Cricket: The Indian Premier League is upon us, and it is time to embrace the insanity and thrills of cricket’s shortest version
Farah Khan has done her dancing-shoes bit to promote the Indian Premier League in a television commercial. The official broadcaster too has used every break between movies, to hype the imminent arrival of cricketainment.
Sixes, agile catches, breathless commentators faithfully adding brand names to every adjective, cheerleaders and cricket under lights will all seamlessly blend as the league commences at Kolkata on Wednesday.
Closer home, Bangaloreans need not wait for their share of excitement as Royal Challengers Bangalore opens its campaign with the match against Mumbai Indians at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday night.
A full house is expected and as the men in red and golden hues run into the turf, a mighty roar will emanate from the stands though an even bigger cheer will be reserved for one member from the opposition — Sachin Tendulkar. Nearing 40, this could well be Tendulkar’s valedictory game in the Silicon City but the same thought had gripped everyone last year too, and he proved us all wrong.
If Mumbai Indians is all about a legend’s footprints, then RCB is tuned into a youngster’s assured march in the cricketing hierarchy. Virat Kohli, who is intrinsic to the Indian team in all formats, will now lead RCB and it is a huge step for the Delhi lad.
The home team, with runner-up finishes in 2009 and 2011, has often stumbled in the final stretch and that anomaly needs to be rectified. As usual, RCB will ride on its muscular batting that is embellished with crowd-favourite Chris Gayle, Tillakaratne Dilshan, AB de Villiers and skipper Kohli. The bowling has been a weak link in the past but with reinforcements like Caribbean fast bowler Ravi Rampaul and spinner Murali Kartik, and the added presence of experienced men like Zaheer Khan, Muttiah Muralitharan and Daniel Vettori, the attack should stay afloat. For those keen on rooting for their ‘mannina magas’ (sons of the soil), they can applaud the likes of R. Vinay Kumar, Abhimanyu Mithun, Mayank Agarwal, K.L. Rahul and K.P. Appanna.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Mumbai Indians squad has seemingly built bridges where none existed.
If in the previous years, it helped the notorious rivals of the ‘Monkey-gate’ controversy – Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds – to play together, in the latest edition, the team has again promoted the spirit of reconciliation.
Four men from that infamous 2008 Sydney Test, when Symonds alleged that Harbhajan called him a monkey, will be fused together in their common goal of scripting victories. Anil Kumble is now the chief mentor of Mumbai Indians while Ricky Ponting leads the squad and among his key men are Tendulkar and Harbhajan.
Incidentally, the league will also help players like Virender Sehwag (Delhi Daredevils) and Gautam Gambhir (captain, Kolkata Knight Riders) prove their credentials, spurned as they are by the national selectors.
Meanwhile, for owners like the Ambanis, the Sahara Roys, Shah Rukh Khan and RCB’s Vijay Mallya, the league will again drive home the theory that a team’s performance will never reflect a company’s balance-sheet. Just like KKR’s title-triumph last year boosted Shah Rukh Khan’s morale, an RCB victory in the final will provide some solace to Mallya, who continues to weather business slumps.
In a league that amalgamates cricket and commerce, politics too has queered the pitch as reflected in the withdrawal of Sri Lankan players from matches in Chennai. Hopefully the fault-lines will be forgotten when Ravi Shastri hollers into the microphone: “It is time for action.”