And now as the dust settles on the wham-bam mega cricket mujra, the cheerleaders pack up their sports bras, Priety Zinta goes back to hugging only Ness Wadia, Dada goes back to putting needles in Dhoni’s voodoo doll, Shahrukh Khan tries to forget the man with the throwing arm and Mallya gets high on his own supply of Kingfisher to forget the pain, it is time for a long look back at the revolution that was the first season of IPL.
Rajasthan Royals: From trying to save his marriage by asking his mistress to seduce his wife and coax her into a threesome to taking illegal substances, Shane Warne has never been known for his sound judgment or sharp mind. Which is why the tactical acumen and inspirational leadership that he displayed through the tournament was even the more surprising.
A captain is as good as his team.
But sometimes a team becomes as good as the captain.
And this is exactly what happened as Warne lifted a bunch of no-hopers to become the rightful winners of the diamond-and-precious-stone encrusted monstrosity otherwise known as the IPL trophy (I honestly expected the trophy to open and reveal orderly lines of kaju barfi or “electric sparklers” from Shivkasi— so classy was that work of art).
Throughout the tournament, the Rajasthan Royals consistently outperformed everyone else —match after match doing the basic things correctly with everyone in the team from the Graeme Smiths to the Neeraj Patels pulling their weight. It is definitely then not a co-incidence that their ranks threw up the highest wicket taker (Sohail Tanveer) , the second highest wicket taker (Warne), the undisputed player of the tournament (Shane Watson), the break-through performer of the IPL (Yousuf Pathan) and one of IPL’s biggest success stories (Swapnil Asnodkar).
And Warne was consistently at the forefront, whether it be in throwing up challenges to the opposition—-getting Yousuf Pathan to bowl to Adam Gilchrist in the third over of a game, changing bowlers rapidly in one match while letting bowlers have continuous 3-over spells in another other (Sohail Tanveer bowled 3 overs on the trot at the end of the final), or in thrashing Symonds to win a match with his bat or in bowling brilliantly (his flummoxing Dhoni in an amazing sequence of deliveries in one of the league games being one of the tournament highlights).
If only to prove how much of an influence Warne was to the team, the Royals lost to the Punjab Kings XI in one of the dead matches that Shane Warne sat out.
Co-incidence? Perhaps not.
So awesomely groovy was the Rajasthan Royals that Bainsla may very well be tempted to ask for a Gujjar quota in the XI next season.
Chennai Super Kings: Dhoni made two big mistakes that cost him the IPL. One was sending the very average Kapugedera before the vastly more talented Badrinath as Kapu Di Tuti Kapu wasted precious deliveries that in the final analysis proved to be the difference between the two sides. And the other, even biggest mistake was preferring Balaji the Laxmipati, who has taken the song “Balaji zyada dheere karo” to heart and emerged as Venkatesh Prasad Version 2.0 with his repertoire of slow and slower deliveries over Joginder Sharma, Dhoni’s four-level clover, as the bowler of the “last over” . Now I am not suggesting that Joginder is a better bowler than Balaji, it’s just that he seems to have a “Chirag-e-Aladdin” stuffed somewhere in his trousers which he rubs just before bowling the final over of any tight match, an act that enables him to pull off one unbelievable performance after another.
Figure 1: The Fans Have Spoken [Video Link]
Chennai Super Kings did an amazing job of team selection by creating a core of strong T20 Indian batsmen (Patel, Raina, Dhoni and Badrinath) and then supplementing that power with foreign imports. (Fleming, Hayden and Hussey). If there was any problem they had it was that their bowling initially over-relied on Murali, who was at most a moderate success at the IPL. However Murali’s lack of string was more than adequately covered up by the sensational Albie Morkel, the sometimes monochromatic Ntini and yet another discovery of the IPL, Punjab da puttar Manpreet Goni , whom I am sure Priety Zinta would have much preferred to cuddle up to than the cry-baby Sreesanth.
Delhi Daredevils: Delhi followed a squad selection policy very much like Chennai. That is they had a strong base of T20 Indian specialist batsmen (Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhawan, Kartik and Manoj Tiwari) which was to be supplemented by the likes of Dilshan, Shoaib Malik and A B De Villiers. However unlike Chennai whose foreign and Indian hires earned their signing fees, Delhi’s middle order stars never showed up leaving an exploitable lacuna in the middle. Manoj Tiwari bombed, Kartik played one innings of note, A B De Villiers (average 19.00) was out of form and Shoaib Malik (average 13.00) seemed to be weighed down by the bad karma of denying marriage to an overweight Indian fiance. McGrath was stellar. Maharoof chipped in. But with Mohammed Asif leaking runs at 9.25 an over and Brett Greeves at 11.37, Sehwag was probably better of calling Laloo Yadav’s son to bowl (The Delhi Daredevils, in one of its most inspired moves, hired this boy genius even though his statistics chart is as bare as Bihar’s fodder stores after Laloo has gone through them) if only for the entertainment that would have provided.
Like the following PJ:
Mother: Here is our son. I have decided to call him Mahesh.
Father (who likes the hiphop life-style): Yo Mahesh !
Mother: Okay that is his name then.
Brother (who also likes the hiphop life-style) Yo Yo Mahesh.
I know that’s bad. Shoaib Malik was even worse.
Figure 2: Oye is main coconut proteins hain.
King’s Punjab XI: There is a reason why Yuvraj Singh, despite oodles of talent, will always remain an also-ran, on the verge of greatness but never quite there, condemned to advise Sreesanth about his dandruff. And that reason is that he lacks the ability to seize the moment, a quality that most great sportsmen have. In Australia, he botched his chance to be a permanent member of the Test team with his “Deepika left me” Devdas melt-down.
And here at the IPL semi-finals, after his super-performing number 1 batsman had dragged the ball onto his stumps and his number 2 batsman had walked in a show of godly honesty, his team was looking to him to finally to take center-stage.
What does he do?
He once again drops the ball.
Paradoxically for the Kings, Shaun Marsh’s Bradmanesque batting, Sangakkara’s consistency and the efficacy of the Sreesanth-Irfan bowling partnership papered over many a shortcoming—James Hope’s blow hot blow cold batting, Yuvraj’s indifferent form, the fact that without any mainline Indian T20 batsman (except Yuvi), there was an over-dependence on foreign players and that while Irfan Pathan and Chawla might have their days, expecting Pathan to come in at 6 and bail the team out of trouble was expecting a bit too much.
And so as Yuvraj and the team sit and contemplate what might have been, they can all feel warm in the memory of Priety Zinta’s galvanizing hugs, those fleeting moments of bliss when the world almost lay in their hands and what they wanted was close to their hearts.
Mumbai Indians They were down and out. Losing matches on the trot. And then God smiled on them. Harbhajan unleashed his most surprising delivery since 2001 on Sreesanth’s cheek. He ended up on the bench. Pollock took over. The Indians made a miraculous turn-around. And then Sachin came back. Bravo left. Things were not really the same. A few close games went the other way. Mumbai were out of the semi-finals.
So what happened?
As the games got more frenetic, a second’s delay in responding became crucial. This is when the age of Mumbai’s team began to show. Sachin dives inside the ring as the ball speeds past him, Pollock mistimes a dive at the boundary and with the fate of the match in balance, Sanath Jayasuriya fumbles the ball as the return comes in. Add to that the follies of the young old man—beanpole Ashish Nehra and bigfoot Dilhara Fernando and one begins to understand where Mumbai lost its intensity. Which was a pity because Sanath Jayasuriya and Shaun Pollock, two champion sportsmen of the 90s, threw back the years, turned on the magic and brought a lump back to the throats of us old-timers. We wanted more. Alas it was not to be.
Kolkata Knight Riders: Face it. IPL is all about dollars and cents. And in that respect, there was only one winner. Shahrukh Khan. Kolkata Knight Riders, buoyed by an almost fanatical support from the city, record ticket sales and the presence of the King, is the only team to date to make a sizeable profit. (The Royals will break even, all the others will take in losses). Not just money, the IPL was a “total victory” for the Badshahrukh as evidenced in this picture of warmth and passion.
So what if the team got thrashed in the process?
After all, as a wise hammer once said: “Kabhi kabhi jeetne ke liye kuch haarna padta hain, aur haar kar jeetne waale ko baazigar kahte hain.”
Bangalore Royal Challengers: Nothing much remains to be said that has not been said here.
Deccan Chargers: A laughably weak bowling attack made it impossible for them to defend any total, no matter how Gilchrist batted and no matter how Rohit Sharma dazzled. One felt bad for the luminescent Rohit Sharma, he deserved to finish on the winning team more than twice out of fourteen.
Figure 3: Arun Lal in and as Mr. Purple in Kund Ke Kutte [Reservoir Dogs] giving the finger to cricketing wisdom
And now to the rest.
Over a month, the English language underwent a metamorphosis as names of corporations became legitimate adjectives. So much so that the following conversation fragment was heard:
Friends to guy: So how did your date go?
Guy: I had wanted to go DLF maximum with her but she said that unless I promise to marry her, I won’t get even a single Citi moment of success.
And with rumors of “Viagra standout performer “to be introduced into the lexicon next season, expect even more changes to the Queen’s English.
The commentary was of course of the highest standards. From Ranjeet Fernando’s pronunciation of Pathan with the “th” as in Bath and his placing of emphasis in unconventional places (He EEEES a good player) to Ravi Shastri’s pseudo-erotic “Goni is a strong strapping lad who comes in hard”, Arun Lal’s Zen wisdom (“In the last five overs, teams look to score a lot of runs” or “Ntini is bowling fast. He is a fast bowler”), there is no greater joy than listening to these Gods of the mike explain the subtleties of this great game.
Add to this the cheerleader controversies, the moments of agony, ecstasy, excellence, drama and one can safely say that we look forward to the Karmayudh (after all karma is nothing but for money only) starting all over again.
[Pictures courtesy Times of India and here]