From being an infant in 2008 to reaching its adolescence in this year’s season, the <i>tamasha</i> of Indian Premier League has thrown up some pulsating cricket, which has the power to change the very perception of the game. From being perceived as the sport of the gentlemen, to being labelled as the game of the masses, Lalit Modi’s brain child has definitely chartered new territories on and off the field.
Indian Premier League is now reportedly breaking into a billion dollar league. If one is ready to ignore the obscene amount of money it brings, the liquor it spills in its lounges or scantily clad women to cheer the audiences present, or be it the ownership row which just seems to be getting murkier, this ‘silly’ twenty over game has come up with some matches that are way beyond what a cricket writer would call a ‘thrilling tie’, ‘cliffhanger’, ‘nail biter’ or nerve ‘wracking end’.
The summer bonanza has also broken the myth that modern cricket is only about brute force and power hitting. I have often wondered that if a batsman can score a hundred in Tests, then why can’t he be an ideal twenty-twenty cricketer? The thought is simple. If Shakespeare could write volumes of acts, it would be a blasphemy to write him off for Blogs.
Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis and Shane Warne have proved the fact.
Let us begin with Tendulkar. It has been simply amazing to watch the way he stamped his class in a format where he found no takers among cricketing pundits. The disdainful display of cover drive, when the fields were packed in the inner circle and sweeper guarded the deep in the match against Delhi Daredevils, Tendulkar showed that cricket is definitely not just played on the field, but also in the mind of the player.
Out of the 11 innings that Tendulkar has played in IPL III so far, the legend has amassed a staggering 512 runs off just 367 balls and is the tournament’s leading run scorer.
Second in the list comes Jacques Kallis and a distant third is none other than the Prince of Kolkata, Sourav Ganguly. Nothing has reduced the importance of deft touches, sublime sweeps, gracious cover drives and balanced flicks off the hips or trademark straight hits over the bowler’s head.
In contrast, those who came in the cricketing carnival to re-invent some new strokes, some new mongoose bats, some ‘Dilshan scoops’ or say some switch hits, have nothing much to write home about.
No one knows for how long Tendulkar will be there as cricket’s guiding light, but IPL 3 has sent a message to all those budding wannabe stars, that there is no substitute to class.
In a stark contrast, Keiron Pollard, Kevin Pietersen, Dilshan and Mathew Hayden, who also tried out the mongoose bat to maximize the sweet spot, have had success coming only in patches.
One may also accuse me of being carried away with the current form in IPL. And in no way am I doubting the capabilities of the aforesaid cricketers, but the message for youngsters watching only T20 cricket is simple: You have a choice in selecting role models, the Tendulkars, Dravids or Pollards; this writer has no doubt it should be the first two.
Interestingly, Indian Premier League has also highlighted how bereft international cricket has been without Shane Warne. The legend once again was at his best the other day when Rajasthan Royals won a hell of a close game against Deccan Chargers.
Shane Warne spun a magic web around and outside the leg stump to an extent that reminded one of the famous delivery that got rid of Mike Gatting. Bowled round the legs, the delivery clipped away Gatting’s off stump and gave the world a genius named Shane Warne in 1991.
19 years have passed since then, but the world of cricket has seen nobody coming even close to that accuracy, that child like enthusiasm after fall of every wicket was not just intact the other night but also rubbed off on his team mates. Be it his manoeuvring of fielding positions or taking charge of the bowling attack, the brilliance of Shane Warne was such that no one wanted the camera to move beyond him, leave aside the dancing cheerleaders or a galaxy of cine stars in the stadium.
No doubt then that the legendary Richie Benaud had dubbed Shane Warne as the face of cricket.
It is time one takes a leaf out of the two geniuses’ books and leave all those ills which IPL may bring with it. Till the point it is just another form entertainment cum sports, it is well and good; but one must be aware of the lurking danger that too much entertainment might become a kill joy.