Wednesday, April 28, 2010

IPL 2010 has been brilliant

The buffeting the IPL impresario, Lalit Modi, is encountering off the field replicates the harsh treatment most of the competition's bowlers have been experiencing on it.

Run rates are climbing ever higher and the distances some of the tournament's 573 sixes have travelled almost beggar belief.

During a spectacular run chase in the foothills of the Himalayas a week ago, Chennai Super Kings captain, MS Dhoni, deposited one ball 108 metres. The same hit at Lord's would have comfortably cleared the pavilion (or the media centre), dwarfing the shot made by AE Trott there in 1899 which is still denoted in Wisden as the record hit in an official match.

Inside the grounds, and on television too, the all-hitting all-dancing IPL has again been a phenomenon. Viewing figures have been impressive and stadiums have been packed with excited fans, drawn by the IPL's seductive combination of pop, sport and Bollywood.

The melodrama of the matches, fortunes lurching one way then the other, has often mirrored the plot of a Bollywood movie. That is the IPL's winning formula – every match has the real sense of an event – and there is nothing else in the sub-continent to compete with it. It delivers what the burgeoning Indian middle-class crave – western-style entertainment. For that simple reason the IPL will continue to thrive, in spite of all the off-field machinations.

The 60-match tournament is too long and the relentless schedule is draining for the participants relentlessly criss-crossing India, but there were few uncompetitive games and new stars were unearthed. India now has a new generation of destructive batsmen. Lots more will be heard of the audacious Murali Vijay, the frisky Suresh Raina and the elegant Rohit Sharma. One or two interesting bowlers emerged too, notably off-spinner Ravichandra Ashwin.

Chennai had the best indigenous young players and that is the secret of success in the IPL, never mind all the lavish spending on foreign players.

Despite energy-sapping conditions, the cricket has been intense, making it hard for 'retired' great players such as Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden and Shane Warne to prosper. Warne is weighing up his options and may well call it a day. Rattling along at breakneck speed, the IPL is no country for old men.

To a man the players seem energised by the IPL, making light of the demands, even though there are vast discrepancies in salaries. While many of the foreign players are earning at least £30,000 a week, some of the Indians are being exploited. But, no matter, every dressing room is abuzz with ideas and ambitions. Paul Collingwood reports that his Delhi Daredevils training sessions are the best he has ever experienced.

Now that rival international teams rarely socialise with each other, the IPL has been invaluable in re-establishing the global cricketing brotherhood. With coaches and trainers recruited from far and wide it is a cricketing crucible. Whatever fate befalls the originators, it has fast-tracked the sport to remarkable new heights.

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