Close-in: Real fun begins

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The big guns of IPL, Chris Gayle, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Warner, De Villiers, Hashim Amla, Kohli, are in super form

The hot Indian summer at most venues of the Indian Premier League has made very little impact on the tournament. The spectators, players and all the support staff are bearing up reasonably well to the heat, dust and travel. This has now become a ritual for all to absorb and enjoy as the arduous conditions have made the IPL a challenge for everyone involved.

The BCCI affiliated Associations have built stadiums at enormous costs and most of them, unfortunately, do not provide a roof to prevent a die-hard fan from a possible sunstroke. The artistically magnificent looking sports stadiums may look a pretty site, but the festive look of a temporary constructed shamiana of the past definitely was more comfortable and spectator friendly. Although one is seeing a full house at most matches at present, I feel that the next fortnight may find the crowds gradually dwindling.

The heat and exorbitant ticket pricing may weed away even the most ardent loyalists. The IPL committee and franchisees need to be proactive or else they may find a major source of their revenue stream decline quite substantially.

The IPL has become a true entertainer for millions of Indian homes. It is a soap opera that has an unpredictable result with players as actors playing a part of the past gladiators. Everyday seems to bring forth new heroes. The wonderful results in the first half of the tournament has been the success of many of the young Indian cricketers.

The batting of Sanju Samson, Manish Pandey, Rishab Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Nitish Rana, Kedar Jadhav, Manan Vohra has been a pleasure to watch. These young aspiring Indian batting talent have shown maturity, class and skills that will make the established Indian batsmen a trifle worried. Similarly, young bowlers are showing grit and determination. They are being made to bowl the death overs under immense pressure and have shown that they have the temperament and capabilities to deliver successfully. Siddarth Kaul, Jaspreet Bumrah, Yazuvendra Chahal and the seasoned Bhuvneshwar Kumar have been excellent. The Mumbai Indians Gujarati brothers Krunal and Hardik Pandya have shown the sterner stuff that they are made of and their performances have brought a new depth and zeal to their side.

The tournament has now accelerated to just the right momentum. The big guns, Chris Gayle, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith, Warner, De Villiers, Hashim Amla, Kohli and others have got into form and so have the bowlers gradually adjusted to the conditions. Therefore, the games as one can term them, have just begun.

The hardest part for the teams’ support staff is to get the players in the right frame of mind physically and mentally. The continuous travel and cricket fatigue can be quite treacherous, especially for the senior players who do not have to prove anything. For them, the only incentive is the commercial aspect of it and to keep themselves abreast with the game. An ideal preparation for the upcoming Champion’s league tournament to be played in England later.

The Kolkata Knight riders along with the Hyderabad Sun Risers and the Mumbai Indians have been quick out of the block. A few close games, good captaincy and teamwork have led to their success, but none of them have looked like outright winners. The Delhi Dare Devils to me, has been the most impressive side so far, although they have lost a few close encounters. Zaheer Khan has been quite magnificent as a leader as well as a bowler. However, Rahul Dravid needs to finalize the winning combination soon or else his chopping and changing could lead towards the same disastrous results that came about during his stint with Rajasthan Royals.

The Kings XI Punjab and the Royal Challengers Bangalore are two sides that have the most flamboyant and exciting players to watch. The Punjab side has two distinct home venues and so somehow lack the feeling of being at home. Whereas, the Bangalore side has finally got Virat Kohli playing and captaining them and along with De Villiers and Gayle to support him, they will make life hell for most of the other sides.

The Pune Supergiants needs their superstar MS Dhoni to shine. He is a match winner and along with Steve Smith, Ajinkya Rahane and Du Plessis they could be a handful. They need him to fire quick or else, till then they will remain at the bottom half of the table.

The Gujarat Lions are languishing at the bottom of the pile. They too are a good side needing Dwayne Bravo to make his presence felt and Ravindra Jadeja to get into form. Their young Indian batsman, Ishaan Kishan and bowler Basil Thampi have impressed one sufficiently. They need some innovative captaincy from Suresh Raina and will have to zero in quickly to an effective team combination for a revival.

The highlight of this tournament is not only the commercial success but the way in which every player and team is playing and participating in this year’s IPL. There is an atmosphere of companionship, friendship and healthy competition. The verbal duals and unfriendly encounters of the past have all being swept away and forgotten. Sportsmanship and the spirit of the game have taken preference and cricket for a change is being played competitively with a smile.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Indian cricketer)

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