Make no mistake, IPL will touch many lives

A few days before the DLF Indian Premier League kicked off in April, the Delhi Daredevils squad trained for a day at the sprawling Sehwag Sports Academy in Jhajjar near Gurgaon. Some shopkeepers spotted the team bus on its way back and broke into wide smiles. Clearly, they sensed that some world class cricketers were driving by. IPL had just touched their lives in its own small way.

Curiously though, there is a silly whisper that the IPL 2012 hasn’t been such a big hit as its predecessors. Clearly, this emanates from those who have been far removed from ground reality. They have not surely been sitting in ivory towers rather than be at stadia which are running to full houses.

Perhaps they haven’t read newspapers devoting reams of space to IPL cricket and its players. Nor, have they been to airports and hotel lobbies where cricket fans have waited endlessly to catch a glimpse of their favourite sportsmen from around the world. And surely, they haven’t seen the effect Pune Warriors India skipper Sourav Ganguly has on the fanatics’ consciousness.

If one has doubts, one should spend time watching the IPL 2012 action in hangouts like Route 69 in Cyber City, Gurgaon, [V]Spot Café in Saket and Underdogs in Vasant Kunj to experience the passionate hold cricket has over its fans, old and new. Or, if one wants another confirmation, one should meet housewives whose TV watching routines have been disturbed at home.

Viewed from a cricketing perspective, IPL 2012 will go down as one in which the quality of contests rose to a high. At the moment of writing, with 28 of the 72 league matches having been completed, four teams are bunched with eight points each and four in hot pursuit with just two points fewer.

There have been some exciting last-over finishes, with the Chennai Super Kings securing two victories off the very last delivery. There has been spectacular batsmanship from men like Chris Gayle, Owais Shah, Faf du Plessis and Kevin Pietersen – to name a few – while Morne Morkel has shown why overseas fast bowlers are in such great demand among the IPL teams.

Home-bred youngsters like Rajasthan Royals’ opening batsman Ajinkya Rahane, who scored the first of the two centuries in IPL 2012, and Delhi Daredevils left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem have caught the eye with powerful performances that have been built on the foundation of conventional first-class cricket.

Veteran leaders of men like Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid have shown that it helps to have an experienced hand at the helm of affairs as they have steered their respective teams, Pune Warriors India and Rajasthan Royals to four victories each. Even the die-hard lovers of the traditional game would admit that Ganguly’s leadership has made for fascinating viewing.

Make no mistake, fuelled by some excellent cricketing contests, the IPL 2012 juggernaut will roll powerfully and capture the imagination of cricket fans across the country before it winds down with the final on May 27. It will have touched many more lives than some cynics would like to acknowledge.

This piece was written for May 2012 issue of Suburb magazine