Today, we'll the witness the successful completion of half the matches of the first edition of IPL. While the presence of the international stars definitely boosted ticket sales and the controversies, both on and off the field have left media houses licking their lips, I thought it's a good time to review the impact that IPL and the teams have on cricket and Indian Cricket in particular. Let us review the teams in the ascending order of their positions as of today.
At the bottom of the table is Bangalore Royal Challengers. Mallaya's team suffered the most disastrous start to their campaign. Losing to the Knight Riders in the most humiliating manner ruined the efforts of the Liquor Baron to host a spectacular opening ceremony at home. Many of Bangalore's superstars are yet to justify their prices. Nathan Bracken's timely injury put to rest an hopes of his participation. Only Praveen Kumar and Zaheer Khan and to some extent Mark Boucher have justified their places. The future will see some pressure on Dravid, Kallis, Misbah and Styen. With the sacking of CEO Charu Sharma, reasons(cricketing or otherwise) notwithstanding, Mallaya has tactfully made it clear he means business and will employ any any means to bolster the teams performance. We might see the franchise trying to acquire Bangalore-dude Robin Uthappa for the next season. Don't rule out any franchise acquiring players from ICL. Stuart Binny wouldn't be a bad investment.Trust the "king of good times" to "force" a bottom's-up.
At the start of the tournament, I was certainly very patronizing of the Hyderabad team, but half way into the tournament, the Deccan Chargers have flattered to deceive. A description of the Hyderabad line-up would definitely help a Grammar teacher in school impress upon her class, the concept of adjectives. And also that of irony. How can a team comprising Aussies Superstars Symonds & Gilchrist, electric Gibbs, mercurial Afridi, the ever consistent Vaas & Styris, and India's T20 heroes RP Singh & Rohit Sharma fail to even create a ripple in the IPL ocean? The problem undoubtedly has been at the top. While Laxman was selfless enough to trade his icon status for a stronger team, he's not been able to influence the big names in any way to shape his team into a cohesive unit. There was a remarkable performance from the chargers in the only game that Gilchrist led. The future will see Gilchrist leading this team, probably the next season. Also we might have a situation of the Chargers being forced to elevate Rohit Sharma to an icon status to parry off prospective buyers like Mumbai Indians. However the one postive discovery from Chargers is Pragyan Ojha. The left-arm spinner will surely replace Murli Karthik in India's Test Squad someday. Do we see one Mr. Ambati Rayudu sulking in his ICL Hyderabad Heroes dressing room?
Kolkata started it's campaign like a dream. It's reality check subsequently, suffered an awkward bounce, much like the eden gardens wicket. What'll bother SRK is the fact a "hero" is yet to emerge from the shadows of Brendon Mccullum, while SRK's still busy trying to organize a "Villans Ka Milan". The Nokia campaign probably sums up the state of affairs in the Knight Riders' camp. There is an obvious lack of team spirit and the latest addition to KKR, Mr. Shohaib Akhtar, is as much an ambassador of team spirit as Karan Johar( one KKR patron) is to Victoria's Secret. The coming days will see SRK giving a live performance of his prize winning role of Chuk De India in the KKR dressing room. A screening of the movie in KKR dressing room will certainly be on Mr. John Buchanan's list of coaching mantra's if it shows results. Unlike Bangalore, Kolkata can still boast of great number of positives. Besides Brendon's Blinder in Bangalore, Ishant Sharma's miserly spells have done no harm to his reputation, Agarkar continues to take wickets at his erratic best and the addition of Pakistan's Gul and Akhtar gives Kolkata the winning look on paper, but the biggest impact that KKR will have on Indian Cricket is the development of local boys Wriddhiman Saha, Laxmiratan Shukla, Debabrata Das and A B Dinda into competitive cricketers. We cant help but feel the lure of ICL drove Rohan Gavaskar away from an opportunity of a lifetime.
After 4 succesive debacles, the Mumbai Indians under Shaun Pollock have epitomised the resilience that Indians(of India and not only Mumbai. well, One cannot ignore the irony here.Mukesh Ambani can literally claim complete ownership of "Indians", thanks to IPL! ) have come to associate with the name, Ambani. With Sachin still to make his IPL debut, Mukesh Ambani will take a lot of heart from the team's performance. Fans can expect a lot of investment coming the Indians' way and may be an IPO in the BSE a few years later. It takes an astute businessmen like the Ambanis to ask BCCI to mind their own business, or to shrug off a bad investment like Harbhajan Singh.
Captaining the super kings has been a test for Dhoni, and the man delivered instantly. Dhoni won the respect of all his men, which also included a former skipper Stephen Fleming, who was left warming the bench and Matthew Hayden. So incredible were the super kings that Chennai was high on MSD. But after 4 successive victories, the skipper realised that he had indeed taken the services of Hayden, Mike Hussey and Oram for granted. Even Sivamani couldn't help him beat his drums. Even if the mascot , K Srikkanth was a maestro at playing a wind instrument, like say a trumpet, It couldn't have cheered Chennai. However while the team looks to find their winning ways, one must admit Dhoni definitely marshaled his forces well. The likes of Goni and Joginder Sharma have delivered when the going got tough and though Murli is yet to find his wicket taking formula, he's helped chennai keep a check on the oppositions run-rate. It would auger well for Chennai to bring back some of her disillusioned sons like T Kumaran and induct them into the Super Kings.
GMR Investments had some capital ideas for Delhi. They invested wisely and look like the most balanced side in the tournament. Viru is the only icon to justify the money spent on acquiring him. Gambhir was a deal, Vettori a steal, and Mcgrath, the f@#&ing sale of the century. And likes of Dhawan, AB De Villiers, Malik, Tiwari, Karthik and Bhatia setting the fields on fire, few teams could dare delhi. Also the presence of Mcgrath has definitely brought the best out of Asif, Mahroof and Yomahesh. One only hopes Sehwag doesn't allow himself the luxury of talking instead of letting his willow do it for him.
Rajastan Royals is the greatest thing that has happened for Indian Cricket since, well, helmets and protective gear against the West Indian Pace Battery in the 70's. Shane Warne would be remembered as the Indiana Jones of Indian Cricket for unearthing gems like Swapnil Asnodkar, Ravindra Jadeja, Taruwar Kohli, Yusuf Pathan and Siddharth Trivedi to the world. And add Graeme Smith, Sohail Tanvir and Shane Watson and the Royals look like they'd paint the "pink city" red. 5 successive wins definitely surprised all those who'd hardly given them a chance. Irrespective of the final outcome, Rajastan Royals will become one of the most popular teams in the league on account of their performances. And expect Shane Watson's price tag to hit the roof, just like the balls that leave his willow.
The team that's created more hype than any other in this edition is, brace yourself, Preity Zinta's boys from Punjab. Having started off very poorly, this team was open to any new idea that emerged from any quarter. While cricketers Irfan Pathan, Sangakara, Simon Katich, Brett Lee, Piyush Chawla, Jayawardene and Yuvraj made headlines for cricketing reasons, there were others who resorted to some "slap"stick. If that wasn't enough, Preity motivated her boys to "embrace" a new winning formula, her own Munna-Bhai inspired Jadoo Ki Jhapki. All these definitely helped Mohali turn (points)tables on their opponents. One is left wondering if the Mohali Franchise would be keen on acquiring Punjab da Puttar Bhajji next season to pump up the Bhangra. " Cricket is a serious Business" insist the owners. "This is no song and dance and we definitely need no villans", they say as some more "trainees" vacate rooms at the Taj for the dignitaries who grace the matches at Mohali.
Do we hear purists say "This is not cricket!" ?