Cricket Soap Opera - The Indian Premier League (Column: Close-in)
The 12th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) is heading towards the final stages of the knockout qualifications. The tournament has been a grand success not only on the field but also off it. The digital world has embraced this T20 format with gusto and fantasy games such as the 'Dream 11' and such application driven initiatives have all been a rip roaring success.
The IPL has truly established itself as the most popular soap opera in the life of an Indian television viewer. The irony of it is that it is "live" cricket and not a make believe world of film and television. Somehow, it never gets perceived as such. The players are live entertainers, playing their hearts out, in hot and humid conditions to achieve success for themselves as well as for their franchise. The unpredictable nature of the short and sweet limited overs cricket makes it easy to follow, exciting to watch and a drama for the entire family and friends. The IPL somehow never gives one the seriousness that one associates with sports and maybe that is the reason that the charade that it highlights makes it even more thrilling to watch.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has once again marshalled his players and led the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to another play-off. He is cool and a phenomenally brilliant thinker, who seems to read the game far better than I have ever seen one do on a cricket field. But his success lies in the way he utilizes, encourages and identifies his players. He is a process driven individual and highlights that in each and every interview of his. This is what makes him a great leader, as his theory of success comes through a planned implementable process. The clarity of it, is what is proving to be his hallmark in becoming a world renowned lateral thinker. One can already visualize him giving talks on teamwork and leadership.
T20 cricket, because of the faster pace of the game, is considered to be a format for the young rather than the older cricketers. However, the CSK team has shown that maturity, smart thinking and experience has no age bar. Harbhajan Singh, Suresh Raina, Shane Watson, Imran Tahir, Dwayne Bravo and Dhoni have all been more successful than so many of the younger players. This is what has made CSK a formidable team and to take the title away from them in IPL 2019 will need something extraordinary from the others.
Along with the CSK, both Mumbai Indians and Delhi Capitals have also qualified for the knock-out stage. Mumbai has a good fan following and with Rohit Sharma, Pollard, Bumrah and the Pandya brothers, they look like a formidable side. Suryakant Yadav has been their consistent performer and with Quinton de'Kock showing good form, they have the fire power to win.
One feels elated for Delhi Capitals. A name change has changed their fortune. The side has some of the most exciting talent of Indian cricket. Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw, Hanuma Vihari and their young captain Shreyas Iyer, are all likely to be the backbone and the future of Indian cricket. Unfortunately, the injury to their main bowler, Kagiso Rabada, just at the time of the knock-out phase may deplete their chances. This team will be the side to beat in the future.
The IPL tournament seems to always have this uncertain element to it till the last day of the league. The battle for the 4th place for the knockout spot will only be known on the last day being Sunday, May 5. Rajasthan Royals, who looked in complete disarray initially and nearly on the verge of being relegated to the also ran stage, made a phenomenal recovery and a win against Delhi Capitals could allow them to sneak into the fourth qualifier spot.
Unfortunately, their hopes lie on the outcome of the three teams who had shown great promise in the earlier part of the tournament, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Kings XI Punjab. The three of them seem to have lost their momentum when they most required it. All have super stars who can win the game entirely on their individual ability. Kane Williamson will need to make his mark for Hyderabad but the interesting battle will be between the two West Indian giants, Andre Russell for Kolkata and Chris Gayle for Punjab. Both have two matches left to further ignite the stadium with their mighty stroke-play. The IPL is still anybody's game, just sit back and enjoy it.