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Hit parade all set to roll on again

G Unnikrishnan, Kolkata, Apr 1, 2013, DHNS

Action-packed nights will be the order as IPL’s sixth edition promises to deliver plenty of thrills

AFP Photo.

 Time has come for you to give a break to prime time soaps and reality shows for the next 54 days. 
     

Some of the finest cricketers from across the globe will enthrall you in nine different jerseys when the sixth edition of the Indian Premier League starts at the iconic Eden Gardens with a match between defending champions Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils on Wednesday. 
      

To come to this point, this edition had to clear its own share of hurdles. But then it has been the fate of all the previous events. Since its inception in 2008, the IPL has had to face a clutch of controversies, often emerging unscathed and stronger from all of them.


This year there has been a simmering discontent among a few teams after the IPL Governing Council decided to disallow the participation of Sri Lankan players following Tamil Nadu Government’s protest. Many teams believe that the move has tilted the scale in favour of the Chennai Super Kings who don’t rely too much on Lankan players.

But franchises like Mumbai Indians, Hyderabad Sunrisers, who have come in place of Deccan Chargers, Knight Riders, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Delhi Daredevils and Pune Warriors have Lankan players forming their core groups.

Here many of the teams were upset that the Governing Council bowed to the pressure from Tamil Nadu government and also the teams were not consulted in taking such a decision.

The best way they felt was to shift Super Kings home matches to some other venue like it had happened with Chargers when the Telangana issue cropped up.
But the powers that be chose to go ahead with the schedule, compromising in the process the opportunity of a level playing field.

However, once the action begins such issues will not be in players’ or team managements’ minds. Some close and exciting matches will be on our way considering that many top players across teams are in fine form. Imagine the thrill of watching Dale Steyn going full throttle against Mahendra Singh Dhoni or Morne Morkel cranking it up against Chris Gayle. It might last just four overs or may be even less but those mini classics are worth the wait.

This will also be the last IPL before the mega auction in 2014 in which all the players, except the teams that decide to retain players, will go under the hammer. So, they will be eager to produce some high-torque performances so that they remain in their teams’ scheme of things or attract a new higher bids from another franchise.

 One way to create intense competition and thereby high-standard cricket over the next month or so is to produce good pitches. An absolute shirtfront may see a batting festival but the role of bowlers will be nullified totally. Similarly, a bad wicket will see bowlers calling shots in some low-scoring scraps that may often give the wrong impression of a close match. We need to strike a balance where both batsmen and bowlers get equal opportunity, and that can only add to the quality of the cricket. After all, there’s no better way to enjoy any sport than watching a fair contest.

In that context, the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s recent directive for curators to not heed the demands of the teams during the IPL is a step in the right direction. However, it remains to be seen how practical the move turns out to be.

Even a tournament like the IPL, primarily in focus for the accompanying razzmatazz, carries some sentimental value. This edition too has its own emotional twist. This, perhaps, could be the last time you’ll see the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Adam Gilchrist and Muttiah Muralitharan, players whom you grew up with, in coloured clothing or even as active players. They deserve some more rounds of cheer and applause for delighting us over the years with some magical acts.

And some players will be badly missed and none more than the trio of Kevin Pietersen, Michael Clarke and Jesse Ryder, all capable of exuberant stroke-play.
But that could just be a pretext for the emergence of some new talent.

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