IPL and I have had an on and off relationship for a number of years now. I was in love with the new and exciting model of T20 cricket for the first few years and then it went downhill from there and finally hit rock bottom for me with the Chennai Super Kings and the Rajasthan Royals spot fixing scandals. Why watch cricket when you know the game is being manufactured?
A lot of people were angry and lost interest. Myself included. All the players were just redrafted or put up for auction into other teams and new franchises came up as if it was any other year. To me it seemed like they were trying to fix something that was already broken. I doubt I would’ve gotten back into it had I not been living and working in a tiny village in the south of Nepal with intermittent electricity and a few random Indian channels that came and went as they pleased. It may have been the lack of Netflix in my life or TV in general but I really got into it (fully getting behind the Gujarat Lions – when we had electricity) and this year I was counting down days!!
T20 cricket has grown over the years and sometimes I hate to say it but not least because of the IPL. It has played a huge part in the development and success of other leagues like the Big Bash and though I may prefer the Australian counterpart for their introduction of a women’s tournament, nothing comes close in success or class to the IPL.
Even in it’s 10th year it continues to grow and develop. This year, an 18 year old from Afghanistan, Rashid Khan, held the purple cap and currently sits third in leading wicket takers and up until today’s double header and hat-trick fest, was third in best bowling figures. Where else (except for the T20 WC every two years) would players from associate nations get the chance to play with and face the top players in the world?
Where else would you find such a huge platform (with the first three matches of IPL 2017 reached 185.7 million viewers) for one day players like Andrew Tye and Lockie Ferguson to develop their bowling prowess and most importantly, where else would you find the likes of Sunil Narine opening the batting alongside Gautam Gambhir?
Apparently KKR’s winning opening partnership of 2014 needed a re-vamp. An understandable selection of Chris Lynn kicked off KKR’s campaign with a 10 wicket win over the Gujarat Lions but even once Lynn got injured, it was too late to go back. Gambhir had already tasted the power of a hard-hitting accomplice. He wanted to continue with a more dynamic partner. It seemed the BBL had some impact as Narine walked out alongside his captain not for the first time this year. He smashed boundaries of Ishant Sharma and Varun Aaron before being dismissed for 37 off 18 balls. He played his role perfectly getting KKR off to a flyer chasing 170.
Is there still room for as many specialist T20 batsmen when your bowlers can do this? Will players need talents in both the bowling and batting department in coming years? (I’m sure Chris Gayle will have something to say about that remark over the next few games as he approaches his 10,000 T20 runs).
Of course the game has its flaws. Do players take it less seriously when they’re not playing for their country? The number of loose balls and dropped catches over the past 13 games has been unreasonable from the standard of players in this tournament. There have been double overthrows and no-balls followed by wides. Andrew Tye might’ve finished on debut with 6/15 had Ravi Jadeja not dropped a catch today and more than one of the overall results would have come out different over the last week.
However it is early days. The teams are still finding their balance and gelling together and it may not be perfect I still strongly believe that this brand of international cohesion will bring the best and brightest out of each and every country and I can’t wait to see what else this tournament has in store…