IPL 5 turning out to be a crowd-puller
The TRP ratings may not say so, but going by the attendances recorded at the stadiums across the country, the Indian Premier League is back, and with a big bang. These houseful crowds can be attributed to a plethora of reasons.
At the top of the reasoning pyramid is the fact that this format still provides the raw entertainment it was designed for, and with no major cricket involving team India in the month of March, the lean build-up has helped bring in this surge. Interest is high among the crowds supporting any particular team and this has perhaps strengthened the understanding that the IPL has indeed achieved city-based loyalties. Fans aren't interested in following other franchises as willingly as they support their own. The upswing in online viewership is a certain indicator of the same.
Perhaps another factor in this re-born popularity of the league is also the close competition. Yes, the crowds were coming in through the gates from the beginning itself. But this is a seven-week tournament and the consistency in numbers can only be achieved by some intense cricket on display. At the time of writing, Delhi Daredevils were running amok at the top of the table and Deccan Chargers were lying hopelessly in the ninth spot. Sandwiched in between, the other seven teams are separated by a mere three points.
Out of the nine games played, Delhi Daredevils have only lost two. The away-from-home demolition of Mumbai Indians and Pune Warriors is the highlight of their winning run so far. Thanks to some power hitting by Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen, their run-rate is the best in the table as well, and it will take some very poor cricket for them to miss on the play-offs. T20s can be unpredictable, but Delhi are favourites for this year's tournament. And that with David Warner yet to arrive.
Rain has affected a few games. Kolkata Knight Riders have borne the brunt - two of their games have been delayed due to rain and one has been abandoned. Even Chennai and Bangalore couldn't play a single ball in their meeting, thanks to untimely showers in Bangalore. While an abandoned game benefited both the sides - with points equally shared, in a closely bunched field like this season's table, it's not the most desirable thing.
Then there are the Deccan Chargers. Of the eight games Deccan have played so far, they have managed just one win when Pune Warriors India messed up at home, while losing six and splitting points in a washed out game. Cricket, though, is a great leveller, and if they win a couple of games from here on, it could throw the points table upside down.
Scoring a hundred in T20 cricket is no mean feat, for not only does it take immense concentration and application to stay at the wicket, but you also have to defy laws of batting and hit out at every possible opportunity. First it was Ajinkya Rahane and then, two days later, Pietersen joined him in the exclusive list of IPL 5 centurions. In between, Faf du Plessis, Jesse Ryder and Chris Gayle scored aggressive half centuries, out of which Gayle has looked the most dangerous with his new accumulative approach at the beginning of the innings. Surely, these are the three batsmen you could expect the next hundred to come from.
The bowlers aren't lagging behind. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel have been tearing away with pace, while Shahbaz Nadeem is the new spinner on everyone's mind. But it was one Sourav Ganguly who charged up the whole world's imagination. Two wickets against Delhi at the Kotla and he rolled back the years. That charging run after bowling Pietersen will remain 'the moment' of 2012 IPL.
There have been a few rotten apples as well, mostly falling out from the Mumbai Indians' cupboard. Munaf Patel has been uttering a few choice words every time he has gone out to bowl and his captain Harbhajan Singh has never actually intervened. The 2011 Champions League T20 winners lie at the bottom of the 'Fair Play' table, while Rajasthan Royals sit at the top. While the latter's disciplined approach can be attributed to the leadership of one Rahul Dravid, should Harbhajan be blamed for Mumbai's bad behaviour, especially when things aren't going their way?
More about Chetan NarulaStudying engineering and business administration couldn't satiate his mind and in 2007, Chetan Narula found his calling as a sportswriter/journalist. Since then he was written on cricket, F1 and football at various avenues not only in India but also in USA and UK. He also worked as cricket commentator (voice) at ESPN for their mobile and web platforms, doing over a hundred matches. High points of his career include witnessing history at Wankhede Stadium (Mumbai) when India lifted the ODI World Cup and his first book, Skipper: A Definitive Account of India's Greatest Captains, which hits bookstores in July 2011. His Twitter feed is here.
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