Much like in the Cosmic Universe, we seem to be witnessing the burn out of a few super stars who are being cruelly exposed in the ongoing Pepsi IPL. Barring Dravid, others in the 35-40 plus age group seem to be struggling to rise and shine in a highly demanding environment where reputations are looked upon by irreverence that is so much part of today’s life.
Of course, by irreverence I do not mean young guns scoffing at the ageing stars, but they are anything but inhibited or intimated by reputations. Personally, it makes a sad sight that the likes of Tendulkar and Ponting being ill at ease while opening for Mumbai Indians for whom neither has made any significant contribution with the bat thus far. On the contrary, their very presence has only shut the doors on youngsters who could have been tried out.
Once the novelty of seeing Tendulkar and Ponting batting together wore off, the harsh reality stood out in bold relief. They might yet score a few runs, but on the evidence of the games so far, neither looks the part notwithstanding their undoubted dedication, commitment and professionalism. Their dismissals by a relatively unheralded 29-year old off-spinner Chandila in Jaipur were probably more demonstrative of their current form than statistics.
Tendulkar flickered briefly the other night in making 44, but otherwise, like Ponting, has been unable to stamp authority on the match. The same could be said of Muralitharan and Gilchrist, both of whom have made little or no impact on the IPL this season. Ditto, the Sri Lankan stars, Jayawardene and Sangakkara. All of them looked haggard and their tired faces were far more eloquent than their performances.
Never for a moment am I belittling their illustrious records, but it does not make for a pretty sight when these greats stumble and fumble only occasionally providing glimpses of an era gone by when they strode the cricketing World like a colossus. The pomp and pageantry are still there, but the sword is firmly sheathed. It is much like the last flickers of a dying candle that momentarily lights up our lives.
Given the intensity of the IPL games, not to forget the constant travel, it certainly takes a lot out of the old bones to be on pace and invariably, the body and mind do not act in sync. You cannot deny Father Time his place in our lives. When one talks more about the past than present, then it is a sure signal to pack up, put the feet up and admire the sunset.
By hindsight, Dravid probably made the right move at the right time when he quit international cricket. Watching him bat in the IPL his fans wonder why he retired and I am sure, that is the image or thought that Dravid would like to leave behind. He turned down lucrative TV commentary offer during the recent tour by the Aussies so as to prepare for the IPL. Thus, he looks fitter, keener and sharper than some of the millionaire and much younger players.
Talking about younger Indian players, the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Dinesh Karthik and Amit Mishra have been most impressive along with the fiery Vinay Kumar. No doubt, it is early days yet in the IPL, but this quartet has made tremendous impact for their respective teams though not always finishing on the winning side.
Some close finishes and last-ball heart stoppers have injected more than normal interest in this year’s IPL. If we gloss over some crude and downright mediocre cricket that has surfaced from time to time, as also the non-stop and inane chatter of majority of the commentators who think they are on a radio talk show, then the show has been par for the course as an entertainment package.
Those of us who initially scoffed at the T20 and more specifically the IPL, then we have look at the sell-out crowds at most venues kept enthralled by the last over and last ball finishes, to judge its mass popularity. Of course, there is a cricketing shallowness in T20, but for the paying public that is the biggest stake-holder, it is virtually paisa vasool.
We still have about six more weeks of IPL left and should the ageing stars can defy the odds and the critics to perform like they are expected to, then that would be icing on the cake. I am now convinced that IPL is here to stay, whether one likes it or not.