Close-in: Lalit Modi’s gambit
IPL, a huge success financially, is instrumental in Indian cricket’s rise to the top
The Indian cricket circus, the Indian Premier League (IPL) will have its tenth edition on April 5, 2017, when defending champions Sunrisers Hyderabad play the Royal Challengers Bangalore in Hyderabad.
The highly lucrative BCCI property would be completing its first phase of the 10-year cycle. A league started by the flamboyant Lalit Modi has proven to be a huge success not only financially, but has also been instrumental in Indian cricket’s rise to the top. The access to foreign cricket-related ideas, processes and procedures has brought professional systems into place.
Interaction with top foreign and Indian coaches, fitness trainers, analysts and cricketers during the IPL, has been a boon for the young battery of Indian players.
The 20-20 format is exciting, enthralling and unpredictable. This makes the IPL a treat for all age groups to watch. The glamorous settings and the short time span, along with fit, good-looking athletes, have all converged into making it a complete blockbuster.
Any of the eight franchise teams could be the winner. Plenty of time and thinking has gone into the formation of each and every side.
The Sony network last year made $123 million through only television advertisement and IPL is now one of the fastest growing sports properties in the world.
This IPL, we will have closer finishes as cricketers have now adapted it better than the way they had approached it in the past.
Earlier the hit and bang theory was the flavour. The simple thought process was that bowler bowls and the batter tries to hit it out of the ground. Over time and with so much of the 20-20 format being played around the world, teams have become far smarter while chasing or establishing a score.
This year the Rising Pune Supergiants is the team, I feel, to beat. Being led by Steve Smith, they also have the firepower of India’s best finisher, MS Dhoni.
Along with Ben Stokes, Faf Du Plessis, Ajinkya Rahane and Ravichandran Ashwin, they look like a side that will be there at the end. This is the last year for the Pune franchise and so one feels they will be trying desperately to leave as winners.
Sunrisers Hyderabad, the reigning champions, are a force to be reckoned with especially as they have the aggressive David Warner to lead them and batsmen such as Kane Williamson, Shikhar Dhawan, Naman Ojha and Yuvraj Singh in their fold.
The bowling, I feel, does not have a genuine match winner even though they have Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ashish Nehra and Chris Jordon. I do not see them repeating their win. The Royal Challengers Bangalore are always the crowd favourite. Although they may not have Virat Kohli for some of their initial games, his Mohammed Ali attitude on and off the field should establish them the bookies favorite.
The presence of the 20-20 superstars in Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and Shane Watson make them a batting unit really exciting to watch. Inconsistency has been one of their issues. In the past, each of their match winners was busy playing to the gallery rather than taking responsibility. They have been unfortunate to miss the services of Mitchell Stark due to injury, but have managed to bolster their fast bowling through some new recruits.
They have last years’ top wicket taker and leg spinner in Yuzvendra Chahal and his success this year could be just the right tonic to give the RCB their first ever IPL win.
Mumbai Indians are the champion side among the franchisees. They have the maximum number of fans and are clear winners in the present social and digital world.
They will need to carry their off-the-field success to an on-the-field performance. The fitness issues surrounding their captain and star batsmen Rohit Sharma is a big worry. A team of old war horses in Mitchell Johnson, Harbhajan Singh and Lasit Malinga do not look to be bowlers who will consistently trouble teams during the full duration of the tournament. They do have Kieron Pollard and Hardik Pandya as two worthy all-rounders, but the batting is still not in the same class as some of the other teams.
The Kolkata Night Riders are a side to be looked at as a possible “outsider” to win, in racing terms. They are a high profile side with Shahrukh Khan as their owner. Gautam Gambhir is a very intelligent captain, as well as a player. He knows his strength and weaknesses better then any of the other captains. With Jacques Kallis to assist him, the pair could out think many of their opponents. Their bowling in the spin and fast bowling department is outstanding. They need their batsmen to flourish and will be looking at Darren Bravo and Robin Uthappa along with their captain to bat well, for a win.
The Kings XI Punjab is a side that seems to need the winning momentum to take them forward. A defeat seems to demoralise them to an extent that they lose focus completely. They have appointed Glenn Maxwell as their captain and going by the way he bats, we may see some innovative captaincy.
They have a fantastic batting line-up in Murali Vijay, Eoin Morgan, Hashim Amla, Manan Vohra and Shaun Marsh. They need their bowlers to perform and somehow Darren Sammy, Mohit Sharma, Axar Patel and Matt Henry do not come to the fore as the ones who can topple sides consistently.
The Delhi Daredevils may have the astute Rahul Dravid and captain Zaheer Khan to mentor them, but injuries to some of their star foreign recruits have weakened their prospects drastically. They have Karun Nayar, Rishab Pant, Sanju Samson and Shreyas Iyer, all hoping to get selected to the Indian team for the Champion’s Trophy being held after the IPL.
This will be a golden opportunity for each one of them and it will be wonderful to watch the next lot of Indian batting talent.
They will need their all rounders, Chris Morris, Angelo Mathew, Corey Anderson, Carlos Brathwaite and Jayant Yadav to perform well and to support the youngsters. Although they do look the weakest side on paper, no team with Rahul Dravid at the helm can be taken lightly.
Columnist: 
Yajurvindra Singh
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