Weary legs and tired bodies, straight from the ICC World Cup combined with the freshness of youth to give IPL-4 an exciting first full week. The glamour, the expected, and by now, expecting the unexpected, and of course, some controversies were all in full force, reaffirming the Indian Premier League as the hottest league draw internationally at this moment.
For spectators and fans, it was back to the daily dose of cricket, as with the last 3 years, a well-timed relief, at the end of relentless, hot summer days. Yet, many an ardent cricket fan will be hard pressed to name members of most teams, as the auctions have over-hauled almost all starting line-ups. Throw in new faces, new teams, new support staff and even new colours, and you have an amazing hotchpotch that could take most part of this edition of IPL to decipher.
Building team loyalty has always been a big part of the IPL mantra from day one of its genesis, and the role of the celebrity players no doubt has a significant role to play in this regard. With these names now moving to different teams, individual IPL team identities are almost seemingly now morphed into each other. Yet, to be fair to the organisers, the format and the rules had allowed for 4 players to be retained by each team, which only Chennai and Mumbai exercised effectively.
While there is no doubt that the interest in the tournament will only develop further as the weeks progress, the beauty of the format was in ample display for the ability to uncover unknown talent, a classic example in this case being the thus far unknown Paul Valtathy. A lucky decision or an inspired one to open with him, saw this 27-year old catapult to fame in Kings XI’s incredible victory over the magic captain, Dhoni’s Chennai with a 63-ball 120. And to think that Valtathy has played just one domestic game before this.
Apart from Chennai’s defeat, the other big upset of the tournament thus far was Mumbai Indians, riding on the back of Sachin’s first IPL century, losing to the new entrants and the classy Mahela’s team, Kochi Tuskers Kerala. You cannot keep Mahela out of match winning knocks, and Kochi’s strengths going into IPL will certainly be his skills and cricketing brain as a captain.
While Murali has not had quite the same impact this edition, no piece on IPL happenings can be complete without a mention of the world’s most lethal bowler at this moment, Lasith Malinga. He never ceases to surprise all, but mostly the batsmen, who remain in the back-foot, awaiting the yorkers, yet never seem able to keep them out of the stumps. Kudos to a person who is breaking new grounds in accurate pace bowling.
Bollywood fans can take particular joy in the fact that Shah Rukh Khan’s Kolkatta Knight Riders may well have put their days at the bottom of the table behind, and under Gambhir, are in the process of scripting a new chapter in this format, having won 2 of their 3 outings, the last one being a very convincing and well-paced chase over Warne’s Rajasthan Royals.
The bottom place in the table this week belong to Delhi and neither Sehwag nor the owners, GMR, will be too pleased having lost both their games, but it would seem that a Sehwag show cannot be too far away now. The Sahara group, on the other hand, must feel vindicated about their strong support to Indian cricket over many, many years, as their Pune team remains undefeated thus far, under Yuvraj Singh.
With another exciting week up ahead with winners and losers, and the big names with all their might, the real excitement will come those hitherto unknown players, like Valthaty, who are but one night away from their moment of fame and glory.