So the Indian Premier league is finally over. The Rajasthan Royals defeated the Chennai Super Kings in a closely contested final and the 45 days old cricketing spectacle was drawn to a close. The IPL has left a lasting impression on the world of cricket. Some of the highlights for me of IPL 2008 were as follows:
1) Ian Chappell said it, Richie Benaud said it, but we never believed it. It took a twenty- twenty league for us to understand what a magnificent captain Shane Warne is. Warne was inspirational throughout the tournament, motivating a young bunch of cricketers to perform above their ability and engineering a tournament victory that seemed extremely unlikely at the start. His inspirational leadership inspired the likes of Pathan, Trivedi, and Watson to perform above their ability. Why, even Munaf showed a bit of passion. Warne was simply brilliant. While hailing his leadership skills nobody should forget the value he offered as a player - no other captain played as many match-winning hands. More than one Rajasthan player has spoken of the boost the side received after Warne's sensational finish against Deccan Chargers, when he carted Andrew Symonds for 17 off the final over. One team-mate has said how his faith in the captain increased ten-fold that evening. Warne was in the middle in the final too and the crack through covers in the penultimate over, when 12 were needed off 7, set up the finish.
2) Shane Watson and Yousuf Pathan were amazing through out the tournament. Watson was largely instrumental in the Royals turnaround, being MOM in their second game against Kings XI. He batted fluently and aggressively and bowled with a lot of pace and purpose. Pathan was brilliant with the bat, almost hitting sixes at will. He played two vital innings in the semi-final and the final but for my money nothing was more exhilarating than the counter attack he and Kamran Akmal launched against Kings XI in the last league match when they score 54 runs in two and a half overs.
3) Gautam Gambhir proved and showed why he is the best batsmen in the country after the big four. Subramnium Badrinath was very good with bat and in the field for the Chennai Super Kings but the man who was the Indian batsman of the tournament by far was Rohit Sharma. Sharma was thrilling to watch, mixing classical cricketing shots with some huge unorthodox hits. He showed composure and maturity which belied his age. When the Indian Test team assembles in Sri-lanka on July 23rd, it should be Rohit Sharma and not Yuvraj Singh who should be the reserve batsman.
4) VVS Laxman’s 48 against Mohali and Rahul Dravid’s 66 against the same team were as good a innings as you would hope to see. Laxman scored 48 in 30 balls without a six, threading the ball between midwicket and mid on like a supreme artist. Sreesanth kept bowling wider and wider of offstump only for Laxman to hit him wider and wider of midwicket. Dravid’s innings of 66 against Mohali was sheer class. A six over extra cover of VRV Singh was surely the shot of the tournament. Alas for some reason these innings never captured anybody’s attention.
5) Hilarious Quote of the tournament: Ila Arun saying on T.V that Krishna Bhagwan has said that always play on the front foot. Wasn’t aware that Lord Krishna carried a copy of the MCC coaching manual with him. But ILA knows better.
6) The flop of the tournament by far was Robin Utthapa. Utthapa seems to be more interested in playing to gallery and having fancy haircuts then in scoring runs. He needs to get his head sorted out otherwise Indian cricket will very soon lose a very very talented cricketer.
7) Undoubtedly the hero of the season is Lalit Modi. You may like or hate his concepts but you cannot disagree that he has launched a product that has caught the imagination of the cricketing world.
8) And finally, did anybody notice that Sachin Tendulkar has not been included in the Indian team for the Bangladesh series on account of a groin injury. For clarity sake, the official word is that he has not fully recovered. But didnt he have the same injury before IPL. I guess the question to be asked is that if he was not fully fit, why did he play for the Mumbai Indians. But nobody will ask this question. Because after all Tendulkar is untouchable in this country.