By Sanika Natu:
A good number of people in the Indian summer feast upon an extravaganza called the Indian Premier League, popularly referred to as the IPL. Come April, many households turn on Set Max at dinner and are accompanied by their favorite cricketers. While our Mom serves us daal-chawal, Yusuf Pathan clobbers Harbhajan Singh for a six. Where else would you find two World Cup winning Indian heroes up against each other, except for in the Indian summer? It might be this unique spectacle or the fervor of vacations for many a school kids, IPL seems to be the hot topic each summer. Not to forget the immense glitz and glamour this league brings along. From film stars cheering for their own franchises to the country’s richest man jumping in joy like a school boy when his team wins, IPL is an ensemble of vivid picturesque displays. And when ‘slap-gates’, cheerleaders, parties and controversies fail to remain aloof, who would want to miss this piece of action, surely not when country’s favorite pastime comes along. Cricket and Indian summer go hand-in-hand, courtesy IPL.
This brainchild of ex-commissioner Lalit Modi kicked off four years ago when T20 was flavor of the nation. Dhoni and Co. had lifted the T20 World Cup a few months back and India couldn’t get enough of this shorter version of cricket. There were high expectations from this cash rich league. Indian millionaires, movie stars and entrepreneurs had invested huge in this league and moreover it had BCCI backing it unlike the treatment to its then competitor Indian Cricket League (ICL). And I am sure everyone will agree IPL lived up to all the expectations and beyond. Much to the dismay of Indian fans, IPL had to shift its base next year to South Africa and many hurdles followed. But it soon returned to its backyard and continued to live up to all the hype. When many people loved and followed this high-on-money entertainment, it had its own share of critics too. This bunch of critics bashed parties, cheerleaders and doubted the future of cricketing culture in India. The money factor was blamed for a sudden shift in the quality of performances and young talents were criticized to be victimized by this. And fanatics thumped Indian Team for poor performances at world events after an IPL outing. Nevertheless IPL never went short of its fans. While cynics continued to bash and doubt this league’s future a few more sixes were hit and much more money was made.
This year IPL promises to be bigger and better. We can only know if the latter turns out to be true in a couple of months’ time but the former claim is perfectly true. The fourth season of IPL has an addition of 2 more teams to the bandwagon. While Pune Warriors India and Kochi Tuskers Kerala are new on board, most of the other franchises seem to have lost their faces. But, title defenders Chennai Super Kings lead by MS Dhoni have succeeded in retaining a majority of their players this season, so has Mumbai Indians as Sachin Tendulakar, Harbhajan Singh and Keiron Pollard remain to be their poster-boys. The dynamic openers of Delhi- Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir together won’t entertain Delhiiites anymore as Gambhir will now captain Kolkata Knight Riders. KKR without Saurav ‘Dada’ Ganguly had disheartened the Knight supporters but they can perhaps boast of a revamped side. Equally disappointing if not more would be to see Kings XI Punjab without in-from Yuvraj Singh. This Chandigarh lad will now lead Pune Warriors as Punjab will be left in the hands of an IPL winning captain, Adam Gilchrist. While some stars leave their home cities for professional commitments, Kochi boy Sreesanth can dance away to glory in his home city with Kochi Tuskers Kerala. Sri Lankan star of the World Cup finale, Mahela Jayawardene will lead this Kochi side, while the captain of his national side Kumar Sangakkara will try his luck with the Deccan Chargers. Vijay Mallya and son will no more cheer Anil Kumble or Jacques Kallis and Preity Zinta will no more hug Irfan Pathan and Brett Lee. Moreover, Shilpa Shetty won’t celebrate Yusuf Pathan’s sixes as he won’t bat for Rajasthan Royals. But they say some things never change. At the age of 41, Shane Warne will still captain and coach the Royals.
Pff! Even a fanatic might just take some time to digest this new feast. New franchises, new leaders and new players are going to be the highlights of this season but a fan would hope IPL brings along the same old entertainment or even better! As I write this, a hero called Anna Hazare stands against corruption and wins over the system and another hero guides Chennai Super Kings to victory. A nation that spotted the possibility of IPL being a corrupt league stands against corruption today and I am sure all the fans hope malpractices stay at bay and we witness some extravagant entertainment. Who said this summer is a cricketing over-dose? Indians can’t get enough of their passion. When it comes to cricket no one can get as religious as we can. Summer and entertainment sound synonymic as many cricket crazy Indians await another season of entertainment, another season of IPL!