“If it's April, it must be IPL” said Mark Nicholas and he was dead right about it as we head into the 3rd week of IPL action. Already, IPL rejoices a package of nail-biting finishes bundled along with a couple of super-over games as well as a couple of hat-tricks delivered to us faster than an online merchandise possibly could accomplish. But at the end of such thrillers, there is always an non negotiable price we have had to settle for. Yes, these express deliveries have been served hot at the cost of some very poor cricket to the audience.
It all circles around a pathetic display of batting by so many teams boasting huge international stars. Nowadays, collapses in IPL are becoming free-falls. Wicket after wicket keep stumbling and fortunately cricket rules restrict the number to 10. Bowlers have come out of their cocoon from being treated as slaves in T20 cricket, but still at the mercy of batsmen giving away their wickets more often than not.
If we are to break down to the matches that have pushed us to the edges of our seats, most of them crack laughter to make us realize how horrible the team has performed to either end up winning or losing that match. Let us take the PWI vs SRH match last Wednesday. If SRH collapsing for 44-6 was not enough for poor cricket, you were forced to see PWI losing after they needed only a run-a-ball 44 with 7 wickets in hand. The final topping was giving away 4 wickets in an over. Next comes the RCB vs DD match. Only this time the picture got bigger with a super over after RCB failed to manage a run-a-ball 24 with 8 wickets in hand. Even if you are not satisfied with this, then RP Singh no-ball of the last ball is literally ROFL.
Such poor cricket standards from the teams have a lot to do with the team’s approach to the game. CSK bat with such grit and determination that they build up the required run-rate to 15 and expect Dhoni to finish off every time. RCB is very much looking like getting all-out even within 10 overs if Gayle, Kohli and AB devilliers head back to the dugout. PWI are very much capable of doing the above with their entire line-up in hand. It is jaw-dropping to see MI big names being dismissed in the fashion they have been so far. On one side those big names feature in the scorecard only to be dismissed for 92 by bowlers on the other side who we have not heard before. DD have no clue as to what is going on in this IPL.
Bowlers are here to take wickets and sometimes low scoring games can feature more than we expected it to be, but it has to be due to good bowling rather than horrible batting. Similarly, when big hitters are on song, there is no way you can stop them, but that does not mean the entire team can gamble with all-in and bet on him like in a game of poker.
There is always a plausible argument that the T20 format is such and little can be done to change it. But still the core of it remains cricket right? This format is here for innovation; batsmen are recommended to slog and play unorthodox cricket; bowlers tend to go wary; no death bowler bowls 6 yorkers in an over even though it is highly recommended; spin variations are preferred more than conventional spin and all these are enjoyable to watch and can be expanded to new dimensions, but it has to be only within the boundary and not beyond. This is T20 and we should remember it is still cricket.
There can always be a comparison drawn to international T20 matches. But then what is the difference when you have a tournament boasting 9 teams with all the international stars on a single field. There can be matches with poor standards of cricket, but there is always a consistency level that can never be overlooked especially when the IPL is structured to be a level-playing field.
The rise of such concern to me is also due to the admiration I have towards the IPL. You can never overlook the wide-range audience IPL ropes in and thus expanding cricket to countries which have not seen the game. It has to be a matter of self-realization and the importance of playing high competitive cricket should be preferred over just winning matches. It is necessary for the brand of cricket that IPL carries the game as an ambassador to the audience.
Today, Rajasthan Royals have become more than just underdogs even without the aura of great international cricketers that are a highlight for other IPL teams. The ground fielding and catching are top notch and remains as one of the greatest highlights. Such things tend to get reflected very quickly because of the brand IPL. The same effect can be seen with poor cricket thrillers as is the case in this edition. Also, the dirty spat between Kohli and Gambhir wags along like a tail to bring back memories of Slap-gate as reconciled by the main stream media leading to Sreesanth’s outburst on social media. IPL’s revelation is like a mirror which reflects as it sees it: the good, bad and ugly. It is better for cricket if IPL can strive more towards the “good” than the other two.