Off the blocks: IPL 8

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Back in business? Rahane and Watson of the Rajasthan Royals shake their hands on the pitch, Photo: Mayur Bhatt
Back in business? Rahane and Watson of the Rajasthan Royals shake their hands on the pitch, Photo: Mayur Bhatt

Given the controversies surrounding Indian Premier League (IPL) especially after the IPL-6 spot-fixing scandal, there were doubts whether IPL-8 would be held at all. Finding themselves in the centre of a controversy, two teams, Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, even had doubts about their participation.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) was in shambles as its former boss N Srinivasan, due to the uproar caused by conflict of interests, was replaced with Jagmohan Dalmiya as the board’s president. Raj Kundra, co-owner of Rajasthan Royals, too had to withdraw as a team owner. (Kundra is the husband of actor Shilpa Shetty).

Keeping these developments off the field was necessary to see that the tournament got off to a good start. And this is precisely what the IPL-8 has seen in the opening matches played so far. Though it is too early to predict as to which teams will make it to the last four; this was just what the doctor ordered as far the IPL-8 is concerned.

It is indeed ironical that two teams, which were under the scanner, Rajasthan Royals (RR) and Chennai Super Kings (CSK), are surprisingly the top two teams in the points table. Both have played brilliant cricket and deserve to be where they are at the moment. Which makes us wonder what the tournament would have been without them?

IT has always been the underdog ever since it won the maiden IPL title in 2008 under the leadership of legendary Aussie leg spinner Shane Warne. And now under the astute mentorship of ‘The Wall’ and batting maestro, Rahul Dravid, the team is carrying forward the legacy.

In this season too, It has shown that it is the team to watch out for. Aussie team captain, Steve Smith, one of the best batsmen in world cricket circuit, seems to be in a sensational form.

Team India director Ravi Shastri, who was with the Indian team for nearly four-and-a-half months in Australia, heaped praise on Smith after playing a match winning knock saying: “I am so happy to be back in the commentary box and be able to speak my mind at last. For more than four months, I could not figure out how to get Smith out and it looks very much that way in ipl-8. He is a superb player and no wonder Australia have made him the skipper.”

Apart from him, the team has got Team India batsman Ajinkya Rahane at the top. Rahane has been a revelation for Team India too. One can easily see the shades of The Wall, in his batting. The team also has utility effective players (all rounders) – Aussie James Faulkner, South African Chris Morris and Indian Stuart Binny. The talented Sanju Samson is having a rather quiet tournament so far. But given the talent he has one can expect him to bounce back soon.

The presence of Kiwi Tim Southee along with wily spinner Pravin Tambe lends the team balance in the bowling department. The team get its winning ways once the regular skipper Aussie all rounder Shane Watson recovers from injury and gets back on the field. Everybody knows what kind of damage Watson can do when he gets going.

Haryana’s Deepak Hooda, 19, who plays for Baroda, has managed to make a name for himself in this ipl with his power hitting. The under-19 World Cup star was sensational in his 25 ball 54 against the Delhi Daredevils. This youngster has already become the talk of ipl-8. Hooda is another upcoming player who has benefitted under Dravid’s mentorship. Hooda too credited the team and his mentor for his success.

“rr have played a part in it. They trusted me and I am happy to repay their trust. I am grateful to God for helping me all along. Dravid always tells me that take the game to the very end, believe in your ability and you will do it,” Hooda said in a post-match conference.

Apart from Rajasthan Royals, Chennai Super Kings have been impressive. As cricket legend Sunil Gavaskar often says any team led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni cannot be underestimated. Barring the flop run of Ravindra Jadeja, the team looked like a complete unit. Brendon McCullum, a Kiwi team player, has once again set the tournament on fire by smashing ipl-8’s first 100 off 56 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Chris Gayle of the Royal Challengers nearly matched him with a 96 against Kolkata Knight Riders, but fell four runs short of the three-figure mark.

IPL -8 is proving to be a stage for cricketers to make a national comeback. And some of the players such as KKR skipper Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh of Mumbai Indians have shown that desire. India’s 2011 World Cup man of the tournament flamboyant all- rounder Yuvraj Singh who is under the spotlight thanks to his Rs 16-crore cheque, finally got some runs under his belt. Virender Sehwag playing for the Kings XI Punjab has shown flashes of brilliance. But what the stars need is consistency to make their chances of to find a place in the national team.

Mumbai Indians have begun their campaign with four straight losses and it will take lot of effort on their part to bounce back. A big challenge and a burden for the team is the starry support staff comprising head coach Ricky Ponting, John Wright, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Shane Bond and Jonty Rhodes.

Dimpled beauty Preity Zinta’s Kings XI Punjab, unlike last year have not performed well. Glenn Maxwell’s poor form and reluctance to wait in the middle is hurting them. David Miller too is struggling. If the Kings have to do well the likes of Miller and Maxwell have to deliver. Sunrisers Hyderabad with the likes of David Warner, Dale Steyn and Trent Boult can spring quite a few surprises.

Royal Challengers Bangalore skipper Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Darren Sammy can be potentially dangerous. But their bowling is a weak link. Perhaps the highest wicket-taker in 2015 World Cup, Mitchell Starc, can solve Kohli’s worry to some extent.It is quite pertinent to say that eighth edition of the IPL has not suffered due to an overdose of cricket.

While the craze in the bars and restaurants may have taken a dip, but as per data shared by television rating agency (TAM), the Sony channel, broadcasting ipl coverage has garnered an average TVR of 4.5 during the first five matches of ipl-8. This is 42 percent more as compared to the previous edition.The IPL-8’s overall reach has touched nearly 105 million, a surge of 9 percent than last year. Despite its fair share of controversies, the current ipl edition has been successful in bringing the frenzied crowds back to where they belong — the sports grounds.

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