By Karthik Parimal
“Well begun is half done” – Aristotle
After months and months of non-stop international cricket, not many fancied the Indian Premier League (IPL) to attract huge crowds. But the fact that the first four matches of this season’s IPL saw big turnouts at the stadiums speaks volumes of the popularity of the game’s abridged version. Moreover, not even the rain gods could dampen the spirit of the vast crowd that gathered at the Eden Gardens to cheer the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) against the Delhi Daredevils (DD). Despite the substantial delay, there appeared to be a near full house at the stadium even during the final stages of the game that dragged on late into the night. This came as a surprise considering that a couple of international matches that were held at the very same venue a few months ago saw almost empty stands.
The intensity showed by a few players too has added to the excitement of the tournament that was otherwise expected to be sombre carnival. Not often do we get to see Gautam Gambhir livid at the sight of a misfield, but the IPL seems to have nudged at his animated side. Also, the way the fielders have thrown themselves around while fielding shows the seriousness with which they are approaching this tournament. Perhaps, the price tag attached to their names has elevated their performance levels, or perhaps, the need to prove a point has fired them up; but whatever the case, the viewers have been thoroughly entertained thus far with the intensity shown on the field.
The unpredictability of this format too makes this tournament all the more engrossing. Not many expected the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to be steamrolled by the Mumbai Indians (MI) considering the fact that both the sides were evenly matched, but that contest proved the point that anything is possible in this format. This was reiterated during the game between the Pune Warriors India (PWI) and MI, as a weak Pune side made mincemeat of the relatively-stronger Mumbai line-up.
We no longer have the privilege of watching Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid on the international stage, but the two games on Friday offered a glimpse of the past. Ganguly demonstrated yet again the reason he was regarded as such a successful captain. Dravid’s class was there for everyone to see when he played a crisp straight drive that rocketed to the fence. These are situations that we will no longer witness during the forthcoming international fixtures. Perhaps, scenes such as these are the reason the crowds have decided to flock the stadiums. The IPL has certainly earned some brownie points, at least for the fact that it can give rise to such situations and take us back in time.
Moreover, the first two days of this edition’s IPL has highlighted the point that Twenty20 need not be just meaningless cricket. Two players from the Rajasthan Royals grabbed the spotlight by their fascinating performances. Ajinkya Rahane scored 98 by playing unadulterated cricketing shots and proved that slogging and hard-hitting were not the only means to accumulate runs at a quick rate. Kevon Cooper is by no means a tearaway fast bowler, but he showed how disciplined bowling and passion can go a long way in producing a good performance. He ended his debut for the Rajasthan Royals with figures of 4-0-26-4. Sound technique pays off irrelevant of the format.
The head honchos will be overjoyed by the fact that the IPL has got off to a rousing start. However, this is just the beginning. There are 72 more games to be played over a period of 52 days. The initial fervour is a good sign but it will be a challenge to sustain it. If the IPL can continue be a platform that showcases genuine talent like Rahane, Cooper, Pragyan Ojha etc, to name a few, then there is no doubt that the viewership will continue to rise.
Moreover, many big names are yet to arrive and all squads will be at full strength only after half the tournament is over. Surely, interest among viewers will increase as the tournament approaches its final stages, but it can be termed as an achievement only if a high level of interest is constantly maintained right from the start to the end of the IPL. Also, it would augur well if the IPL manages to throw up some genuine talent worthy of a national call.
The first two days has promised a lot. Let’s hope this IPL both entertains and benefits the players.
(If cricket is a religion and has many devotees, Karthik Parimal would be a primary worshipper. This 23 year old graduate student, pursuing his Masters in Engineering, could be an appropriate example of how the layers of what inspires, motivates and keeps one happy run deeply in our daily lives. He, unlike others, is not too disappointed about not making it big by playing for the country, but believes that he plays the sport every day with his heart by watching and writing on it)