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The good, the bad and the googly

The good, the bad and the googly
Highlights

IPL frenzy is back to grip the nation that appears perennially starved for exciting sporting spectacles, but not without its share of controversies....

IPL frenzy is back to grip the nation that appears perennially starved for exciting sporting spectacles, but not without its share of controversies. In a way, it appears to be a take-off from the film industry where a controversy precedes a film's release so that it could impact the box-office while the producer smiles all the way to the bank

good2sridhar K penna

It has just got bigger, wider and hopefully better, at least in terms of qualitative performances.A The adamant posture adopted by the Tamil Nadu Government with regard to the participation of the Sri Lankan cricketers may not exactly be a good omen for the sixth edition of Indian Premier League (IPL) that is expected to get-off to a blistering start on April 3, Wednesday.

But one will not be off-the-mark when he expects that, despite the controversies, the perfect synchronisation of sublime virtuoso skills and brutally destructive batting belligerence that will get unfolded will put to shade the initial hiccups.

The grand opener will be at Eden Gardens, which is likely to be a potential thriller between titlist, Kolkata Knight Riders and Delhi Daredevils, in a match that is already billed as the 'IPL Derby.'

Yes, the IPL frenzy is back to grip the nation that appears perennially starved for exciting sporting spectacles. The expectation is more this time round with India having hit a new high following the ruthless annihilation of the 'mighty' Australians in the Test series.

IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla set the ball rolling for the roller-coaster ride by declaring that "the opening ceremony of the Pepsi IPL 2013 will be as outstanding as the cricket that we will witness over the subsequent seven weeks."

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To be showcased in true filmy razzmatazz, the opening ceremony slated for Tuesday (April 2) night is likely to be more spectacular than earlier ones and in true Olympic-style.

Sport and exotic celebrations apart, when one looks at the other side of the spectrum, every IPL edition has generated controversies at alarmingly consistent levels.

In a way, it appears to be a take-off from the film industry where a controversy precedes a film's release so that it could impact the box-office while the producer smiles all the way to the bank. Bad publicity is, after all, good publicity.

The list of controversies runs like a rogue's gallery that is made more notorious by a multitude of offenders, who range from the brash spoilt-brat to the rich and famous.

Controversies include match-fixing; sledging and on-field abuses; barring Pakistan players under questionable circumstances; rave partying; the mercurial founder-commissioner Lalit Modi and the bizarre run up to his ouster; the Harbhajan Singh-Sreesanth 'slapgate'; the unruly behaviour of Shah Rukh Khan after KKR notched up its first title triumph; molestation of a foreign national; discourtesy towards the cheerleaders, the bizarre birth and equally dubious exit of Kochi Tuskers; tax cases against Rajasthan and Punjab; the rise and fall of Deccan Chargers� well the list appears endless.

To take a pragmatic view before the sixth edition gets going, it is fair enough to accept that there is every possibility that the story line has not ended with the Governing Council buckling down to pressure to ostensibly assuage the sentiments and agreeing to bar Sri Lankan players from matches that are played at Chennai.

good4In hindsight, this has sown the seeds of rebellion, and discontent, with many owners already reading between the lines. Whispers are doing the rounds that the same may raise its ugly head when the climatic knockout stages draw near.

Most feel that the decision is strongly in favour of two-time winner, CSK, which is headquartered in Jaya-land.A CSK has no Lankan players worth the name and Nuwan Kulasekara is hardly the kind who could win matches single-handedly.

In contrast, some of those in contention are heavily dependent on players from the Island-nation. They rightly contend that by going into their Chennai outings without their star performers they will be the underdogs against CSK, who can fancy their chances of bouncing back in the points table.

good5One wonders why the Organising Council, or rather Rajiv Shukla, not pull-out all of Chennai matches and relocate them to other safer and saner venues. Although hypothetical at this point in time, shrewd maverick Lalit Modi would have certainly moved all Chennai matches outside of Tamil Nadu, but would not have bowed down to 'political' pressure and interferences.

He demonstrated this defiance and devil-may-care attitude when P Chidambaram asked him to reschedule the second edition because of security reasons. By standing his ground and having the edition shifted to far-off South Africa while keeping the sponsors in good humour, Modi won millions of fans from across the globe though he would have lost several in the corridors of power that also hastened his suspension.

The question that crops up again and again is-how is it that IPL keeps getting bigger. What is so magical about it that people still crave for it? As a result of poorer viewership audience and a fall in advertisements, broadcast revenues tumbled by almost 30 per cent in the fifth edition. To make matters worse, Brand IPL also nosedived to alarming levels. Yet, the craze continues to grow. And therein is the charm of the IPL addiction. It is akin to the quintessential fatal attraction.

Just consider this-electrifying entertainment, sellout crowds and loads and loads of money makes the trip memorable for overseas players, who keep coming back even after retiring from the game, the odd controversies notwithstanding.A Indeed, like Test cricket, which has been rock-solid despite the advent of the satellite-oriented ODI variety, Indian Premier League is the great survivor and is here to stay.

Potential strengths and weaknesses

go6Chennai Super Kings Captain: MS Dhoni (India) Coach: Stephen Fleming (New Zealand) Most Valuable Player (MVP): Ravindra Jadeja (India). Owned by the BCCI Boss, and the man who can do no 'wrong', N Srinivasan, Chennai Super Kings is the only team with two title triumphs having annexed the title back-to-back in 2010 and 2011. The team has a perfect blend of T20 talent in captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Mike Hussey, Ravindra Jadeja, Dirk Nannes and Dwayne Bravo, who all will be immensely benefitted by the presence of one of the shrewdest brains in the cricketing world-Stephen Fleming, the team coach. There are others like the men in form, Ravichandran Ashwin and Murali Vijay who could help Super Kings regain lost glory. Suresh Raina is a proven slam-bang material.

go7Delhi Daredevils Captain: Mahela Jayawardene (Sri Lanka) Coach: Eric Simons (South Africa) MVP: Jeevan Mendis (Sri Lanka) They always possessed the wherewithal but failed to deliver as a single entity. Right now, they begin with two major blows to their calculations. A gloomy outlook prevails in the dressing room following the brutal assault on Jesse Ryder, who could have been their trump card. Daredevils will also be bereft of the services of Kevin Pietersen, who has been sidelined because of an injury and needs to be battle-ready for the Ashes. Although, boasting of a strong batting line up, the chinks in the armour come in the bowling department, which could be their undoing. This is in spite of Virender Sehwag determined to go all out to prove a point or two to the five wise men.

go8Kings XI Punjab Captain: Adam Gilchrist (Australia) Coach: Darren Lehmann (Australia) MVP: David Miller (South Africa) They have never been in contention for the title despite the presence of some mercurial talent. It has a heavy dose of Australians but the chances of the Kings making the higher grade appear remote.

go9Kolkata Knight Riders Captain: Gautam Gambhir (India) Coach: Trevor Bayliss (Australia) MVP(s): Jacques Kallis/Gautam Gambhir As the defending champions, a lot will be expected of them scoring an encore. Although, they were given a top billing in the inaugural edition because of the presence of Saurav Ganguly and Shoaib Akhtar it ended as the dud of the show. The players to watch out from among some exciting players will be veterans Jacques Kallis, Brett Lee, Brad Haddin and youngsters like Manoj Tiwari and Shakib Al Hasan. Of course, Gambhir will be looking at this as the perfect platform to make a comeback into the national squad for the South African tour.

go10Mumbai Indians Captain: Ricky Ponting (Australia) Coach: John Wright (New Zealand) MVP: Kieron Pollard (West Indies) By far the most compact outfit in the sixth edition, it has in its ranks some of the biggest names, including two living legends in Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting. They also splurged one million dollars to buy Glenn Maxwell. With the ever dreaded Lasith Malinga and the fabulous hitter Kieron Pollard, Mumbai Indians will be the team to beat. There is, of course, the World Cup winning captain, Ponting to steer the team to possibly its maiden title.

go11Pune Warriors Captain: Angelo Mathews (Sri Lanka) Coach: Allan Donald (South Africa) One to watch: Bhuvneshwar Kumar (India) Like Daredevils, the Warriors open their campaign on a negative note. Its star player and current Australian captain Michael Clarke has been ruled out with injury. This will weigh heavily on Yuvraj Singh, Luke Wright and Ross Taylor. Unlike, several other teams, the Pune outfit has a formidable bowling attack in the young sensation Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kane Richardson, Marlon Samuels and the mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis. They may come up with their best performance.

go12Rajasthan Royals Captain: Rahul Dravid (India) Coach: Paddy Upton (South Africa) One to watch: James Faulkner (Australia) They will remain etched in IPL history as the winners of the inaugural edition, which was largely due to the uncanny abilities of Shane Warne. Down to the sixth edition, there is hardly anything in their favour except that they may spring a surprise or two, despite the presence of Rahul Dravid, Fidel Edwards, Shaun Tait, Brad Hogg and Brad Hodge.

go13Royal Challengers Bangalore Captain: Virat Kohli (India) Coach: Ray Jennings (South Africa) MVP(s): Chris Gayle/Cheteshwar Pujara Bangalore will be dependent on the marauder from the Caribbeans, Chris Gayle. Of course they have Virat Kohli, who will be keen to go one up on their semifinal showing in the last edition. Moreover, with many seeing his as the heir apparent to Dhoni, Kohli will be going all out to establish his credentials as a thinking captain, who can get the winning act together. Lending him a helping hand would be Cheteshwar Pujara, one of the architects of the Aussie drubbing.

go14Sunrisers Hyderabad Captain: Kumara Sangakkara (Sri Lanka) Coach: Tom Moody MVP: Shikhar Dhawan/Dale Steyn The management will apparently wish to end the negative legacy it has inherited. The fact that this is paramount to the calculations of the babe-in-the-woods gets evidenced by the assemblage of talent. Kumara Sangakkara, Dale Steyn and Darren Sammy will be given a major fillip by Shikhar Dhawan, who has just entered the record books by belting the fastest century on Test debut. The fortunes of the team will rely heavily on Dhawan and Steyn, who could turn the tide in the four overs he will bowl.

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