By Anand Philar
The seemingly endless IPL season has finally concluded and true to script, Kolkata Knight Riders who found an unlikely hero in Bisla, provided the final twist to a tale that could make for a Bollywood blockbuster by defeating the high-flying Chennai Super Kings in the final at Chepauk on Sunday.
The post-match scenes at Chepauk resembled a SRK movie set as the actor pranced around with the kids unable to control his emotions. To an extent, one could understand and even sympathise with SRK for the rubbish that the Knight Riders went through in the first three seasons before making the semis last year and eventually emerging champions.
Certainly, it has been a difficult journey for KKR that initially resembled a bunch of movie extras doing SRK's bidding. Under the circumstances, it must have come as a massive relief to the team owners who spent a fortune to re-jig their squad and inject some class and substance through the likes of skipper Gambhir, spinner Sunil Narine, seamer Balaji and all-rounder Kallis, while, most importantly, getting rid of the petulant Ganguly.
It finally took Gambhir's no-nonsense (at times too aggressive and emotional) approach to whip the team into shape and deliver big results. The southpaw must be particularly pleased that his team put it across a champion outfit like the Super Kings led by no less a man than Dhoni himself. The final result perhaps was befitting as KKR were one of the most consistent teams in the league and the Super Kings merely sneaked in through the backdoor after coming close to elimination.
The 2012 IPL had its quota of controversy, sleaze and sex, allegations of match and spot fixing, but all this was water off duck's back as the tournament continued its merry way without so much as missing a beat. Unless the government shows political will to probe into allegations and pursue leads on money laundering, I doubt anything at all will affect IPL that promises to get bigger and richer in the future. Even Sahara, for all the drama that the company owners enacted, fell in line after threatening to pull out of IPL.
As in life, the bottom line is money and everything else follows. With the stakes being so high, it is but to be expected that the Board would bend its back to protect a lucrative business (IPL cannot be anything else) that has forever changed the face of Indian cricket. The sport, at least in our country, has now become a career option, not just for Indians, but players world-wide. Then there is the ancillary industry that rides on IPL - broadcasters, hospitality, advertisers, event managers and even website minders besides a horde of peripheral businesses.
I think, IPL has grown far too big and as of now, it looks as though it can only head north if the Board brings in some transparency and smoothens the creases of which there are far too many. Hence, for all the glitz and glamour, IPL is still seeking the stamp of legitimacy and total acceptance as a clean competition. Nobody grudges the millions that are splurged, but unless the Board comes clean on the IPL accounting, the tournament will have a halo of suspicion.
I have said this before, but bears reiteration that the authorities should relook at the player discipline that has been lacking, both on and off the field. The verbal abuses that our bowlers seem to revel in even after taking a wicket and the after match parties demand closer scrutiny.
The RCB apparently used all its clout to hush up the molestation case while the five "little boys" who got caught in the sting operation got the boot that bespoke the anger and desperation among the authority rather than a willingness to examine the charges. Obviously, there cannot be smoke without fire and the five players who made some serious allegations deserved a more mature handling rather than outright suspension.
Thus ended IPL-5 that will go down as one of the closest competition as we now shift our focus to something bigger, more classier and enduring event, the Olympics in about eight weeks time while the tennis superstars keep us occupied in between at Roland Garros and Wimbledon.