It is that time of the year again. Electrifying atmosphere, T20 cricket, Loud Music, Dance, Fans, Money and 8 teams. The Indian Premier League! Oops! My bad! The IPL just got better. This time its not 8, but 10 teams. The timing couldn’t have been better. After the triumph at the Grandest Stage of them all, ICC Cricket World Cup. Within a week of that, we have another cricketing extravaganza. The DLF IPL 2011!!! With Lalit Modi out of the picture, it will be the BCCI running the show this time around.
The IPL has been a huge hit since its inception in 2008. The problems en route to this year’s IPL have been plenty. The scam issues related to Lalit Modi, the controversial bid for the Kochi team leading to the resignation of Minister Shashi Tharoor, investigations by various government departments into the financial deals in the IPL and the near omission of the Punjab and Rajasthan teams. All said and done, there is no doubt that the 2011 edition of the IPL will also be as successful as the previous editions, if not a bigger blockbuster.
The players were given very little time to rest between the World Cup and the IPL. They need to quickly get into the 20-20 format. It is true that the IPL has been more of a business venture than a cricketing tournament. However, the frenzy it creates among the fans of the various franchises cannot be denied. The unified fans of the Indian cricket team will be divided during the IPL. From Chennai to Punjab and from Mumbai to Kolkata, the IPL fever has gripped the nation.
The teams. This year we have two new teams, Kochi Tuskers Kerala and Pune Warriors. Excitement is higher this year because of the re-auction of most of the players. The teams have been reshuffled. Every team needs to get their combinations right all over again. The Chennai Super Kings start favorites due to their victory last year and due to MS Dhoni, who led India to their second ever World Cup triumph. The Mumbai Indians who enjoyed a wonderful run last year will be looking to right the wrongs and win the trophy this time around. The Royal Challengers Banglore have been one of the most consistent teams in the IPL. They will be hoping to go one step further and win it. The other franchises cannot be written off just like that either. In the IPL, Everybody stands a chance.
The tournament itself will have a different format this year. More teams means more games. 74 games to be precise, with 70 group stage matches and 4 knockout games. The round-robin stage had to be replaced by a group stage with two groups of five to reduce the games from 94 to 74. The difference is the two games called Qualifier and Eliminator. The winner of the qualifier proceeds to the final. The winner of the eliminator will face the loser of the qualifier for a place in the final. Phew! Sounds a bit complicated. At least to me. The fairness of this pattern can be questioned. I guess the person who created the fixtures had a definite plan in mind.
When I started writing this post, I had thought of doing a SWOT analysis of the teams. I reconsidered this decision due the simple fact that when it comes to T20 cricket, there will be games where the SWOT analysis will go out the window and all kinds of crazy things will happen. Moreover, the fact that there are already a lot of such reports by cricket pundits floating around and I do not know much about the various domestic players from various nations playing with the various franchises.
Who will be the star performer? I would have to say…..Hmmmmm. No Idea!! That’s the beauty of this format. The veterans may or may not perform, but a new star can be born at this stage like Shaun Marsh, Shane Watson, Sohail Tanveer, Naman Ojha, Saurabh Tiwary, etc have, in the previous years. The purple cap and the orange cap, given to the best bowler and batsman of the tournament respectively.
Ten teams, A place in the Champions League T20, Music, Cheerleaders, Dance, Entertainment, Cricket, Dhamaka, Crazy Fans, A billion hearts and fast-paced action. Come tomorrow, the DLF IPL 2011 will officially begin at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chennai. Chennai Super Kings vs. Kolkata Knight Riders. One captained by the captain of the World Cup winning Indian team, MS Dhoni, and the other by the man who scripted the very victory in the final, Gautam Gambhir. This is IPL. It is time for the players and the fans to shift gears and get ready to go BANG! BANG! BANG! As the umpires say at the start of the match, “Let’s Play! Khelo!!”. Let the fun Begin!