The 4th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL4) is now a few hours away from a mild kick-off. I say mild because India is yet to recover from the World-Cup-2011 victory celebrations. Even as those celebrations were on, much of the attention in India has been directed at a hunger fast against corruption.
So it is against this backdrop that IPL4 kicks off this evening.
After 6 weeks of non-stop World Cup action, the 50-over variety of cricket gives way to the 20-over circus. With India’s win in the World Cup 2011, and with the resulting outpouring of national frenzy in India, the organizers of IPL will perhaps be a bit tentative in the first few days of IPL4.
The next 6 weeks will tell us whether IPL has a future in this country. The BCCI will need to combat the post-World-Cup fan hangover, a swelling anti-corruption movement and much more.
The last year has been annus horribilis for the IPL in which we saw a litany of disasters for a league that had become the fastest growing sports brand in the world! Suddenly, lawyers made a lot of money mounting cases or fending them off. If the manner of Lalit Modi’s ouster was bizarre, it was balanced wonderfully by the many conflicts of interest of the key players in the drama that unfolded. It appeared that much of the Board was asleep at the wheel — a practice that many in the BCCI are quite adept at — in the years that preceded the unfolding drama. There were more raids on offices than mosquito-repellent cans on a supermarket shelf.
Suddenly, two teams were axed; Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab were barred. More lawyers were dragged in. More fighting through the media.
Kochi, the new team in the IPL, and incidentally, the team that started IPL’s slide towards apparent obscurity, was suddenly back in the news. Its formation had already led to the resignation of a cabinet minister after “much sweat and not that much equity” — I read that lovely phrase on Twitter, but cannot remember who to credit it to! Ironically, it was a simple Tweet that signified the beginning of the slide for the IPL! Team Kochi could not pull together a governance team or its investment assurances. And then suddenly they did, a few days before the auction took place.
The auction itself was a bit of a farce! The order in which player-groups would be opened up for auction was changed at the very last minute — apparently to suit one team. Indian domestic players were unfairly disadvantaged in the process.
Brand IPL had suffered through the year and took a severe beating. Up until then, the IPL property had grown into a marketer’s delight. There were more eye-ball opportunities than you could poke a stick at. IPL had become a heady and intoxicating mix of Bollywood, late night parties, head-banging music, peanut throwing ladies trying to attract the attention of able-bodied men and of course, some on-field cricket action too.
Fan Loyalty programs were being carefully developed. It was possible for a Team India fan to support Rahul Dravid against Sachin Tendulkar! Previous editions of IPL had busted the myth that city-based rivalry could not flourish when faced with the pressure of fierce national loyalties.
But all that was undone by a terrible year for the IPL. The organizers and team owners must climb that mountain again. And they will need to do it without the biggest lisp in the business.
Set against that backdrop, I believe IPL4 will start tentatively. It cannot afford a loud start especially after the hangover from 2 April still lingers and especially as Anna Hazare appears to be mounting an austere campaign against the parliamentary establishment in the land. But over the initial few weeks of IPL4, we will know if these tentative steps reach the cacophonous chest-thump levels of IPL-3.
CSK versus KKR:
Tonight, Chennai Super Kings (CSK) will take on Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) after an opening ceremony.
The KKR Team that is likely to play today is (in batting order):
Shreevats Goswami (wk)
Manoj Tiwary / Manvinder Bisla
Ryan ten Doeschate
Rajat Bhatia / Laxmi Shukla
Iqbal Abdulla / Sarabjit Ladda
Jaidev Unadkat / Lakshmipathy Balaji / James Pattinson
Not available because of national duties: Brad Haddin, Brett Lee, Shakib Al Hasan
Others: Shami Ahmed
This is not really a bad team in my view. In Sangwan and Unadkat, the team has a decent new-ball attack. I am looking forward to seeing Shreevats Goswami have a good season. In previous editions, he struggled to get a game at Royal Challengers Bangalore. He should shine at KKR, at least for the initial few weeks when Brad Haddin dons the green-and-gold for Australia. I’d also like to see how Iqbal Abdulla shapes up. In terms of batting, this is going to be a make-or-break season for Manoj Tiwary — a batsman who has always over-promised and under-delivered. The overseas players in the team select themselves for the initial few games — Kallis, Doeschate, Eoin Morgan and James Pattinson will probably play all initial games; and that is not a bad lot of players!
The good thing about this team (as listed above) is that all of Jacques Kallis, Manoj Tiwary, Ryan ten Doeschate, Eoin Morgan, Yusuf Pathan, Rajat Bhatia, Iqbal Abdulla, Pradeep Sangwan and Jaidev Unadkat can bowl!
The CSK team remains largely unchanged. Its owner, who is also a BCCI chief poo-bah, went to great lengths to ensure that the winning team composition from IPL3 was largely undisturbed. The fact that it remains undisturbed is disturbing because of the manner in which the potential disturbance was unerringly protected. But that is the subject of another debate for another day.
The CSK squad is likely to be:
S Anirudha / A Mukund
F du Plessis
JA Morkel / SB Styris
KMDN Kulasekara / TG Southee / S Randiv
VY Mahesh / Joginder Sharma / S Tyagi
Others: GJ Bailey, WP Saha (wk), K Vasudevadas, G Vignesh
Not available: DE Bollinger, MEK Hussey, DJ Bravo, BW Hilfenhaus,
In my view, a lot will depend on how S. Anirudha and Yo Mahesh (or Sudeep Tyagi) go. The third pace bowler weakness in earlier editions had been sandpapered somewhat by the collective brilliance of the rest of the team. However, with Bollinger and Hussey absent for the first few weeks and Bravo still under an injury cloud, a lot will depend on the local players to come to the party.
Well, the scene is set for yet another edition of the IPL. Let the games commence…
– Mohan (@mohank on Twitter)