In IPL IV, fans face a loyalty dilemma as team identities go for a six

Facing a googly

In IPL IV, fans face a loyalty dilemma as team identities go for a six

 Fans are caught on a sticky wicket as to which team to  support and whom to cheer for.Team loyalty has gone for a toss ever since market forces called the shots at the event’s player auction back in January, so much so that fans at the ground and outside are struggling to rally behind the teams with which they had identified themselves in the last three IPL seasons. From the fans’ point of view, the identity of most teams has changed so much that it has challenged their sense of team loyalty.

The change has even confused Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) owner Preity Zinta. After the drubbing her team suffered at the hands of new entrant Pune Warriors captained by Yuvraj Singh on Sunday night, she admitted that it was difficult for her to accept that Yuvraj was no longer playing for her team. Yuvraj, who plays for Punjab in the Ranji Trophy, was KXIP’s icon player and captained the team in the first two IPL seasons. Yuvi is not the only one. Deccan Chargers’ icon player VVS Laxman is with Kochi Tuskers, Royal Challengers Bangalore icon player Rahul Dravid now plays for Rajasthan Royals and key Delhi Daredevils’ player Gautam Gambhir captains Kolkata Knight Riders.

A number of second-rung and young players have  switched sides and many top players are no longer associated with the teams with which fans have identified them during the first three seasons. In fact, KXIP and Kolkata Knight Riders have gone for wholesale change. Perhaps, only two teams—Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings—have been able to retain their core players for the first three seasons.

The other day when Rajasthan Royals played their first match, Suresh, an RCB fan in Bangalore, was seen cheering while Dravid was at the crease. It was a difficult sight for him on Saturday to see ex-RCB player Vinay Kumar, now playing for Kochi Tuskers, celebrating the fall of an RCB wicket in their first match in Kochi.    

So, when RCB take on Mumbai Indians in the first match at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here this season on Tuesday, the team will not see the likes of Rahul Dravid, Vinay Kumar and Robin Uthappa. Nor would there be Jacques Kallis or Ross Taylor who, in the minds of RCB fans, are their players.

“We fans had also formed a bond with players like Ross Taylor. I used to love his big hits and now he, too, is not there. The earlier team had the fast Dale Steyn and the clever Praveen Kumar. Change is good but change for change’s sake will not help. Let us hope this team does well,” noted software engineer Girish Desai.

“It’s disappointing that my favourite cricketer Rahul Dravid is not there with the Royal Challengers. Somehow the team does not feel the same as there are too many new faces…As a fan it will take some time to get used to the new team,” said IT professional Satish Savan, as he prepared for the Mumbai Indians game.

The missing local flavour was hard to digest for another fan, Prashanth Manohar. “Why did they just retain only Virat Kohli from the earlier team? The team owners could have at least tried harder to keep young players like Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey. Vinay Kumar has been excellent for Royal Challengers and his absence also will be felt,” said Manohar, a marketing executive.

Away in Delhi, Delhi Daredevils’ fans also  are disappointed. “My favourite players are no longer playing for my favourite team,” said Charu Sanyal, a dhaba owner in the national capital. “It seems almost everyone is playing for a different team this time. I was  born and brought up in Delhi but Gambhir, who captained Delhi Daredevils last year, is no longer there. There are others like Mithun Manhas and Shikar Dhavan from our team who are now playing for other teams,” he said.

On Sunday, when KXIP played Pune Warriors, fans in Punjab felt the “tarka” missing from their team. The real Punjabi “puttar” (son), Yuvraj, was on the other side. “I am sure the fans are disappointed, especially after yesterday’s defeat,” said Yograj Singh, Yuvraj’s father. “It’s very important for a team to respect and honour its players. I think Kings XI have been unable to do this. They needed to give due regard to their  players... fans are not feeling great”.

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