This was certainly not for the weak-hearted. The final of the IPL 2019 proved such a tantalising affair that to say that it was a nail-biting finish has to be an understatement. One ball to go, two runs needed for a win and ironically the man whose bowling led to a run-flood at one stage, Lasith Malinga, produced the impossible so to say, a wicket-taking delivery and all was over. It was cricket's excitement at its best as the much-watched tournament with fortunes going up and down finally ended like the way any organiser would have dreamt. Mumbai Indians won with that pulsating finish over Chennai Super Kings but in effect it was the sport of cricket's big victory on that Sunday night in Hyderabad.
What makes this version of cricket unique is the play was not so much about laws and techniques but sheer power of the bat hitting the ball or the ball whistling past the swishing bat, nothing more nothing less. Such is the impact that the contest can give that the spectator or the television viewer involved, need not be a cricket expert to appreciate or enjoy the motions of play. A house wife who would hardly have spent more than 15 minutes watching say a Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid only because they are cricket's idols, would in this case even feel like an expert to sit in judgement over whether Watson should have taken a single or whether Dhoni should have gone for that suicidal run! How many among the near 30,000 at the stadium for that matter and lakhs around watching on television would have known the nuances of cricket is difficult to say but there would be any number of experts among them who would have cried hoarse over the happenings on the field. That is the uniqueness of cricket in this version and there is no doubting this has been a remarkable evolvement of a sport that has not only pushed cricket to a new level of popularity but ensured financial riches too to keep flowing in.
It is doubtful if any other sport has this kind of phenomenal success with such evolvement. Even football, considered the king of all sports when it comes to drawing fans like bees to honey has been what is it because of its original shape. The Five-a-team format or the Sevens we know of have had at best only limited success in comparison. But then football unlike cricket's mainstay once, the Test matches, had not faced issues of eroding popularity and did not search for major changes. Technology may have crept in like the DRS in cricket but the essence of the game remains untouched. It remains a sizzler ever and the recent Champions league semi-finals brought out samples of this to remind what football thrills can be with the way Liverpool thrashed Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur ousted Ajax.
Both matches produced the kind of thrills that football is always famous for.
Cricket thus has to be indebted to the limited-over version for all that has been happening to the sport. T20 that way has come to stay. Not that it needed any affirmation through the success of a IPL because there is already a much looked forward to World Cup to ensure that but there is no denying the growing enthusiasm. Whether the success of T20 would inspire the men at the helm think of researching further, say a T10 or anything further is a moot point. Sometimes success can lead to strange ways of thinking. But all that is for the future. For now, T20 will remain the most popular perhaps, one may dare say, even ahead of the ODI (50-over a side)! Where else would Test match be then is the next logical question. It is a difficult scenario. It is doubtful if there would be enough fans anymore to long for the ' exquisite square cuts' or the 'silken cover drives' or the 'audacious on-drives' that Test matches are famous for. Indeed 'Tests' form the core of cricket and how this can be safeguarded in the present scenario of abounding T20s and ODIs is ticklish question for the Cricket Heads to tackle and the effort is constantly on.
What the shorter version of the sport has also brought forth is a new breed of cricketers with exacting demands on batting, bowling and fielding. The IPL must have given an exhibition of this with some amazing acts on the field. Did we not expect and get the thrills of batting watching Andre Russell or the bowling wizardry of spinner Shreyas Gopal, the hat trick achiever? Then the jaw-dropping catching act of Pollard in one match or even the terrific tumbling catch that Shardul Thakur took in the final. There were many such notable moments to cherish. Indeed, from Indian cricket's point of view the IPL was also a fine forum to know of the 'future stars' because the tournament invariably throws up new talents unheard or unheralded till then.
One big event over and now another mega fixture is just days away. The ICC-World Cup is soon to start and for cricket fans there is further excitement ahead. The IPL must have been just starters and there were would be quite a few of the stars who featured in the IPL again in action in England but for their respective countries. It is a different setting and having been used to the T20 version till the other day will the 50-over suddenly become a tad taxing now to savour?! One can never say, the game is changing!