The DLF-IPL has been a remarkable tale of two Australians smartly deploying their resources and winning a title each under their belt.
First it was the leg-spin wizard Shane Warne who demonstrated the sharpness and intelligence to comprehend the psyche of seven Indian players, flattered them at every media opportunity, showed them the way in the league matches, after being drubbed by Delhi Daredevils in the opening match, and eventually to the title beating Chennai Super Kings in the first final at the D.Y. Patil Stadium in 2008.
A season later, when the IPL moved to the Rainbow Nation, another craggy Australian, Adam Gilchrist, upset the calculations of the rest of the field, leading by example with the bat and instilling confidence in a group of seven virtually unknown Indians.
There was one distinct commonality evident in the two Australians; they gave the Indians the leeway to demonstrate their skills and significantly play without fear of failure. The result: Deccan Chargers beat Royal Challengers Bangalore in the final at Johannesburg by six runs.
Running the show
Warne ran the show at the cricket academy in Jaipur with help from Darren Berry and Jeremy Snape. The Indians in the squad held him in awe and admiration and in return Warne paid personal attention to augmenting their skills.
Within two weeks he said Ravindra Jadeja would be the rock star of Indian cricket and predicted a bright future for Yusuf Pathan. Seamer Siddharth Trivedi proved adept on occasion and so did Swapnil Asnodkar.
He revived the sagging career of Shane Watson (player of the first IPL) and benefited from the opening burst of left-arm seamer Sohail Tanvir. Jadeja, though banned from IPL III for negotiating with another franchise, has sort of established permanency in the Indian one-day and Twenty20 team and Pathan has brought refinement to his batting with his mindset still on belting the ball.
In South Africa, Adam Gilchrist took charge and his punishing blade has an aggregate of 931 runs from 30 matches. Gilchrist had the knack to get the best out of R.P. Singh and Harmeet Singh and gave an opening for seamer all-rounder Ryan Harris on the big stage.
Harris is not only part and parcel of the Australian one-day team, but he has been included in the Test series against New Zealand.
In a way the IPL's first two editions have contributed in a large way to Australian cricket; Watson has acknowledged it a number of times. Gilchrist was the Player of the IPL II in South Africa.
Warne and Gilchrist will lead Rajasthan Royals and Deccan Chargers respectively; perhaps this season could turn out to be the last one for both the players.
The rest of the six teams are led by Sachin Tendulkar (Mumbai Indians), Sourav Ganguly (Kolkata Knight Riders), M.S. Dhoni (Chennai Super Kings), Gautam Gambhir (Delhi Daredevils), Anil Kumble (Royal Challengers Bangalore) and Kumar Sangakkara (Kings XI Punjab).
The million dollar question is will an Indian captain lay his hands on the trophy on April 25?