tend to iron them out as the league progresses until they reach the semi-finals where they inexplicably decide to self-destruct spectacularly. I still count them as favorites for this year’s title. Chennai powered by Dhoni somehow always manage to find the answers at the right time and come up with a solution that would take them to at least the semi-final. Might not be this year though, as some other teams have entered into the fray with renewed zest and focus. Bangalore as a team always flatter to deceive and just when you think that they would sink without a trace, they come up with a performance like today’s which makes you sit up and take notice. However I don’t expect to make it to the semi-finals this year. Kolkata, spurned on by the Dada factor and also the fact that they would have Bond, Gayle and David “Bomber” Hussey for majority of the tournament, look really strong contenders this year. I expect them to at least make the semi-finals.
Mumbai might feel that this might finally be their year. With Pollard, the new T-20 sensation on the block, and Calypso-king Bravo joining the squad, they have a very capable team of reaching at least the semi-final. Deccan usually stutter their way through the tournament, huffing and puffing along and I foresee no difference this year too, though I marvel how Adam Gilchrist manages to come back after a year of no cricket and just starts belting the ball to all corners of the park. Some people I guess, are just born to hit a cricket ball as far as they can. It would be a close call between Chennai and Deccan this year for the final semi-final spot. Rajasthan are terribly out of depth this year and with Graeme Smith being ruled out of tournament with a finger injury and Mascharenhas also going back to England(for a reason I do not know, but Shilpa Shetty, another Preity Zinta in the making as far as IPL is concerned, tweeted this piece of news) the squad looks awfully thin. Punjab, need to sort out their problems, because when their batting clicks, bowling fails and vice-versa, not to mention the woeful fielding.
And so my choice of semi-finalists would be:
• Delhi Daredevils
• Kolkata Knight Riders
• Mumbai Indians
• Chennai Super Kings/ Deccan Chargers
But this is solely my opinion and I would love to see how things actually pan out in reality. But for now let us sit back and enjoy the spectacle that is IPL, for there are plenty of matches to come, plenty of Yusuf-like innings still to be seen and plenty of time and money still to be wasted in going to sportsbars and cheering your team even when they are 10/3 and chasing 204. Such is the power of IPL, such is the impression it creates on our minds..