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The IPL revolution starts now

After weeks of hype the all conquering all consuming Indian Premier League revolution gets under way in Bangalore with the cricketing world looking on to see how the IPL will change cricket forever.

Cricketing history will acquire techni-colour sheen on Friday in the inaugural DLF Indian Premier League’s opening match between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kolkata Knight Riders at the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium.

The stadium was agog with cricketing activity, but it was the preparation for the launch function that includes lights, music, stilt walkers and acrobatics that hinted that the Twenty20 format might well compete with the common man’s “let’s-go-to-the-movies” past-time in the long run.

The organisers claim that the tickets have been sold out and a full house will be the perfect backdrop to the match that is scheduled for an 8 p.m. start after the launch function.

The match pits Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly in a new environment, drastically different from the 1996 days when they made their Test debut together in England.

Dravid leads Royal Challengers, a team that has solidity in the form of Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Wasim Jaffer, while Sourav Ganguly helms the Knight Riders with its explosive mix of Ricky Ponting, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum.

Dravid and franchise owner Vijay Mallya have been busy ducking the snide remarks over their “Test team” but the duo believe that the players in their line-up can explode the myth of their dour façade.

“I am happy with my team and the preparations have been good,” Dravid said.

He will however miss Dale Steyn and Anil Kumble though the bowling back-up of Zaheer Khan, Praveen Kumar and Sunil Joshi along with the proven twenty20 aggro of Cameron White and Ross Taylor, should help him plug the gaps.

Dravid’s backroom strategy team led by Chief Cricket Officer Martin Crowe and coach Venkatesh Prasad, combine flair with hard work. Crowe, renowned for unleashing Mark Greatbatch and Dipak Patel in the respective roles of a belligerent opener and an opening spin bowler in the 1992 World Cup, is known for his lateral thinking, but perhaps grinning at him from the rival camp would be coach John Buchanan, who guided successful Australian teams, besides tucking into Sun Tzu’s ‘The Art of War’.

Crowe, Prasad and Buchanan however do have the challenge of melding their respective teams that has players ranging from different States to various Countries.

Ganguly’s Knight Riders will also thrive on its skipper’s current mental frame. Still sulking over his omission from the Indian ODI squad, Ganguly is keen to negate that old adage “spirit is willing, flesh is weak”.

And he has as his comrade, Ricky Ponting, another man of proven steel. The bowling may have lost some bite due to Shoaib Akhtar’s absence but with Ishant Sharma stepping in, and the experienced Murali Kartik and Ajit Agarkar in the ranks, Ganguly does have options.

Dravid earlier said that the tournament has a level playing field and there are no clear favourites but he and Ganguly are aware of the importance of launching their campaigns with a winning start.

Knight Riders owner Shahrukh Khan too would be hoping that this Friday would be as good as his usual box-office openings for his blockbusters.

The pitch meanwhile promises runs. “It is a good batting track that will also offer some carry for the fast bowlers. It is like a second day Test wicket. It is dry on top with a bit of moisture down. A good cricket wicket,” said Narayan Raju, curator.

Meanwhile a few eyes in the stands will also peer at the skies, April is known for surprise summer showers but on Friday, fans would prefer to sweat rather than carry an umbrella. The forecast meanwhile hints at clear skies.

It better be, especially when cricket seems to be bracing for a new sunrise in the form of IPL.

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