The thrills and spills of IPL thus far
The IPL is proving a great spectacle. When it comes to cricket, particularly the shorter version, there clearly is no over kill. The milling crowd is assuring enough. Then again the sight of the stadium swathed in the team colours, thanks to the matching jerseys worn by adoring fans can be such a fascinating settings. If the action in the middle is engrossing then it is amply reflected in the stands as the fans rise up in unison to acknowledge a superlative act or groan in despair over their favourite's downswing in fortunes.
All in all the atmosphere is electric, akin to a Mela and what better curtain raiser can there be before the bigger show to follow soon after, the World Cup! Sure the T20 version, which the IPL is, is a different proposition all together but all the same the fireworks in this can be such a fine starter for the bigger 50-Over ODI feast in England.
Expectedly there was plenty to talk of in the form of the sixes and fours that dotted the stands and boundary paddings around. With over 800 boundaries and close to 350 sixes thus far, the edition this year has already lit up the imagination of the fans to unprecedented levels. And there is more to come. When it comes to cricket it is often said there is none to beat the West Indians in flair and flamboyance.
True, the country's cricketing fortunes have slipped badly vis a vis other cricketing nations, but there is no denying that individually the talents from the Caribbean are special. This IPL is showing what they are capable of be it veteran Chris Gayle or the men who have gone out of national side like Andre Russel or Kieron Pollard or even the newcomers Shimron Hetmyer and Nicholas Pooran. And there are many more.
True Hetmyer and Pooran are still to strike but the other three have been wrecking havoc with their big hitting. Indeed IPL has become so much about West Indian might and could these players have asked for any better setting than this to sharpen their hitting skills before perhaps vying for a place in their national side for the journey to England?
Russel and Pollard have proved that nothing is impossible when it came to chasing a target. The way they clobbered the bowlers, some of them considered the best in the business may have been a treat to the excited fans but few thoughts need to go for these merchants of pace and spin. There was nothing any bowler could do when a batsman is on a rampage and this is the kind of cricket where the licence to kill a bowlers' morale is so vivid.
What else can one say of Russel's 48 runs off just 13 deliveries when his team KKR needed 66 runs in four overs against the hapless RCB! The West Indian ensured his team won and showed that the best of batting comes not from raw power alone but a blend of power and a thinking mind.
There was a time when people talked of batting techniques of great players like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar or Rahul Dravid, not to name a list of legends from other countries, but the shorter version of the game has proved that here again there are special techniques to be mastered!
Amidst all this batting action there was this one man who ensured that bowling too levelled off somewhere. The reference is to the fast bowler Joseph Alzarri, again a West Indian, who picked up a sensational six wicket haul to earn the deserving focus of all.
So it is all happening in the IPL. But then what is high voltage action without a slice of the unconventional happening, not necessarily controversies? Cricket has this knack to court the unexpected and indeed IPL 2019 will remember a few like M.S. Dhoni, the CSK skipper making a foray onto the field to remonstrate before the referees, something uncharacteristic of the man, known always as a Mr Cool! But the incident that caught like fire and even rose to the level of hilarity was R. Ashwin 'mankading' English player Jos Buttler.
The act is referred to when a bowler, stopping midway in his delivery stride and running out the non-striker for backing too away far from the crease. Ashwin had done nothing illegal but only followed the rules though those who hold high cricketing ethics in the finest sense vented that it was unsporting. May be the batsman could have been warned first, seems to be their refrain.
Years ago in 1947 when Indian legend Vinoo Mankad effected this in a Test match against Australia to run out Bill Brown the media took it up in a big way against the Indian and gave it the name 'Mankaded'. But the great Don Bradman himself felt Mankad had nothing wrong. “By backing up too far or too early, the non striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage,” he wrote in his autobiography on the incident.
May be there was reason for this high show of emotions in those early days when cricket was played in more leisurely way and was also considered a gentleman sport. Today cricket is so much more a business than mere act of talent-exhibition. Particularly so in an event like IPL which has such high financial stakes involved. By sheer coincidence, that dismissal of a batsman in raging form by Ashwin proved vital for his team which eventually won that match.
Indeed as long as rules are not breached why should there be any discussion on whether the act was 'unsporting'or not? Ashwin did what was legally right and the matter should have ended there. But the debate will continue, the incident recalled again and again. Why, ironically even a player like David Warner, the Australian who has just come out of a one-year ban after a grave on-field offence thought it fit to needle Ashwin soon after by trying to enact Buttler's follow through! That's cricket!