Entertainers set for action

Entertainers set for action


Entertainers set for action

It’s normally the rain that the hosts of a cricket match dread the most. Apart from the fact that it’s a logistics’ nightmare, it also spells a financial disaster for them.

The Indian Premier League organisers, however, may not have envisaged a day when lack of rain would put them on a sticky wicket. As this piece is being written, there is a cloud of uncertainty over the ninth edition of IPL; ironically because there are no dark clouds in the horizon. Anyone for “no rain plays spoilsport” headline?

Though there is no stay on the conduct of the opening match between defending champions Mumbai Indians and Rising Pune Supergiants on Saturday, the Bombay High Court is still weighing with the issue of whether it’s feasible, or even ethical, to hold matches in drought-hit Maharashtra -- the contention being the 19 matches that are going to be played in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur over 51 days will require an estimated 60 lakh litres of water to maintain the pitches alone which is “criminal” given the acute shortage of water in the state.

While there is no denying that meeting water demands of living beings is far more important than a cricket match or a tournament, it’s astounding how these issues are raked up just days before the event is to start. It’s not like drought is an overnight development and the IPL schedule was released yesterday as it were. This may not have the politics that went behind the shifting of India-Pakistan World T20 clash from Dharamsala to Kolkata but the timing again is a bit suspect here. And if this has a ripple effect, holding the tournament itself may become a difficult proposition as Karnataka and Telangana, where Bengaluru and Hyderabad are scheduled to host eight and seven matches respectively, too are reeling under severe drought. And there is already a PIL with this regard in High Court of Karnataka.

But then that is the lot of IPL, not a year passes without any controversy dogging it. It’s been in existence for less than a decade but it has had more than its share of troubles – some self-inflicted and some inflicted upon it.

That aside, the country is in the grip of T20 cricket. It started with India’s three-match T20I series against Australia and was followed by another three-match series at home against Sri Lanka, then Asia Cup in Dhaka (in T20 format) and finally the World T20 that concluded on Sunday in true T20 fashion. The IPL is the final stretch of what has been a T20 carnival.

Being held in the aftermath of the Lodha Committee recommendations, which included the suspension of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals for two years, the ninth edition of IPL has two new teams in Supergiants and Gujarat Lions. Having drawn majority of their key players from the suspended teams, Supergiants and Lions are, in a way, old wine in new bottles. And that’s not intended to be in a negative way.

With the likes of MS Dhoni, who will lead Supergiants, Steven Smith, Ajinkya Rahane, Faf du Plessis, R Ashwin, Suresh Raina (captain of Lions), Dwayne Bravo, James Faulkner, Brendon McCullum and Ravindra Jadeja equally divided between the two teams, quality of the competition hasn’t been diluted.

This time there is a different feel to the tournament though. Dhoni and Super Kings had become synonymous over their eight-year association and to see the Indian limited-overs skipper in Supergiants’ purple colour as against CSK’s yellow in itself will be a strange experience. Under Dhoni, CSK went on to become the most successful franchise in IPL and it remains to be seen how the Pune-based outfit shapes up. Having been an understudy to Dhoni for eight years, Raina’s captaincy skills will be tested as he leads Lions who have several match winners in their ranks.

The Royal Challengers Bangalore have been the biggest under-performers despite being one of the strongest sides in the league. Virat Kohli, who is batting like a dream, will hope for his super-stars filled team to click as a unit to clinch that elusive trophy.

Delhi Daredevils have gone for another overhaul and this time they have installed Rahul Dravid as the mentor to steer their ship. Daredevils have been one of the poor performers in the last few years and the franchise hopes Dravid’s low-key style of functioning and man-management skills will improve their fortunes.

After the low of 2015, Kings XI Punjab will look for a better show under new captain David Miller. Possessing one of the most explosive batting line-ups, Kings XI can be dangerous like they proved to be in 2014 when they reached the final.

Sunrisers Hyderabad have had middling performances despite a wealth of talent in their ranks. Skipper David Warner will have to play a big role along with Shikhar Dhawan while picking veterans Ashish Nehra and Yuvraj Singh may work to their advantage.

In the absence of a united CSK, the only other multiple champions – Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders – will be favourites to go all the way again. Both teams are well balanced and have almost all areas covered.

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