IPL's excitement and flourish, a reflection of cricketing times
In the end it seemed a perfect finish to a thriller. A team that had been suspended for two years, Chennai Super Kings returned to conquer the honours in style. There was only one small change in the end-script, so it seemed. If all those legion of fans of M.S. Dhoni who had thought that it would be their hero who would provide the finishing touch in his inimitable style, it turned out to be Shane Watson, the Australian veteran who donned that role and how he performed! When he took 11 balls to earn his first run, something that looked out of sync with this format of cricket, there was an understandable anxiety in the dug-out. The dazed look on Watson's face was unmistakable. But all that was soon replaced with confidence and bravado as the Austalian ignited his bat to fire the evening's festive mood.
With a century to boot, Watson proved his worth even as CSK's came up with a redemption act that was nothing short of exemplary. What is more, CSK also proved that adversity did not undermine a champion outfit for, uprooted from its home base to Pune thanks to the upsurge by political elements in Chennai, the side had to re-settle post haste in a new environment! Nothing mirrored the team's character more than the Captain Cool, Dhoni himself. Even as the chase to the final target went on, as pulse rate rose, excitement grew and the final run was scored amidst cheers and jubilation all around, this man hardly showed a trace of emotion! A symbolic thumbs-up signal to the day's hero was good enough for him to convey his happiness as he went about mingling with the players and officials for the hand-shaking rounds. The task had been accomplished and in the eyes of his admirers, Dhoni's image must have grown a little more bigger and brighter and why not?
What a tournament this proved to be! Limited overs cricket is always exciting but T20 makes it even more spicier. Not one day went by without all the stunning acts on field, be it the big hits, the gravity-challenging catches near the boundaryline or the razor sharp fielding and throw-ins. There were enough moments to charge up the big gathering at every centre. Reputations soared, new names surfaced and emotions flooded too. The competition proved that the presence of best of players like Virat Kohli, A.B. DeVilliers , Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Kane Williamson, Chris Gayle or Sunil Narine, Kuldeep Yadav, Umesh Yadav, Trent Boult and many more alone is no guarantee for success but the day's form and the collective work. Add the element of strategy and that brings to fore the role of the captain. Experts have been overboard in their comments on how Dhoni managed his resources and the shrewd mind was there for all to see.
Cricket's transformation has been phenomenal. True, change is the essence of progress. But it is doubtful if any other sport has evolved or changed as much as cricket. Football and tennis come to mind as two other popular sports in the world in this genre. World cup football remains still the most sought after competition on this universe and tennis grand slams have their own place. Both have still retained the traditional character of the sport even if technology has made deep inroads for the overall betterment. However cricket is not about technology intake or about Tests alone anymore. Gone are the days when watching cricket meant hearing or seeing 'glorious cover-drives and smashing on-drives or imperious pulls' and their descriptions. Old-timers would still remember the flowery narrations of the strokes and indeed the images of the players are built around that and they remain etched in the minds. Today it is the world of instant thrills where the 'distance and velocity'of the ball hit takes the upperstage. Batsmen thrive and bowlers despair, that is limited overs cricket in a nutshell for most part.
There is no doubt that cricket's revolution has taken the sport to great heights commercially and in terms of popularity. But will the experimentation continue, is the big question. Already there is talk of tweaking this shorter format to a T10 event or as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is planning, a new 100-ball format! In fact a T10 tournament was conducted, successfully it is said, in the UAE last year where many currrent and past international cricketers had taken part. The prime consideration in each move apparenty is monetary consideration. Clearly a sport like cricket is no longer to be looked upon, it would appear, for its aesthetic appeal alone but for how well it can fill up the coffers!
Not many cricket fans are excited about the possible changes. As the great West Indian, Vivian Richards, once the most exciting batsman to watch, told a leading newspaper, he felt that what was happening today was good enough but the emerging new ideas seemed a step too far. Then again the overstress on the shorter format would be detrimental to Test cricket, which is currently struggling for survival anyway. Already five-day cricket seem an unthinkable proposition nor is the idea of a variation to make it a day and night version. The shorter format, as experts say, can take away the uniqueness of cricket as it was known for ages but who is to stop modern thinking. The refrain is as long as the bat and ball remains part of the sport, it should not matter that they produce as long as it is exciting and appealing to the fans at large. Not cricket, many would say but not to the new breed of cricketing talents and cricket-watching public.