RAZIUDDIN AQUIL | 10 APRIL, 2015
The nearly two-month long Carnivalesque IPL extravaganza is here again! The defending champions, Shahrukh Khan’s Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), have started their campaign in earnest, but, as always and whether one likes it or not, the team to defeat is the formidable Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and the team to watch out for is an intriguing bunch of cricketers who have always punched above their weight, under-dogs Rajasthan Royals (RR)!
Several players of these two teams, CSK and RR, alone have played with authority in the ICC World Cup recently and, along with quite a few others, owe their positions in ODI teams of their respective countries to their performance in previous editions of IPL itself. Shane Warne and Rahul Dravid, two of the finest cricketing brains in International cricket, have made Rajasthan Royals as a unit believing in their talent; M.S. Dhoni, with the unconditional backing of N. Srinivasan, has a team, indeed a company, that can only generate awe, even jealousies, with its all-round strength.
The sickly cynics and poor purists should rather wait for the Ashes Series later in the summer. When India lose the test-series abroad the whole world talks about it, blaming on the negative consequence of the IPL style slam-bang attitude of young Indian cricketers. However, visiting teams – all teams – losing test-series abroad with numbing regularity is a fait accompli. Just look at the comical case of backyard revenge being played out in the Ashes these past fourteen years: the Aussies are badly bruised in wobbling English conditions and return home to thrash poor English travelers down under. James Anderson is unplayable at Lords, as is Mitchell Johnson in Melbourne. They call it home advantage! And, more seriously, when losing, whether at home or abroad, they swear at each other’s sisters and yet are called gentlemen, said to be just playing their cricket hard and only occasionally in a bullish manner.
And, only some senile old men can complain about the whopping amount of money that young cricketers are now able to earn, thanks to the smart marketing brains of the moguls who run the BCCI, allegations of conflict of interests notwithstanding. More and more involvement of ex-cricketers of impeccable credentials and abilities such as Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble on important positions will provide some much-needed respectability to the BCCI. Remember, not for nothing has it become one of the richest sports bodies in the world, in contrast to the hopeless situation of other sports federations, with no or little accountability of those who control them as their fiefs. Ask Jwala Gutta, why she gets so angry, so often; and my thought goes for innumerable girls and women who have dedicated their lives for hockey in the jungles of Jharkhand; living, practicing and imparting skills like ascetics devoted to God, like those selfless nuns of the convents in the vicinity.
Back to IPL, betting will continue as always, but the days of spot-fixing, innocently or greedily, are going to be over now; a more stringent system to check any wrong-doing is in place. It is unfair to blame the IPL for all the recent talks about match-fixing in cricket. Some of the finest test and one day players, captains included, have been traditionally accused in some of the most infamous scandals in cricketing history, before T20 and the IPL.
(Raziuddin Aquil teaches History in the University of Delhi).