Without doubt, this year’s IPL has been the most exciting and closely fought with six of the nine teams battling for the four spots in the play-offs, a situation that was not witnessed in the previous four editions. Most of the stadia have boasted full houses and it has been paisa vasool for the paying public, given the frenetic action on the pitch.
Yet, there is an ugly side to the competition and unless the authorities address the matter, we might well end up with a cricketing version of the WWF!
It has to do with the player behaviour on the ground and more specifically, the celebrations that follow the fall of a wicket. It was distressing and disgusting to watch bowlers spew obscenities on the batsmen they dismissed with others joining in without a care in the world.
The other day, we could clearly lip read Munaf Patel and also Gautam Gambhir uttering filth for reasons best known to them. Fielders on pouching a catch too have been guilty of mouthing obscenities and you don’t have to be a linguist to know what was being said.
For the life of me, I cannot understand this peculiarity of celebrating with verbal abuse that at best reflects the character of the player (regardless of the public persona that the PR guys project). I appreciate the passion and emotion that goes with success, but surely, these are not kids who are playing IPL, but mature adults and their behaviour has been highly objectionable to say the least.
It is about time the BCCI curbs this menace as kids watching the seniors would naturally imitate and we might get into a situation where retaliation might not be just verbal but physical (remember the Miandad-Lillee incident?). Also, the mentors in the various team should step in and ensure there is some decorum on the field.
If the players are pulled up for dissent, then the punishment for verbal abuse should be much more than fine. I would rather the guilty was suspended for a game at least. Judging by the boorish behaviour of some players in the current IPL, can anyone still insist that cricket is a gentleman’s game? I suppose, crass commercialization of the game also has also influenced player behaviour.
On the pleasanter side, the most outstanding aspect of IPL has been the high standard of fielding. It is probably a pointer to the future where we might get to see fielders with robotic efficiency, but having said that, quality fielding only enhances the sport and I believe that as the seasons go by, there will be little or no place for players over 30-plus age in T20 format.
The IPL has already taken toll on the likes of Ganguly (never mind his insistence that he is the captain) whom we might not be playing next season, Laxman and their ilk. Dravid is surviving on his fitness while Sachin is Sachin, though he has clearly slowed down a yard or two. There are quite a few over-30 players who might find it difficult to hold their spots in the team as T20 evolves.
Talking about evolution, I am totally against the switch-hit that I believe is rather unfair to the fielding side. The point has been made elsewhere too, but bears repetition and that is if a bowler is required to inform whether he is left or right handed, then the same should apply to the batsman who should not be permitted to change grip from right to left hand or vice-versa.
Batsmen like Warner and Pietersen have mastered this "art" of switch-hit while the ICC is still to wake from its blissful slumber to put an end to such "innovation". Reverse sweep is fine as the grip remains unchanged and even discourages a negative leg-stump line as the bowler will be forced to change his line of attack.
The next fortnight should witness some close encounters as IPL steams into the home-stretch where every game has to be won to stay in the race. At the moment, Daredevils appear the best, but the Super Kings can never be written off although they are struggling to stay afloat.
The surprise packet could be Knight Riders who must be reveling in the new-found success under Gambhir and much to the relief of SRK who suffered torrid four seasons when nothing quite went right for his franchise team.
Whatever, the BCCI is rubbing its hands in glee at the packed stadia though I am surprised that the final matches are to be held in Chennai where the stadium is half-empty due to TNCA’s problems with the municipality who have sealed the two western stands as they have violated certain building norms.
Like I had said in one of my previous columns, IPL is likely to grow into something bigger in the seasons to come and 2012 event has given us a peek into the future, though not all of it is good or palatable.