Published in www.cricketnext.com on 13th January 2011
The Indian Premier League (IPL) enters its 4th season immediately after the ICC World Cup 2011 but the hype and hoopla surrounding the T20 event is already building up.
The fact that IPL has caught imagination of the Indian public and also cricket lovers across the world is well known. What is more surprising is that the glitzy tournament continues to come up with novelties each year. If it was the big-bang inaugural season in 2008, it was the amazingly successful South African edition in 2009 and then the return-to-India season last year.
This time around the players’ auctions have been carried out anew and while even experts are struggling to memorise the new team compositions, certain permutations and combinations are mouth-watering prospects to say the least.
Imagine the sight of Kumar Sangakarra and Kevin Peitersen, two of the most exciting batsmen in the world, batting together for Deccan Chargers. They also have JP Duminy and Cameron White in their ranks, to give them a formidable line up, in no way inferior to the team that featured Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Herschelle Gibbs in the previous editions. Their acquisition of the world’s premier pace man Dale Steyn completes a rich haul that they have bagged at the expense of Royal Challengers Bangalore.
Vijay Mallya’s team has not suffered much though. They have managed to pick up Tillakaratne Dilshan and AB de Villiers from Delhi Daredevils where the two dashers did not get many opportunities mainly due to the presence of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. Dirk Nannes and Daniel Vettori also leave the Delhi outfit for the Bangalore team and with Zaheer Khan around too, the Royal Challengers look impressive once again.
Defending Champions Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians have adopted a sensible retention policy and have bought back many of their own players from the Auction pool. This would enable last year’s finalists to maintain the momentum that their potent combinations had generated in the previous editions. Sachin Tendulkar was the Orange Cap holder and Suresh Raina was at number 3 in the batting rankings in 2010 and both continue with their old teams. Mumbai have added the supremely talented Rohit Sharma to their ranks as also Andrew Symonds while Chennai have picked up Dwayne Bravo and Scott Styris.
With Harbhajan Singh and Symonds sharing the dug-out for the Mumbai Indians there would be no dearth of entertainment on offer, both on and off the field, from the Mumbai boys!
Kolkata Knight Riders also look stronger now despite leaving out Sourav Ganguly, much to the chagrin of cricket lovers. With big-buys Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan as also super stars Jacques Kallis and Brett Lee, Shah Rukh Khan’s new team appears formidable. What is required is for them to have the right strategy and to implement it, in order to wipe out the record of being the worst performers of the first three seasons.
The new teams Kochi and Pune have made some smart acquisitions too and should pose a serious challenge to the other 8 teams in IPL 4. The Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils do not look too strong on paper despite possessing some big names but then the IPL is as much about surprises as anything else!
The spinners have called the shots in previous editions with Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, Harbhajan Singh and Anil Kumble topping the purple Cap charts in 2010, and are likely to do so this time too.
The new format, with some teams being eliminated after the preliminary stage, means that despite the addition of 2 teams, the number of matches have gone up from 60 to 74 but not more, which would mean a compact tournament.
If India wins the ICC World Cup, the IPL 4 might find it hard to live up to the excitement floating around, but it has already become a game changer in more ways than one!