DateLine: 17th April 2009
After much uncertainty and all kinds of hits and misses, the second edition of the Indian Premier League is all set to roll from Saturday, April 18, with defending champions Rajasthan Royals taking on the Bangalore Royal Challengers in the first game at Cape Town.
The stories of these two teams couldn’t be any more different. The Royals were the babies of the first IPL as they seemed to be the least gifted on the glamour front, which is what seemed to run the show. They had no Bollywood glitz, and really no presence in terms of ‘real’ star quality. Shane Warne may be a great cricketer, but in India, he is a far cry from a Sachin Tendulkar or a Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
On the other side were the Bangalore boys, and in terms of star attractions, Rahul Dravid was surely, till then at least, pretty much synchronized to Bangalore, the local man leading from the front. But the Challengers’ real glamour quotient came from their owner, Vijay Mallya, and his lifestyle. But by the end of the tournament, the scene was different. Warney’s under-rated side had stopped all comers to lift the trophy. On the other hand, the Challengers’ challenge was modest at best, pathetic at worst, and Mallya was left fuming as his team stopped just one short of the wooden spoon. Things are different now. Royals are no longer the modest boys from the backwaters. Their win aside, the arrival of Bollywood glamour in the shape of Shilpa Shetty has added to their equity, off the field at least.
But when it comes to the on-field weapons, Bangalore suddenly have begun to look really good. Kevin Pietersen can make any side look good, and his South African origins could well be a double whammy for the side. The Challengers are also best equipped with ‘local’ knowledge. Apart from Pietersen, they have ‘real’ South Africans, in Mark Boucher, Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and the new kid on the block, Roelof van der Merwe, and Dillon du Preez, not to mention Kiwi talent in Ross Taylor and Jesse Ryder.
As for Royals, Graeme Smith, Morne Morkel and Tyron Henderson do add a local flavor, but somehow they really do not sound as formidable as the Bangalore boys. Australian Shane Watson had really made the first chapter of the tournament his own, but this is a different story. Shaun Tait may find it in him to come good, or he may not.
As for the rest of the sides, Mumbai Indians would be wondering, will Sachin Tendulkar play? Only time will tell, but a lot of people will come to watch the intriguing young-and-old combo of Sanath Jayasuriya and JP Duminy come good. Zaheer Khan left Bangalore for Mumbai, and that may well add serious punch to them. There’ll be a lot to watch there, in Harbhajan Singh, Dwayne Bravo and Lasith Malinga.
Chennai Super Kings were supposed to be the team to beat last time around, and that almost came true. Dhoni, Muttiah Muralitharan, Matthew Hayden, Stephen Fleming, Makhaya Ntini, Jacob Oram all sound formidable, and to add to all this is Andrew Flintoff. This will be fun.
Among other, there will surely be interest as to why Mashrafe Mortaza is getting $600,000, and how the other imports figure out. At the same time, not to be forgotten will be the local boys, the likes of Ravindra Jadeja, Abhishek Nayar and Ashok Dinda, who have come out of the darkness and suddenly found themselves in more light than they have seen. The IPL is supposed to be their tournament. And even if it goes away to distant shores, it still doesn’t take away from that fact.