IPL is more than a hit and a giggle
IPL 5 may not have garnered the same TRP as the first three seasons but the cricket has been very entertaining thus far. It's been three weeks and the pre-tournament favourites like the Chennai Super Kings, Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore have fallen more often than expected, while the dark horses like the Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals have started looking like making it to the play-offs. The lesser known players too, like Shahbaz Nadeem, Parvinder Awana, etc., have taken centre stage. The unpredictability of the T20 format has started to come to the fore.
Besides this, there's something else that ought to catch everyone's eye. Unlike the previous seasons, this time around, some of the legends of the game, who have lost contact with top-flight cricket, are finding it tough to keep up with the demands of T20 cricket. Gilchrist has looked a pale shadow of the swashbuckling player we know him as. Ganguly too is no longer the 'God of the off-side', for either the ball finds the edge or the fielders when he middles them. We've revered these players for long, and so the sight of them struggling like mere mortals is painful. Hence, we secretly wish them to turn the clock back and show glimpses of their old self. Yet, their failure to perform says a thing or two about the credibility of the IPL. Before you call me a sadist who's taking pleasure in someone else's failure, let me elaborate a bit.
At the inception of the IPL, the league needed the marquee players to participate, perform and carry the tournament on their shoulders. These players responded magnificently to the cause and captivated the audience with the sheer brilliance of their skill and the IPL became a runaway hit. But five years down the line, had the same players continued to play on their muscle memory and perform as well as the ones who are sweating it out in international cricket, the relevance of this format would have come under scrutiny.
Many believe T20 cricket to be nothing more than a hit and a giggle, and if these players continued to rule the roost long after losing contact with competitive cricket, the naysayers would have had a field day. So, in a warped way, their non-performance has proved that IPL indeed is serious business. It's only plausible to believe that handling Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in their pomp should require the batsman to be on the top of his form and skill.
Then there are the likes of Paul Valthaty, Saurabh Tiwary, Amit Singh, etc., the relatively lesser-known first-class cricketers who are touted as T20 specialists. They emerge from the oblivion for this eight-week tournament, perform well and then disappear only to resurface next season. Their failure in the current edition could work as a lesson for a lot of Indian domestic players that to perform in the IPL, you got to be on the top of your game throughout the year. It's relatively easier to convert your First-Class form into T20 success, but to turn on the ignition just for the IPL isn't going to work.
More about Aakash ChopraAakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test Cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for the country in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after the legendary Eknath Solkar. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. A grand total of 783 runs came off Chopra's bat in Delhi's title-winning Ranji Trophy in 2007-08. Chopra currently plays for the Rajasthan Royals of the Indian Premier League and represents Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy, after having played for Delhi for over a decade. He also amassed a massive total of 734 runs in Rajasthan’s Ranji victory in the year 2010-11. In 2009, Chopra turned author with Beyond the Blues: A First-Class Season Like No Other. The book garnered critical appreciation while Cricket Pundits like Suresh Menon claimed it to be "the best book written by an Indian test cricketer” in his review for www.cricinfo.com. Aakash continues to tell the story of Indian cricket, its frustrations and fantasies, through his popular weekly column in The Hindustan Times, www.yahoo.com, www.cricketnext.com, sports magazines and through various TV shows.
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