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Friday, April 9, 2021

IPL 14 - is all set to begin !!

Cricket’s biggest extravaganza – ‘Indian Premier League” is all set to begin a few hours from now .. .. at Chennai but not involving the local yellow brigade CSK!

The 2021 Indian Premier League, (Vivo IPL 14)  is scheduled to be played between 9 April to 30 May 2021 across six different venues.  Chennai's MA Chidambaram Stadium, the first stop in a tournament that will be played entirely on neutral grounds. This night it will be  Mumbai Indians  and Royal Challengers Bangalore will see a rigorous test of their adaptability.

Of the many things that CSK is proud of - Chennai Super Kings has been the only team that has not changed its captain so far.  .. .. IPL is a great money spinner, a great entertainer, newer situations and rules get challenged – sixes galore and it is no stranger to controversies too – in 2015 Umpire asked Kieron Pollard to remain calm,  and the West Indian came with a tape over his mouth !

It's only been five months since the Mumbai Indians won their fifth title in Dubai, and the IPL is back already. It's back, and it's back home, but the eerie, not-of-this-world feeling that accompanied the 2020 edition of the tournament will persist, simply because the world hasn't changed all that much in the interim. One cannot refrain asking the Q – at a time when India is recording 1 lakh new Covid casea a day since April 4 – is the tournament necessary.  

Looking back in 2007, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) announced the start of the Indian Premier League and an year later there were matches. The man who honed it was  Lalit Modi, Commissioner of the league – who later fell to infamy moving out of the country. Before IPL, a similar styled ICL (Indian Cricket League) did not take off.   The first match of IPL was played on 18 April 2008 between ‘ Kolkata Knight Riders and Royal Challengers Bangalroe’ – first ball being bowled by Praveen Kumar (remember him !) to dada Sourav Ganguly. 


Life has changed a lot these 14 years and now a resurgent pandemic with new strains, multiple positive cases within teams - including a few inside their bubbles, and the variables thrown up by the logistics: venues spread across India and the need for air travel- all pose very big challenges.  Last year IPL was played outside India at UAE  - in fact  three venues:  Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. The day the tournament began, the UAE had 674 new cases; it crossed 1000 a week into the tournament and stayed at that level right through (1096 new cases on the day of the final). Now perhaps Chennai city not to speak of Mumbai or Delhi has more cases !!

Over the years   BCCI suspended Lalit Modi, the IPL chairman, for "alleged acts of individual misdemeanours". The suspension notice was served on him by Rajeev Shukla, BCCI vice-president, and N Srinivasan, the board secretary, sending an e-mail to the same effect.  Later Mr N Srinivasan too fell out.   In May 2012, arising out sting operations 5 players - TP Sudhindra (Deccan Chargers), Mohnish Mishra (Pune Warriors), Amit Yadav, Shalabh Srivastava (Kings XI Punjab) and Abhinav Bali, Delhi cricketer – were accused of involvement in spot fixing.  An year later,   3 players of Rajasthan Royals (Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila) were arrested by Delhi Police on charges of spot fixing. Same year,   Gurunath Meiyappan, a top official of the Chennai Super Kings franchise and son-in-law of BCCI president N. Srinivasan was arrested in Mumbai by Mumbai Crime Branch in connection with illegal betting. Amidst the melee in 2012,   US citizen Zohal Hamid accused, player Luke Pomersbach for molesting her.  In 2013, Chennai erupted with trouble and Srilankan cricketers or match officials were not allowed in Chennai matches !

.. .. .. .. yet in a few hours from now – IPL 14 would start and most of us would be engrossed in seeing the matches !  Gleaning my archives, here is something written and posted by me  a decade back on the start of IPL 4  : 

The WC was won – but it was apparent that there was the might of batting and cool captaincy.  Zaheer was indeed the leading wicket taker, but India lacked a genuine quickie…  do we look to Jharkhand for another solution ? Recently in a domestic match, the red cherry kicked lots of dust, bounced from the soil and went past the batsman – Niraj Patel – the bowler stared at and the batsman smiled back in approval – something unimaginable had happened !!

There certainly is overdose of Cricket but the victory in WC would do more good and reap in more money for the IPL.  Here players won’t complain of fatigue or mental depression.  There could different loyalty bases sans the geographical borders – there sure going to be some buzz of action in the fourth edition of the popular tournament which starts today with a match involving Chennai Super Kings and Kolkatta Knight Riders.  Dhoni Vs Gambhir – KKR had been through it all from glory to humiliation in the previous editions.

The 2011 IPL called IPL 4 is the fourth season of Indian Premier League started by the BCCI in 2007.  The opening ceremony would kick off today at Chepauk, Chennai.  The season will run from April 8th to May 28th.    Different from the previous 3 editions, this season will see 10 teams battling it out – the new teams being Pune Warriors and Kochi Tuskers – 5 teams are captained by Indians – Dhoni, Gambhir, Sehwag, Yuvraj and Sachin ; then there is Warne, Sangakkara, Mahela, Gilchrist and Vettori.    In this 10 team format, there would be 74 matches.   The ten teams are divided into two groups of five.

In the group stage, each  team plays 14 games: facing the other four teams in their group two times each (one home and one away game), four teams in the other group once, and the remaining team two times.  Whilst every team would play the other in their group twice, they would play the team in their row in the other group twice, rest once.   Thus in the above XL, teams play twice those in their column and row.

In the first edition in 2008, there were 59 matches.  The 8 teams played each other twice.  RR defeated CSK in a last ball thriller.  The 2009 season coincided with general elections in India and was conducted in South African.  Deccan Chargers emerged winners defeating RCB in the final.    In 2010, DC could not play on their own ground due to Telangana trouble  CSK won the finals beating MI.  CSK has added Nuwan Kulasekara and Tim Southee and Aniruddha Srikkanth might walk out with Murali vijay with Raina, Badri, Dhoni and Albie to follow. KKR has Gauti, Ten doeschate, Kallis, Eoin Morgan and Yusuf.

Now coming to the dust at the first para, it was Varun Aaron from Jharkhand who bowled probably the fastest ball in Indian cricket, sadly infront of no spectators at all.   It was in the  Vijay Hazare Trophy final between Jharkhand and Gujarat  with people engrossed in WC, the 21-year-old tear-away quick bowled a delivery at 153 kmph.  Varun Raymond Aaron,  right-arm medium-fast bowler hails from Jamshedpur.  He made his first class debut against Jammu and Kashmir in 2008.   He was selected by Ganguly earlier and eventually has a contract in IPL 2010.  In the Deodhar match against West Zone at Sawai Mansingh Stadium this month, he delivered one at 147 kmph.  He was born in 1989 and is only 21.

In 2008 he along with Shrikant Bhaskar Wagh of MRF Pace foundation, represented Australian Institute of Sport team in the fourth year of the Emerging Players Tournament.  In the recent Deodhar against a strong WZ he took 5 for 47.  May be we see more of him and such new players emerging in the IPL in the years to come which augurs well to Indian Cricket. Meantime, some teams could struggle to have the final eleven, as they made some illogical picks in the auction, despite the fact that they could have only 4 overseas players in the final playing eleven.  

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.
9th April 2021.


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