May 28, 2012

IPL-5: The Best Ever?

I believed right from the beginning that IPL-5 would be a roaring success. I had my reasons to think that way, and I am glad that as an ardent cricket lover, my belief in the game has been further boosted by some outstanding displays of batting, bowling and fielding in the last 2 months or so. Eventually, it was consistency and tenacity of the Knight Riders that prevailed over luck and resoluteness of the Chennai Super Kings.

The credit for KKR win mainly goes to Gautam Gambhir who made the right noises throughout the IPL. I loved the way he spoke after every defeat or victory. There was a sense of purpose and a flat honesty in the way he talked, hinting a lot about the kind of character Gautam is. He led from the front, scoring a bulk of runs for his team, and also marshaled his troops brilliantly on the field. He had an ace up his sleeve in the form of Sunil Narine, who remained a mystery bowler throughout the tournament barring the finals. Credit also must be given to young Indian talent of the KKR who got themselves counted every time the situation demanded. From Bisla's whirlwind knock in the finals to Rajat Bhatia'a wily slow medium pace, KKR had some pretty good local talent at their disposal. The franchise owners and the players would be hugely delighted as well as relieved to have finally won the title for the city of Kolkata, which is extremely passionate about sports. And this must be a personal victory of sorts for Shah Rukh Khan, who got in all kinds of trouble in lead up to this big title. To be honest, despite being an ardent SRK fan I too at times got agitated by what I believed was 'extreme involvement' of the actor with the team and the games it played. I always believed that sheer weight and aura of his personality hindered KKR's chances of playing freely and up to their true potential. Khan was always there, in the stands, out there in the field, for every single match. I wondered is it that necessary for a team owner to watch each and every game!

Two reasons that perhaps explain Khan's enthusiasm are- one, he himself has been a sportsperson, and could not help getting involved in the game, and second reason can be the immense passion and energy he brings to everything that he does. But all things said and done, his brawl at the MCA and smoking scandal at Jaipur were surely avoidable incidents. Coming back to cricket, you got to give due credit and respect to CSK for coming so close yet again. Yes, I am a proclaimed CSK hater but the team definitely has the meat to rise up on big occasions. They have had plenty of good fortune coming their way but luck alone can not bring a team this far. But the CSK need to watch out for complacency and arrogance seeping in their ranks. Personally, I did not like Bravo's theatrics every time he took a catch or got a wicket. Ashwin and Vijay also go overboard in their celebrations, and all of this did have a role in eventual denial of what could have a hattrick of titles for Chennai.

My heart goes out to teams like Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab who played out of their skins to keep this IPL alive and kicking till the very last match of the league stage. RCB's ouster before the play-offs makes me wonder what will this team do once Gayle is out of form or not available for playing! Two years in a row Gayle has been absolutely devastating in his impact, scoring bucket full of runs, but still the RCB has not managed to win the title. This tells us a lot about the team's over-dependency on Gayle and the management really needs to do something about it.

As for Delhi, they were deservedly dumped by CSK in the eliminator! This is a team that has come cropper in crunch games again and again, despite creating havoc in the league stages. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, were the second most lucky team in the competition after CSK. I think they did not deserve to be in the play-offs, with the kind of patchy performance they put up, specially in the first half of the tournament. But MI would be happy with the eventual results, although they seriously need to find a more 'captain like captain' next season!

And my heart aches every time I think of the torrid time Pune had in this IPL! Despite starting off their campaign pretty well, IPL's newest franchise struggled badly towards the business end of the tournament, losing 8 games in a row! I fail to understand the exact reasons behind this debacle. But a probable answer could be that bigger and better teams like CSK, KKR and MI peak towards the end of the IPL while the underdogs like PWI and RR struggle as the business end approaches. Deccan Chargers were never in contention for the play off berth, but did well by extinguishing the chances of at least two hopeful sides (RR, RCB)!

These two months have been fascinating for every cricket fan! I was specially in awe of some of the fielding heroics near the boundary rope by the likes of Rahane, Botha, Steve Smith and a few others! Add to it the innovation in batting by the likes of de'Villiers and the guile in spin bowling brought on by Sunil Narine, and IPL-5 has contributed immensely to the game of cricket. This edition was easily the most fiercely contested with 7 out of 9 teams in the race for a play-off berth till the last stage of the league matches. Naysayers may sulk and call it all 'fixed' or may brood over that molestation case or SRK brawl, but at the end of the day IPL has yet again proved to be cricket's beloved million dollar baby!

Hoping for a bigger and better 2013!

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