Now that the IPL-3 is done and dusted with, the focus would shift not so much on l’affaire Modi but the T20 World Cup commencing in the Caribbean at the weekend. If anything, it was good to see that the general public has not lost faith in the game despite all the off-field brouhaha, going by the packed stadium last night for the final. To reiterate, I am inclined to believe that the recent controversies will suffer a natural death as we move on to the extravaganza in the West Indies.
After all, Lalit Modi has been given a generous 15-day period to respond to the showcause notice and by the looks of it, the wretched episode will drag on for a while until it drops out of the public radar. So much for all the deafening noise of the past week and considering India’s track record in dealing with high-profile scams and scandals, the IPL controversy too shall be swept under the carpet and our country (read politicians) will rise, smile and shine again!
Under the circumstances, it is pointless to carry on with Modi for a lot has already been said and written, pointing to a huge money-laundering exercise with those in the arc lights being mere pawns in a bigger game. Suffice it to say that the good game of cricket will overcome and survive the latest setback.
The paying spectators at the Patil Stadium last night made a telling point that for them, the game is bigger than the personalities who run it. Had Mumbai's batsmen showed a bit more steel, we would have witnessed a closer final, but then I thought Sachin got his “math” wrong in picking the wrong team combination that was woefully short of at least a couple of more spinners to support Harbhajan.
Saluting the grand daddy of world cricket
For me, the defining moment of the final was the subtle field placements by Dhoni whose uncanny knack of making changes yet again came to the fore. Mumbai paid a big price for twice letting off Raina and the gifted southpaw promptly responded with a half-century that helped the Super Kings get to a competitive total.
The irony was that it was the Super Kings bowling, hitherto thought to be its weak link, that eventually turned things around. Dhoni was spot on with his team composition by including three spinners to bowl on a pitch that got progressively slower. Thus, Mumbai were caught in the headlights with nowhere to go.
Of course, Pollard played a cameo that could have extended into a match-winning effort, but I thought he was needlessly kept twiddling in the dugout when he should have come on much earlier than he did. The asking rate by then had crossed 15 and the pressure never eased off despite the big blows that Pollard struck.
He eventually fell to the trap that Dhoni cleverly laid by having Hayden fielding at a very straightish mid-off to catch Pollard’s mishit down the field in the 19th over. His dismissal was the final straw and Mumbai’s capitulation was complete.
Looking back at the tournament, I would say that we saw new benchmarks being set in fielding with some amazing catches being taken besides sharp run outs. Even the aging Muralitharan got swept away as he took a couple of good catches. I rate Raina as the best fielder in the tournament and certainly not AB de Villiers.
Given the lengthy competition, the spinners came into their own in the latter half when the pitches seemed to lose their early season sting with the ball keeping a trifle low and there was more turn to be had. In this context, the Super Kings did the right thing by keeping their faith in their spinners.
The best of columns
Unlike last year when the IPL was played on the bouncy and quicker South African tracks, the flat sub-continental pitches across India were conducive to batting as we saw plenty of shots being played through and across the line with impunity. That accounted for the enormous number of sixes and boundary hits, something that was at a premium last year.
I am convinced that the T20 format will soon cease to be a “batsman’s game” with bowlers turning innovative. We saw more focus put on strategies and there was some method in the madness. Clearly, the game is heading in a new direction with refinement in batting and bowling techniques.
Finally, it will take a while to get used to evenings without the IPL as we get back to our daily grind, but not for long as India are to play Afghanistan on Saturday at 7 pm IST. Until then…