Cricket carnival

Coming as close as it did on the heels of India’s epochal triumph in the 50-over World Cup, season four of the Indian Premier League didn’t quite generate the same interest or whip up the same hysteria as the previous three editions. It took fans time to come to terms with revamped teams and the heavy movement of players, and consequently, not only did attendances at the grounds drop, but television ratings too took a severe beating.

That is, however, not to say that IPL IV was an unqualified failure. Chennai Super Kings re-asserted their supremacy with a towering display in the final against Royal Challengers Bangalore, their 58-run victory a tribute to meticulous planning and the overwhelming confidence shown in a majority of the players who did duty for them over the first three editions.

The biggest Twenty20 tournament in the world had its moments. Dramatically, most of them were provided by the man no one wanted to touch with a bargepole at the player auction in January. Chris Gayle went from pariah to undisputed star in the space of one innings.

His IPL debut for the Challengers, against former franchise Kolkata Knight Riders, produced a bruising century and set the tone for a path-breaking run from the Jamaican, who finished the tournament with the most runs as well as the Golden Player award. Gayle’s heroics were primarily responsible for resuscitating a flagging Bangalore challenge and powering them all the way to the final, where the Challengers were comprehensively outplayed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his Super Kings.

The biggest talking point of IPL IV was the baseless clubs versus country debate that has gained credence in the last few days. Gautam Gambhir’s shoulder injury and Yuvraj Singh’s lung infection that have kept both men out of the tour of the Caribbean beginning on Wednesday are unfortunate developments, but they could have happened at any time.

To blame the IPL for injuries and illnesses is a myopic approach, though it can hardly be denied that there is a surfeit of cricket, and that tours and competitions are almost seamlessly merging into one another. To question the commitment of the players to their country’s cause, however, is taking things too far, particularly with the West Indies Cricket Board continuing to stand on ego and overlooking Gayle’s claims for a return to the national side for the limited-overs series against India.

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