Chris Gayle celebrating his first IPL ton © AFP
Chris Gayle celebrating his first IPL ton © AFP

 

By Suneer Chowdhary

 

The previous edition of the IPL lasted 44 days for the 60 games. That is an average of 1.36 games every day. This season, this average is touching 1.5, essentially translating into the obvious fact; the density of the games has gone up, in turn, reducing the breaks between the games for teams.

 

Some like the Rajasthan Royals have played four games in seven days, apart from travelling from Jaipur to Kolkata to Bangalore to Mohali before getting back home. Others have had it easy but will soon face a similar conundrum.

 

They are professional cricketers alright, but shouldn’t rest also be a part of preparation? Unfortunately for the Royals, the hectic schedule coincided with another hectic losing streak. 

 

Unveiling a green pitch?

 

So the Delhi Daredevils have finally discovered the formula to change their poor run of form. Get done away with the slow, low and morose tracks at the Feroz Shah Kotla and grow some grass on the track for their quicker bowlers.

 

Of course, there are two sides to every story, two ways of going about everything. Delhi could have probably selected players in the auction based on the conditions at home or changed the conditions at home based on the selection they have made. Selecting seven pace bowlers and not one spinner of note was not exactly the way to go about it the first way, so, they decided to grow some grass on the wicket.

 

If only it was as easy as that to change inherent pitch-natures. 

 

Can’t bat, will field

 

Kieron Pollard was one of the players that Mumbai Indians retained before the player auction. And with good reason, given the capabilities he possesses with the marauder bat of his. Five games into the competition and Pollard’s highest score is an unbeaten zero. And he has achieved that twice in the tournament already!

 

Not that he has been twiddling his thumbs given his lack of opportunities. He has tried his hand at bowling but his medium-pace has proved to be easy meat on these flat pitches in India. Instead, it is his fielding which has lifted the overall fielding standard of the side.

 

Against Pune, it was his diving catch of Robin Uthappa that turned the game around for Mumbai Indians. Uthappa’s 45 had been the highest score of the game.

 

Then, in the Chennai game, he was at it again. With Chennai cruising at 98 for two, he dived again to send Michael Hussey before holding another one from R Ashwin in the end. That Hussey catch was easily the turning point of the game and Chennai crumbled after that.

 

Hardly a surprise then, to see a beaming Jonty Rhodes on the sidelines. 

 

Proving a point?

 

After his buccaneering century to lead Bangalore to an easy win over Kolkata, Chris Gayle was queried whether this was a way to prove a point to those back home. Gayle had been dropped – or rested, depending on which side of the fence you belonged – from the West Indian ODI squad. Despite that, the cricket board had been a disgruntled lot when he sought permission from them to play in the IPL. Reluctantly, they gave him the NOC, but slammed him for deciding to choose IPL over international cricket.

 

To that question at the end of the century, Gayle played with a straight bat – no, it wasn’t proving a point back home.

 

My question is: Wasn’t it a case of proving a point to the IPL franchises instead? Of the three West Indian cricketers, who had refused the West Indian contract – Gayle, Kieron Pollard and Dwayane Bravo – Gayle was the only one to have not been picked in the auction. And yet, none of the franchises had deemed it appropriate to pick up a batsman who seemed to have been made for this format and who was no longer contracted by his board?

 

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here @suneerchowdhary)