It has been a stormy week in the IPL and not the least because of Gayle's big hitting and record-breaking 175 not out. If anything, the competition has shifted the focus on character, form and fitness rather than reputation.
As mentioned in my previous column
, the established stars have struggled to make an impact with the likes of Ponting, Gilchrist, Sangakkara, Jayawardene, Sehwag, Muralitharan, Angelo Mathews and Dilshan to name only a few, all fumbling and flopping rather badly.
Some of these worthies have discovered that there is no place for them in the playing eleven while there are a bunch of other stars who have not even come off the bench. I will be not surprised if we do not see some of these veterans in 2014 IPL.
As for character, the best test of it is under pressure. Only two captains have stood out for their equanimity in difficult situations and some innovative thinking that has put their respective teams on top. Of course, I am referring to Dhoni and Dravid who were such contrast to the likes of young bucks Gambhir and Kohli both of whom scripted some disgraceful scenes.
While Gambhir and Kohli came close to trading blows, the latter, touted as the future India captain, also earned the wrath of the Mumbai crowd that has gained some notoriety after jeering even Tendulkar a few years ago. Kohli's retort that the Mumbai crowd knows not its cricket would not have endeared him any further and for sure, his lambast would not be forgotten in a hurry.
The point is that neither Gambhir nor Kohli have shown the kind of maturity that is expected of a leader of men. Rather, both have been far too animated, emotional and temperamental, attributes that do not facilitate team bonding. Kohli, in his current avatar is a misfit as a captain, notwithstanding his consistency with the bat.
Kohli, like Gambhir, is far too aggressive in his gestures and actions, and rather immature in handling tricky situations. It is all fine to talk about passion and intensity, but quite another if you cannot, as a captain, find a balance.
In sharp contrast, Dhoni and Dravid have been exemplary as leaders. Both have set high standards in leadership and, more importantly, decorum, taking the highs and lows with forbearance. The duo is a refreshing change in a competition that is littered with some boorish behaviour and filthy language that the stump mikes have picked up. It is about time the BCCI cleans up the IPL and projects it as a clean and wholesome family entertainment.
Regarding highly-paid players warming the bench in the dugouts, it is shocking that Mumbai Indians, who bought Maxwell for a million dollars, are still to give a game to the Aussie while the Pune Warriors needlessly benched Steve Smith for a few games and by the time he was given an outing, the situation was beyond repair.
Likewise, other franchise teams have erred in overlooking talent, both Indian and foreign, and I wonder whether the team owners have any clue at all about the game or their advisors have put any serious thought to team composition.
In this respect, there is much to learn from the Chennai Super Kings whose owners (India Cements) have decades of experience of running cricket teams. Win or lose, there is no over-reaction and the squad is handled by a touch of professionalism that is sadly lacking in most other IPL units.
Super Kings have a settled core team of Dhoni, Hussey, Raina, Morkel, Badrinath, Bravo, Jadeja and Vijay while the owners have opted for promise and potential to reputations while picking others, notably foreign players.
Thus, as IPL 2013 gathers momentum and heads into the homestretch this month, the smart franchise owner would already be planning for next season. It is to be hoped that players are bought and sold as per the needs of the team rather than personal whims. If you have not learnt anything over six seasons, then probably you will never.
From purely cricketing perspective, this year's IPL has been quite entertaining though I suspect that mediocrity has seeped into some of the teams whose highly-paid players have failed to perform, thus putting a question mark on their commitment.
At the end of the day, there is no substitute for quality of cricket. The onus is on the BCCI to ensure that the game is not compromised on the altar of 'entertainment'. The 2013 IPL has shown that there is far too much dead wood floating around and I am sure, the non-performing older players have seen the writing on the wall.
Oh yes, lest we forget, the commentators too have a role to play. At the moment, the IPL commentary resembles a kitty party with its non-stop chatter and inane banter. The current commentary team is one of the worst in my book. I guess, the time is up for some of these worthies too.