Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Truth about IPL

The only time I have turned to that 'hopeless little screen' - as Leonard Cohen called it - in recent times was to tune into the IPL. It was of course no coincidence I was in India at the time. It is impossible to get away from cricket in India - or so it seems at any rate when you are 'on vacation'. The 'IPL experience' was better than what I expected of T20 in purely cricketing terms. There were quite a few close games, although I'm not sure it was because teams played high quality cricket consistently or because a truly dominant team is yet to emerge. Delhi and Chennai, frontrunners both, looked good, yet they were not truly dominant. Although when Hayden made his form really count, Chennai seemed to have got into cruise control with Shadab Jakati providing some surprise knock out blows. Only to have their seam bowling fall apart a bit under pressure. Anil Kumble was cannier than ever, and watching him bowl was a delight. Not only was he not caned too often, but what truly pleased the senses was the amount of air he gave the ball and the subtle variety he threw up. Kumble continues to thrill with his ability to reinvent himself. This is in contrast to Sourav Ganguly, though in theory it should have been a smoother transition for Ganguly to the new form. Apart from a few bright spots, 'domestic' Indian batsmen generally had a poorer tournament, or at least that was my impression. Among those on the fringe, only Rohit Sharma enhanced his reputation, considering Raina is already a regular in the national side, as is Yusuf Pathan. Manish Pandey chose the best time to put his hand up; Irfan Pathan did enough to stick around, while doing nothing to dispel the impression that he may be past his peak unless he is once again hungry and willing bowl at a lively pace in the longer form. One hopes not - when he bowled with pace and confidence, Pathan was an attacking swing bowler who threatened the best. So was Lakshmipathy Balaji, although he has played much less top level cricket, who with his remodeled action seems to have lost a bit of sharpness. I wish that this were not true either, having met the easy going yet genial Chennai cricketer, at a time when he was seeking medical advice for injuries that proved to be more than just niggles. If the cricket proved reasonably interesting, the IPL TV culture was nauseating, especially with the seven minute 'strategy break'. The Max studio team with the less than distinguished Arun Lal got on the nerves far too much. The commentary was no better. And there was much adolescent fun with all the cheerleading. For the relatively grown up, Mandira Bedi dressed and looked better, even sounded downright pleasant after a bout of L Siva or, heavens forbid, Srikkanth with the occasional Hindi throw in. If I could order a mafia hit, I might have done it on a whim when I heard Arun Lal dismissing Shane Warne's claims to Australian captaincy :) Warne's supposed transgressions may not please some, but for some it has become quite the excuse to portray the leg spinner as some sort of degenerate. It is a cricket team, for fuck's sake. We elect people far worse to run our (or is that over?) lives.
As for the strategy break, the players clearly weren't keen on it, yet the league persisted with it. I can't recollect what the franchise owners thought of this, which brings me to the power centre of the IPL. Clearly, the Modi-led administration is firmly in control of the proceedings. The franchises are eating out of Modi's hands, for the moment anyway.

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