By V.N. Prasad
Expectations rose to meteoric heights as players — seasoned and young guns — went under the hammer at Bengaluru. Combinations changed as franchises called fancy prices sending chills up the spines of fans and historians.
Number of teams rose to 10 as Gujarat Titans and Lucknow Super Giants were formed. 74 games from 26th of March to the 29th of May were filled with glittering performances, utter failures, last ball nail biters, frenzy in the crowd et al.
But, for cricket enthusiasts it was a two months festival — bringing out glorious uncertainties of the popular game. No doubt OMICRON restricted the venues of the preliminaries to 4 venues. But, the playoffs and the finals at the Eden Gardens/Kolkata and Motera/Narendra Modi Stadium, Ahmedabad, saw jam-packed stadia that left one wondering if COVID had all turned ‘hunky dory’ between March and May. Was the BCCI/Government too cautious to deny spectators at other venues the golden opportunities! Well, it is all water under the bridge now.
I have watched several closing ceremonies in India. I should say that the one on the 29th of May at Narendra Modi Stadium was the best; short and sweet. Both Ranveer Singh and A.R. Rahman & troupes performed well. Especially ‘Ma Tujhe Salaam’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ evoked a lot of National Pride — watched in all awe by the foreign players at the Stadium.
Festivity was well-spread across the oval. Colours were resplendent and pleasing. 30 minutes of excellent entertainment was witnessed by 1,25,000 strong spectators at Motera and millions across the world.
At 7.30 pm, atmosphere was agog as the coin went up. Sanju Samson called RIGHT but went WRONG opting to bat first. Yes, as opined by Commentator Simon Doull, the pitch was hard and humidity was not high that help ball coming nicely on to the bat. But, on the day, many felt that he should have opted to bowl first. All the theories were laid to rest within the first 5 overs of the finals. Writing was on the wall as Rajasthan Royals (RR) buckled to 130 at 20 Overs.
Sadly, Gujarat Titans (GT) made a proverbial ‘heavy weather’ of the innocuous run-chase consuming 18.1 overs to drive the last nail. Eventually, it was all a ‘boring end.’ Should have been something like ‘Match No. 3 — Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) 205 & Punjab Kings (PBKS) 208 or Match No. 7 — Chennai Super Kings (CSK) 210 and Lucknow Super Giants (LSG) 211’. Alas, it was not. In the melee, skipper Hardik Pandya stole the show; both with the ball and with the bat. He deserved the Man of the Match (MoM) award.
Vastly altered matrices of players post auctions across the format caused several lacklustre encounters; especially from popular teams. Whereas one expected stiff competition to the GT and LSG from names like Mumbai Indians (MI), CSK, Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Delhi Capitals (DC), it was the other way — as both the new entrants GT and LSG stared in the eyes of stalwart names. A few performances were not only match winning but also were exquisite.
Jos Buttler — the Englishman who flopped in all the formats in the Ashes Series — glittered with four magnificent centuries (well, I don’t care about chances in T20 format). Orange Cap, Most Valuable Player, Most Boundaries and Sixes to his credit were all imperious to say the least. He richly deserved the Rs. 95 lakh he earned bagging 37 individual awards. Undoubtedly, Jos was the architect behind RR qualifying for the finals. His hundred against RCB was the best. Thanks to him for the entertainment.
David Miller: Since 2016, Miller’s performances were too inconsistent over 5 years. GT and RR were fiercely bidding for him at Rs. 2.6 crore and Rs. 2.8 crore. We were shocked when GT closed on him at Rs. 3 crore. He surely was on a slippery surface; but blossomed beautifully. Needing 16 off the final over against the RR in the 1st qualifier, Miller smote 3 consecutive sixes off Prasidh Krishna in the 189 run chase belting 68 off 38 deliveries. Averaging 68 with a strike rate of 143, Miller provided great entertainment. Thanks to him.
Rajat Patidar: He single handedly steered RCB to 207 with a magnificent knock of 112 at 207 strike rate. In the tournament, Patidar exhibited his class in middling the ball extremely well. He looks a highly confident youngster who needs to concentrate and be consistent to attract the attention of the selection committee. Good luck to him.
Our Pacers: Youngsters Umran Malik and Mohsin Khan devastated best of batsmen across the board. While Umran clocked 157 kmph against DC, highest in the tournament, Mohsin has a beautiful swing and carry to cause discomfiture to the best of batsmen. Mohammed Siraj was unimpressive and seems to be losing sheen. Mohammed Shami has always been unpredictable — but can raise brows at crucial times. Prasidh Krishna impressed only in patches; but needs consistency. Probably, he was pampered by Buttler too early in the tournament.
Fading Stars: M.S. Dhoni needs to make up his mind. Time has come for the question “WHY NOT” than “WHY”. He should hang up his boots honourably. Virat Kohli is all at sea. He looked like a novice with 3 consecutive ducks. And the way he poked at Prasidh Krishna in the qualifier was too poor for the class that he has amassed. Ravindra Jadeja (Jaddu) proved beyond doubts that he is NOT a captain material. His performance was too unimpressive. Ravichandran Ashwin (Ash) was more impressive with the willow than with the ball.
Much more to mention but enough in this column. All in all, ups and downs in careers are to be accepted with grace. We only hope to watch good quality of encounters. Consistency amongst the best in business will only add flavour. We wish our boys all the very best against South Africa (SA) and later in England.