49 days of unstinted action

National selector Yashpal Sharma sat alone at the Palam ground in New Delhi, making notes in his little diary. He had come to watch the North Zone Twenty20 tournament. At another point stood a ‘spotter', making a conscious effort to make his presence felt, and, unsurprisingly, he was the more sought after, being a recruiting agent for a franchisee. That sight highlighted the priorities of the players — more keen to play the Indian Premier League (IPL).

 When the fourth edition of this cricket extravaganza opens on Friday, it will be a sweet throwback, for some, to the days gone by, even if for a mere four overs every match; Shane Warne tossing the ball, spinning it viciously, sometimes teasing the batsman, but often leaving him embarrassingly helpless at the crease. Warne was the architect of Rajasthan Royals' triumph in the first IPL.

The T20 format is more about entertainment, where the spectator makes no qualms about what he wants. He does not appreciate a dot ball but shouts himself hoarse when a mishit brings a run.

The likes of Warne and Adam Gilchrist still command a fan club. So do Rahul Dravid and V.V.S. Laxman.

Huge transformation

The game has undergone a huge transformation from the time when bowlers would applaud the batsmen on being hit for a four or six. These days they glare or mouth profanities as an aggressive advertisement for aggressive cricket. And the IPL signifies this transformation. The onus is on result and unstinted action.

 The cream of world cricket, minus the ones from Pakistan, would descend on cricket fields in India to showcase their skills in the shortest form of the game.

“Meagre in terms of quality,” if you ask the purist but “abundantly entertaining” as most young fans would excitedly tell you. Face painted and dressed in supporting colours, the youth at all the venues create a distinct aura that makes watching cricket in this age a very different experience.

Forty nine days of non-stop cricket may appear humungous, coming as it does on the heels of the World Cup, but then the previous three editions have only convinced the administrators that the future of the game lies secure in the success of the IPL.

 The credit for IPL's origin should be given to Indian Cricket League (ICL). The success that ICL achieved in its first season left the official machinery up of the game trembling. “IPL was always in our plans,” veteran cricket administrator I.S. Bindra had claimed when launching the tournament. He roped in Lalit Modi to market the concept of IPL after India won the 2007 T20 World Cup.

Big boost

 India winning the World Cup was the turning point for the game itself. It paved the way for the IPL and subsequently the money that came to boost the financial face of the game.

In IPL, there is money, and then there is cricket. IPL truly signifies the transformation in the character of the game. Families are glued to the matches, at venue or at home. The market for this brand of cricket is mind-blowing and the cricketing fraternity is too happy to ride on it.

There is a place for everyone, past and present, from players to administrators, from scorers to umpires. It is the lifeline to feed the domestic structure. Success in domestic cricket only ensures a window of opportunity in IPL.

The bright side of the IPL is the fact that it has attracted the new generation of cricketers. It brings quick money and quicker fame. Youngsters aspire to impress the franchise more than the National selector and it is hard to find faults with them.

This edition will feature two new teams, Pune Warriors and Kochi Tuskers Kerala, in addition to Chennai Super Kings, Deccan Chargers, Delhi Daredevils, Kings XI Punjab, Kolkata Knight Riders, Mumbai Indians, Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore.

In the first post-Modi edition, the serious players will have one reason to rejoice. No midnight parties and less off-the-field distractions…and it should reflect in their on-field performances. Seventy four matches, 14 more than the previous edition, would hold the attention of the cricket world over the next seven weeks.

Welcome to the enchanting vista of IPL-IV.

Keywords: IPL IV

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