IPL 2020, a sedate start but there is promise
Starved of major sporting activity in the country ever since Covid 19 set in, sporting fans (read cricket fans) would have heaved a sigh of relief that IPL 2020 finally got underway in the Emirates. IPL after all in no small event. It attracts some of the best players worldwide.
So overall it must have been like a manna from heaven. For, there is something now to get away from the drudgery of ennui. Watching action aplenty is always exciting. Expectedly it has been a storm in the desert for such has been the display of big hits thus far. With over a 100 sixes hit already in what is just a little over a week-old edition, the thrills can only be imagined.
Pity that everything is happening in an empty atmosphere. True television cameras have been generous in catching the sight of the balls disappearing into the skies to trigger cheers atleast in the drawing rooms or wherever of the fans! But it is the collective roar from the stadium that bring things alive. But then these are desperate times and so it will have to be desperate measures to keep the action going.
It is not easy to conduct an event of this magnitude despite all the safety measures in place. England had shown the way with its successful conduct of two cricket series against West Indies and Pakistan and IPL organisers it must be said, are virtually taking a leaf from there. True there was this initial hiccup of a few players getting tested positive for the virus but all that dark clouds have cleared and the focus is now, as it should be, fully centered on the action in the middle. Here again surprises of all kinds have been springing up.
After all the kind of expectations around M.S. Dhoni, particularly after his sudden decision to retire from international cricket, that he would continue to be a source of great entertainment, what has unfolded thus far has been nothing extraordinary to suit his image. True a few big hits, some not just scaling the stadium but pouring onto the main roads, reflected his ability but the intent to finish off a match, something he has proved to be a master, seemed conspicuous by its absence! Perhaps these are early days.
It is not Dhoni alone for that matter who looked just yet to get into the stride, there have been some of the other established stars as well showing the rustiness borne out of the months of inactivity. None making it as glaring as the usually redoubtable Virat Kohli himself. His bat is yet to begin talking so to say and the two catches he dropped seemed so uncharacteristic for one, who prides on his agility and alacrity on the field. So even as some reputations took a minor dent, to be polished off sooner than later, a few others have been pure delight.
Kerala cricket fans must justifiably be thrilled to have seen two performers in particular in Devdutt Padikkal and Sanju Samson catch the eye with some outstanding batting. Now, Padikkal may not be a Kerala product as such, he is a Karnataka boy with roots in Kerala, but the 20-year debutant showed the natural grace of a left hander with his big hitting for Royal Challengers Bangalore and that appeared a continuation of all the big noise he had made in domestic tournaments earlier. Sanju on the other hand showcased his rich talent once again and how! It was a stroke-filled effort for Rajasthan Royals and proved crucial in his team's win over Chennai Super Kings and again against Kings XI Punjab. He looks in sparkling touch.
In a short version like T20, the spotlight invariably falls on the big-hitting batsmen. The interest here again is not just on those capable performers but the new ones and it is here that players like Padikkal, Prithvi Shaw, Shubman Gill and the like have demanded attention.
Gill, in fact, is talked of as a big prospect by some of the experts and the young man has not been a disappointment. He may not look flamboyant but the touch of maturity in his play was evident in his match-winning effort for Kolkata Knight Riders against SunRisers Hyderabad the other day. That he matched stride for stride, the famous England World Cup winning captain Eoin Morgan to evoke words of praise from the latter, is no small gain for this young colt looking ready for greater challenges ahead. That way the IPL is a rich platform for the young hopefuls or possible stars of tomorrow. Playing alongside and mingling with some of the biggest names in world cricket can be enriching experience.
The first week of IPL 2020 has ended and aside from cricket, what will also long be remembered are the two shocking developments - the passing away of Australian cricketing great, Dean Jones, a one-day specialist and fellow commentator in the ongoing IPL and thereafter an ardent cricket lover and a music legend from Chennai, S.P. Balasubrahmanyam.
While in hospital, seriously sick, SPB reportedly sought a TV to catch a few moments from the ongoing IPL! Their images are also bound to remain as everlasting memory even as new heroes emerge in the Emirates.