As a guest contributor to The Full Toss, it feels slightly heretical to intrude on an English cricket blog with a hymn to the Indian Premier League, especially given the paucity of English representation this season (name the players if you can?) But thanks to ITV4, both my work and home life have suffered from the tournament underway in India during the last few weeks. Shameful as it may sound, I’m a convert.
The moment came when I innocently switched on ITV4 to see what this IPL gimmick looked like, and was greeted by the sight of six after six from Chris Gayle, during his innings of 102 for the Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Kolkata Knight Riders. The highlight was the over which went for 37 (one no ball) with him at the crease. Gayle has truly been the man of the tournament so far. Arriving late after his non-selection for the Windies (how typical), he currently lies top of the run table – despite having missed the first five matches – and averages 85 with a strike rate of 187.
But it’s not all about one man. With Sri Lanka and India both in England this summer, the IPL’s also shown what a miss Malinga will be, and illustrated the future of Indian cricket – with players like Virat Kohli to join Tendulkar and Sehwag in the batting line up. Another player that’s really come to my attention is Chawla, who has played for the Kings XI Punjab (pub team? – Ed). Though not top of the wicket-taking charts, he has a beguiling action and would cause England a lot of problems.
Although in some respects the Twenty 20 format seems to produce more predictable outcomes, there have been some great matches. Arguably the most exciting and unexpected was the Mumbai Indians’ victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders last Sunday. With Mumbai needing 21 off the last over for victory, the unlikely Kiwi James Franklin hit four successive fours and then a single to bring Ambati Rayadu to the crease with four needed off the last ball. A mentally fragile Balaji bowled him a juicy waist high full-toss – which Rayadu thumped for six. The sight of Gambhir (captain of the Knight Riders) staring in disbelief provoked a mixture of mirth and sympathy.
To English eyes, the spectacle of the IPL can be a bit gaudy, with the TV close-ups of the franchise owners on the touchline in their oversized seats, the largely European cheerleaders, and endless shots of Volkswagens and Hank motorbikes. But on the other hand, it’s joyous – with great crowds and full stadiums adding excitement to the action on the pitch. It makes you wonder whether cricket in this country could ever match the IPL for fun in anything other than an Ashes year.
The play-offs began yesterday, and despite their defeat to Chennai I still think Bangalore will come through, although Mumbai have the best chance if they can get Tendulkar and Malinga on song. With Vettori as captain, supported by de Villiers, Gayle, Kohli and Zaheer Khan, the Royal Challengers are a match for most international sides, let alone franchises.
So I’m sure I can’t be the only one to have fallen under the IPL’s spell….come on, out with you…