When the dust settles down on this IPL caravan, all that this season will be remembered for will be the unbelievable exploits of one man—Virat Kohli. Lost for superlatives, pundits plagiarized each other, commentators parroted out cliched compliments, and we, the audience, just could not applaud this phenomenon enough. However, scratch the surface beyond the Kohli glimmer, and this IPL should rank as the dullest in the event's nine-year history. Yawns abounded in living rooms, parties switched over to good ol' Honey Singh, and sports pubs scrambled back to an exciting EPL. So what went wrong?
1. T20 overload alert
First they went to Australia and played T20. Then they went to Bangladesh and played T20. Then they called over Sri Lanka and played T20. Then they called everyone else and again played T20. And then they sent everyone home and called everyone back and again started playing T20. If only the BCCI official, who plans the IPL and ICC schedules, wrote it down before sending them out, he would have yawned to sleep by the third reference to T20, and we would all have been saved from the Hardik Pandya rise and fall drama. Speaking of timing, if real cricket was not boring enough, Ekta Kapoor decided to pile on our collective cricket miseries with Azhar. Most sane souls broke down an hour into it—both the movie and this season's IPL.
2. CSK-less IPL—whose loss?
Love them or hate them. Fall for Dhoni's sixers, or call them match-fixers. But, you cannot deny the fact that CSK has been the lifeline of the IPL. All 8 play-offs, 4 finals, 2 titles—the one constant in the ever-altering IPL landscape. We could debate the sanity of the judgment that banned the team instead of auctioning it off, but a CSK-less season has just shown how much they are missed. No Cauvery derby, no face-off with the Mumbai Indians, the IPL is indeed poorer. While both RPSG and Gujarat vied for the honors of CSK 2.0, neither has managed to repeat similar success. The most fanatic of IPL fans, the Chennai crowd, has meanwhile meandered through this year like mercenaries without a cause—to one more year of IPL devoid of its Manchester United.
It was expected to happen after a long season of unending cricket. But the rate at which the injuries came was unnerving at one point. The spate, in fact, began even before the IPL had begun. Two of the best bowlers, Lasith Malinga and Mitchell Starc, had to give it a miss, and the boundaries suddenly began to look shorter for all the batsmen.
Pune especially bore the brunt of it as all of its overseas players packed their bags home–Pietersen, who did not even play the World cup, Faf du Plessis, Steven Smith, Mitchell Marsh. Rising Pune never managed to rise from those blows. The list has only grown longer as the season has progressed with Nehra, Lendl Simmons, Glenn Maxwell as well joining the queue towards the infirmary.
4. Standard of commentary or the lack of it
In the parlance of the inimitable Navjot Singh Sidhu, an IPL without Harsha Bhogle in the box is like Aloo Paratha without the butter on top. It still fills you up, but it's just not the same. Multiple reasons were touted for the axing of the amiable man, multiple open letter shot, someone filed a change.org petition as expected, but to no avail. The BCCI bulldozes through entire boards across the world. What are a few stupid fans?
Bereft of its star, the commentary box came up with scheme after scheme to flog interest, each falling flatter than aforementioned Aloo Parathas. Polls on which animal is best to interrupt a match, and what is the best biryani among chicken, mutton or veg were resorted to. Eventually, the dreaded drone of Rameez Raja was what we were served more often than not. What does one do when offered a choice between Rameez's inane quips, Sidhu's silly stunts, Gavaskar's 'Mishy boys', and Morrison's shrill shrieks?
5. No home, no advantage
As if cricket had not shot itself in the foot enough, Acts of God decided to have a say. One fails to comprehend the rationale behind singling out cricket grounds as the sole sinkholes sucking out precious water, while golf courses abound year round and when helipads waste tons of gallons right in the heartland of drought–cricket makes for an easy target. One also, however, fails to understand the BCCI's reluctance to grab, with both hands, a much-needed image makeover opportunity by making the IPL teams adopt a few villages. The two teams eventually moved out of Maharashtra after hectic to-and-fro, with the courts holding darbar over yet another self-righteous campaign. But by then the image of the cricket body and IPL had been set in stone–a coterie of rich, ruthless businessmen who give two hoots about anything else other than their balance sheets.
6. Batsmen-friendly pitches and grounds
The elephant in the room, the Berlin wall between the purists and the hoi polloi, you just cannot skirt around. Hoping for IPL to suddenly make T20 cricket an exciting bat and ball contest is as hopeless as expecting a fast food joint to serve you a bowl of dal bukhara. But the disease of ever-shrinking boundaries and flat pitches has been testing alarming levels. The number of 200+scores has dropped from 7 last year to 4 this year, but that could be attributed to the Mumbai Indians' inability to make runs even on the tiny Wankhede grounds until April and their subsequent shift out of Mumbai. The Chinnaswamy has more than made up for it however–the fact that 8 of the top 12 scores have been scored at this stadium does not miss the eye, with RCB and its rivals dividing the honors 5 to 3. The ground has invited wide-spread derision with even skipper Virat Kohli jesting about “biceps as flat as the Chinnaswamy pitch”. Testing times for bowlers indeed!
Overall, it has been a year of death by cricket, and death of cricket for the fans. One hopes this is to be a blessing in disguise when the Olympics come calling as we eagerly await a relief from this monotone of cricket.
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