One week into IPL – 6 and some general observations may seem to be in order.
First and foremost it is good to see bowlers sharing honours with the batsmen. Twenty20 cricket was loaded in favour of the latter said the experts and this indeed was the case in the early years of the format. In recent times the bowlers too have become smart. They have learnt to counter attack with deliveries that give the all too eager batsmen little room to play their big hits.
Bottled up for a few deliveries, the batsman loses patience and essays a miscued stroke that leads to his dismissal. The pressure is as much on the batsman as the bowler for there is no time to gauge the bowling. In this all too brief format, it is either hit out or get out. And frequently in trying to hit out the batsman does get out.
Good cricket in any format is all about an equal contest between bat and ball and in this regard IPL-6 has so far been a winner. That there have been 15 scores over the half century mark while there have been 13 occasions when a bowler has taken three or four wickets in an innings is perhaps symbolic of the even contest.
The surfaces for the popular annual competition this time have been surprisingly sporting. In the initial years of the IPL the pitch was loaded heavily in favour of the batsmen who it appeared just had to put bat to ball for the latter to fly off into the stratosphere.
The only time there was a change in this trend was when the second edition was shifted to South Africa. After the bashing they had taken in the inaugural edition of the IPL thanks to unhelpful pitches they got back at the batsmen and the modest totals put up by the competing teams underlined this.
This has been the case in the ongoing tournament too with the ball flying past the batsman, or rearing up at him with the odd ball turning viciously. Again, a look at the totals would illustrate how the bowlers have been holding their own. A side dismissed for 130 has held their opponents to the same score. Totals of 126, 144 and 148 have been defended successfully, teams have been dismissed for modest totals of 128, 104 and 125 while others have been restricted to 139 for nine and 99 for nine.
Only one total of 200 plus has been notched up in ten matches. And while batsmen too have had their moments and the audience has enjoyed the big hits which are a staple in this format, it is quite likely that bowlers too will have a say in the proceedings as the battle intensifies.
Is the IPL finally losing its charm, sheen and popularity? That’s another point that has to be addressed as reports come in that the advertisers who have spent crores of rupees through the years are now asking the all important question – whether all this is paying off and what are they getting in return for the massive financial involvement.
To be candid, the attendances at the stadiums have been a mite disappointing with probably none of the ten matches so far drawing a packed house. Very soon the TRP ratings will be out and it would not be a surprise if there is a decline in the viewership something that has been the norm in the last couple of years.
But even if that is the case, it is not going to discourage the organizers from putting on a show even if a lot of it is gimmicky. There is no let up in the razzle dazzle and the glitz and the glamour. With film stars and major industrial houses among the franchisees, these quotients are still strong as can be seen from the media coverage of the event especially the TV shows on and off the field.
Much of the discussions are inane and the presenters have a way of exaggerating things but then that is the IPL all over. About the only thing these programmes do is to make the viewer over anxious for the action to commence.
The fact of the matter remains that most of the matches have been one-sided while the fare has so far fallen short of cricketainment – the fare coined by the competition when it was inaugurated in 2008. But then much about the IPL is aggressive marketing, colourful slogans and celebrity centered advertisements.
Then again these are early days and hopefully the best is yet to come. And in any case the kind of pleasures that only the IPL can provide – Brett Lee bowling to Shane Watson, Muthiah Muralitharan trying to outwit Kumar Sangakkara, Dale Steyn squaring off against Jacques Kallis, Harbhajan Singh hugging Ricky Ponting for taking a catch of his bowling - are still very much prevalent and will always be there to savour.
Also there to enjoy is the spectacle of relative non-entities excelling on the big stage and emerging as stars – even if it represents a transient phase in their careers. Does anyone today remember Swapnil Asnodkar, Paul Valthaty or Kamran Khan, little known cricketers who enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame?