Cracker of a spectacle in offing

Indian Premier League: T20 bash kicks off in Mumbai on Friday

Cracker of a spectacle in offing

On Friday at the impressive DY Patil stadium in Navi Mumbai, Adam Gilchrist’s Deccan Chargers will kick-start the defence of their crown won so stirringly last year in Johannesburg. That this is the first of seven ‘home’ matches – all on the road! -- for the Hyderabad-based franchise is alone indicative of the drama surrounding the build-up to IPL III.

Much like Pakistan have for just under one year now, the Chargers won’t play a single fixture at their home ground, the Rajiv Gandhi International stadium in Uppal. The possibility of the Telangana issue finding expression at a cricketing venue forced IPL authorities to move all of the Chargers’ home games away from Andhra Pradesh, a decision that didn’t go down too well either with the Chargers or the state government before, almost inevitably, a solution was arrived at.

In a lot of ways, IPL III has been about finding solutions to problems, genuine and contrived. Security has, unsurprisingly, been the primary concern among overseas players. The Board of Control for Cricket in India and, by extension, the IPL’s repeated insistence that it would engage cricket Boards and not player bodies whilst assuaging security fears seemed to have generated an impasse triggered by hurt egos until the lure of lucre decisively tilted the scales in favour of overwhelming overseas participation.
Cricketers from outside the sub-continent are well within their rights to voice security fears in these troubled times in this part of the world. Especially in Australia, opinion was divided between current internationals – including some not figuring in IPL III, such as skipper Ricky Ponting – and retired legends like Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden and Gilchrist over travelling to India. As of now, no player has made himself unavailable owing to security issues.

Blurring of lines
The brouhaha stemming from Pakistani players being ignored at the mini-auction for IPL III provided another example of the blurring of lines. The uncertain political climate and therefore doubts surrounding the availability of the Pakistanis meant it made perfect sense for team owners, the ones shelling out good money, to look elsewhere and invest in players less explosive in every sense of the word.

Since being overlooked at the auction, Pakistan cricket has plumbed the depths on and off the field. They lost every single international on their tour of Australia, saw Shahid Afridi being banned for two T20 internationals for his ‘ball-biting’ madness, and the piece de resistance arrived on Wednesday when the Pakistan Cricket Board handed down bans and fines to seven active players, including four who have led the country at some stage or the other.

Whether he has gone looking for it or not – and to be fair, more often than not, he has not – IPL chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi has been dogged by controversy.
International news agencies will again stay away from covering IPL III; additionally, news channels too have opted to ‘boycott’ the event in protest against what are being termed ‘Draconian’ restrictions, but which, Modi insists, have been designed to protect the interests of broadcast rights holders who have invested millions of dollars in the whole exercise.

Most of these issues will cede centrestage when the action traverses the length and breadth of the country. IPL II was a huge hit in South Africa, and indications are that this one will be even more so, with matches being taken to such cricket-mad but ‘lesser’ centres as Dharamsala and Cuttack.

Winner-picking at this early stage, with not even a ball has been bowled or a shot hit in anger, will be foolhardy and ill-advised. Suffice to say that there will be no shortage of fireworks. Existing superstars, Indian and overseas, will be joined by the likes of the effervescent Eoin Morgan of the Royal Challengers and Kieron Pollard of Mumbai Indians, different in their methods but electrifying in their impact.

The defending champions against last year’s cellar side will follow the likes of Lionel Ritchie, Bjorn Again and UB40’s Ali Campbell and Deepika Padukone – star casts at the opening ceremony – out on to the DY Patil stadium on Friday night as entertainers of different ilk will parade their wares. How fitting!

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