IPL mania reaches fever pitch
After months of talk, billions of rupees and reams of stories, the IPL action finally gets underway today, aside from the glitz, the question is, will the cricket live up to all the hype.
One doesn’t have to be in Bangalore to be swept up by the unprecedented wave of excitement and irreversible change that the Indian Premier League (IPL) promises to usher in when liquor baron and professional showman Vijay Mallya goes head on with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan under the lights at the Chinnaswamy Stadium.
Khan has been dancing to the tune of ‘Too hot, too cool’, a theme song of the Kolkata Knight Riders, like there is no tomorrow. Come Friday night it would be foolish to expect anything but the grandest of entertainment as ‘King of Good Times’ Mallya and his Royal Challengers host the inaugural game versus Khan’s Knights complete with golden helmets-at least in the promos.
In Mumbai, Hrithik Roshan has been matching the Bollywood Badshah move for move, popping out of advertisements promoting tickets for the Mumbai Indians home games.
This is just the beginning, the appetiser.
For the next 45-odd days the hoopla will be about fours and sixes, bowl outs, fans trying to find passion for the newly formed city-based teams as well as, hopefully, cricketers.
Some of the stars are still wet behind the ears, yet they became rock stars-style millionaires overnight. Now they have to try to justify the monies spent on them at the same multi-million dollar auction that attracted the interest of the world media.
Over the past two months the media generated hype has become a shrewdly planned publicity blitz, entailing unlimited bytes from tycoon owners of teams, film stars, and officials. The International Cricket Council, the Board of Control for Cricket in India and every other Tom, Dick and Harry’s contributions have sustained and strengthened the IPL.
Now, it waits to be seen if the cricket on the field is as spectacular as the build-up.
IPL commissioner Lalit Modi has said, “the DLF Indian Premier League is an attempt to further propagate the popularity of the sport and increase the fan base for cricket in India. Furthermore, Indian cricket needed this boost at the domestic level to improve the level of cricket being played.
I would be truly happy if the DLF IPL is able to build a polarized fan following over the next few years as that will revolutionise cricket - the way it is played or watched or followed in India.”
Ishant Sharma has certainly felt the winds of change. Even while he was making a monkey of Ricky Ponting in Australia, he was snapped up by SRK’s Kolkata for almost a million dollars. On Friday, he will rub shoulders with Ponting as a team mate.
Sharma will be up against Rahul Dravid and Jacques Kallis, two batsmen who missed the World T20 for different reasons.
Dravid, widely considered a purist and Bangalore’s icon player, seemed to have developed a new-found liking for the T20 game. “Having the opportunity to be part of something like this since its inception is exciting. I am not dismissive about it. I have embraced it,” the former Indian skipper said in Bangalore.
Sourav Ganguly will lead the Kolkata Knight Riders against Dravid’s Challengers. “With so many big names, so much money in the IPL and all with reputations at stake, this competition cannot be taken lightly,” Ganguly said on the eve of the IPL.
Former Australian paceman Dennis Lillee, an advisor to the Delhi Daredevils, believes the IPL is the next step in cricket’s evolution. “We had the chucking controversies in the 60s, the Bodyline series before that and then World Series Cricket - all has helped in the evolution of the game,” the Australian said. The fans have never had a big platter to chose from - be it Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya teaming up for Mumbai or MS Dhoni keeping wickets to Muttiah Muralitharan. The games begin today.