The fourth edition of the Indian Premier League faced several challenges. Coming so close on the heels of ICC ODI World Cup, the competition had to grapple with viewer fatigue. The addition of two more franchises, Kochi Tuskers and Pune Warriors, increased the number of matches from 60 to 74. Despite a lukewarm beginning, the IPL came back well in the subsequent phases. The competition ended on a night of triumph for the Chennai Super Kings at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. CSK, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, among the most successful captains in international cricket, became the only team to win the competition twice. The Chennai side, which has reached the IPL final thrice and also won the Champions League title, has firepower in batting, variety in bowling, and cool when it matters most. When the team appeared heading for a defeat in the first qualifier against Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in Mumbai, strokeful left-hander Suresh Raina conjured a 50-ball unbeaten 73 to clinch a thriller. In the summit clash in Chennai, opener Murali Vijay displayed a wonderful sense of occasion by producing an explosive near-century. The solidity of ‘Mr. Cricket,' Michael Hussey (492 runs in 14 matches at 41.00), the pace and thrust of Doug Bollinger (17 wickets in 13 games at an economy rate or ER of 7.00), the masterful wielding of the bludgeon by Dhoni whenever needed, and the control and craft of off-spinner R. Ashwin (20 wickets in 16 matches at an ER of 6.15) served CSK splendidly.
Fittingly in the finale, CSK came up against the game changer of this IPL. Chris Gayle, signed up by RCB after he was left out of the West Indies squad for the ODIs against Pakistan, had batted right through like Superman, blowing away attacks at will. Ashwin's prising him out with a delicious piece of deception in the first over was a rare moment of sporting drama. Gayle, who was adjudged Player of the Tournament, made a sensational 608 runs in 12 matches at an average of 67.55 and a strike rate of 183.13. Slinger Lasith Malinga of the Mumbai Indians was the outstanding bowler with 28 wickets from 16 games at an ER of 5.95. The Sri Lankan's toe-crushers were on target. The IPL provides a platform for emerging players to showcase their skills, and aggressive opener Paul Valthaty (Kings XI Punjab), promising leg-spinner Rahul Sharma (Pune Warriors), and combative left-arm spinner Iqbal Abdulla (Kolkata Knight Riders) made headlines. The cash-rich IPL has reopened the club versus country debate. While there are no easy answers, the BCCI should make a sincere effort to ensure that the India cricketers do not play too much cricket at least 15 days before and after the popular Twenty20 competition to combat player fatigue and reduce the risk of injury.