A carnival of cricketing dreams

A carnival of cricketing dreams
At eight tonight, the seventh edition of the Indian Premier League will arrive in our doorsteps like a circus caravan, with its share of glitz and glamour. 

It is different scenario from what it was a month back when the Board of Control for Cricket in India was searching for an alternate venue because of the general elections, even as plenty of question marks remained in front of the tournament, in the light of the controversies that rocked the previous edition.
 
The future of the tournament itself was enveloped in a cloud of doubt when the Supreme Court suggested the suspension of two franchises – Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals – while hearing the corruption charges in the IPL.

But the BCCI’s fervent plea swayed the court for once and it allowed them to continue the league in its original form – an eight-team event spanning nearly two months. 
 
Now, the game time has come and when defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders at Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, the match will have more significance than a normal tournament opener would have held.
 
The next court hearing on the charges of corruption will take place in New Delhi on Wednesday morning and that issue will stay in the backdrop even as  the majority of the fans focus on the outcome of the match. 

Indeed, this match needs to set the tone for the rest of the tournament, giving an assurance for the fans that everything is well with the latest edition of the tournament.
  
IPL, the most prestigious venture of the BCCI, never has been far from controversies since its inception in 2008, but the credibility of the event hit an all-time low last year when players including an active India cricketer – S Sreesanth – were detained for alleged spot-fixing.
 
 The alleged involvement of Gurunath Meiyappan  -- a top official of Super Kings and son-in-law of Board president N Srinivasan – in betting and his subsequent arrest created among the fans the worst kind of fear – matches being played to a pre-written script.
Now, as the darkness has lifted -- at least temporarily -- cricket should take centre stage for the next month or so, helping to erase deep scars with some high-octane action.
 
But it is not just the tournament as a whole that faces a crisis time; the teams too will have to endure some tough days during the course of the tournament.

The first leg of the league will take place in UAE, but the exact nature of the pitches in that part of the world is an unknown property, particularly to Indian cricketers as none of them has played there in the last decade.
 
But the past matches, involving Pakistan, at these venues suggest a slew of low-scoring matches.
 
The teams perforce will have to adjust their game plans accordingly at the earliest. However, they will have to rejig their approach once they set foot in India for the second leg, starting on May 2.
 
It will certainly stretch the team think tanks but that’s a challenge they need to tackle to come out on top.
 
If those two are the most obvious points about this edition of the IPL, there is an almost equally interesting sub-text involving a set of individuals who not too long ago were hailed as the finest.

First in that list comes Kevin Pietersen. Discarded by England after a disastrous Ashes campaign last year, Pietersen will be in action as the skipper of Delhi Daredevils. He will be eager to score a bagful of runs to show the English selectors his worth.
 
Next in line is Yuvraj Singh. Hero of India’s two World Cup wins (2007 T20, 2011 50-over) looked all at sea in the recent World T20 in Bangladesh, and his 21-ball 11 in the final against Sri Lanka has made the going only tough for him.

The left-hander, who will turn out for Royal Challengers Bangalore, will certainly be keen to silence his detractors with a strong show.

Also, for Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag, who have been in wilderness for well over a year now, this IPL is a platform to prove that their willows are still capable of making runs consistently.

A tournament straining to regain its credibility, new-look teams trying to establish their identity, players impatient to make or recapture reputation, this IPL has all the ingredients of an edge-of-the-seat thriller.

And let’s hope it’s all unscripted.

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