Two weeks into IPL - V and it is clear that it is still a hot property. Much of it may be hype and unashamedly commercialized but that's the way cricket is these days. It has undergone a metamorphosis in the last few years, public taste too has changed and even old timers like me who grew up on a heavy dose of Test cricket in the days when ODIs were unheard of let alone Twenty20, have learnt to accept the new face of the sport.
It may not be all for the good and there are certain crass aspects but looking only at the negatives would be unfair to a still hugely popular competition. It has struck the right chords with those who follow the game - both young and old I might add - provides entertainment and along the way there are a few serious aspects too concerning tactics and strategy. With all the emphasis on action even in Twenty20 thinking and planning have a place and IPL - V has underscored this. The format is still evolving and I would like to believe that its popularity will not diminish.
Yes, the authorities should be careful in not killing the golden goose by organizing too many matches in this category. Coming to think of it the IPL too could do with some trimming. Its duration which at its current eight weeks is a mite too long and interest could well slacken midway through the competition before again picking up during its climactic stages.
On the other hand the prolonged duration heightens the suspense because it gives teams who make a slow start and have a couple of bad days at the office enough time to recover and make a strong bid for the title. We have seen it during the first four editions and it is safe to assume IPL – V would also have many twists and turns in the fortunes of the nine competing teams before the winner is spotted.
One cannot rule out the chances of any team and even Deccan Chargers who are languishing at the bottom without any points - though they have played only three matches - cannot entirely be ruled out. At the other end of the spectrum even the top placed teams are aware that they cannot afford to be smug.
A look at how some of the matches have unfolded will illustrate the topsy-turvy nature of T-20 cricket in which making predictions is a mug's name. Would anyone in his right mind and some cricketing knowledge have stuck his neck out and said that Chennai Super Kings would score 75 runs in the last five overs and 43 runs in the last two to get the better of Royal Challengers Bangalore? Or that a total of 205 in 20 overs would be overhauled?
Could anyone have predicted that King's XI Punjab lying somewhere near the bottom of the table would get the better of the in-form Kolkata Knight Riders after being restricted to 134? And with KKR cruising along at 73 for two? Could anyone have predicted that Pune Warriors would comfortably defend a total of 129 for nine against Mumbai Indians? Or that Mumbai Indians would go down tamely to Delhi Daredevils in an eagerly looked forward to game between two seemingly evenly matched contestants?
And even with batsmen slowly coming into their own six consecutive fours in an over which Ajinkya Rahane pulled off is something to take the breath away even in T-20 cricket as also the feat of five sixes in a row that perhaps only Chris Gayle could have scripted. Indeed there have been several dramatic twists and turns in almost every match with batsmen and bowlers both having their moments.
This has added considerably to the enjoyment and whether one is for it or against it there is little doubt that IPL - V like its predecessors is very much the topic of hot discussions in clubs, homes, offices and the streets. As the icing on the cake for the first fortnight we had two memorable encounters on Tuesday both of which went down to the wire. And to think the fun has still another six weeks to go.
Among the many features of the IPL the most notable would still be the sight of players of different nationalities turning out for the franchisee teams. Where else would you see Virender Sehwag and Kevin Pietersen batting together or Jacques Kallis and Gautam Gambhir opening the innings or Lasith Malinga and Kieron Pollard bowling in tandem or Daniel Vettori and Muthiah Muralitharan bamboozling the batsmen with flight and spin by turns. The IPL is a domestic tournament only in name - it is in a way the biggest international brand.