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The IPL at ten (Hindu)

In an ironic, yet vivid way, the Indian Premier League has held up the mirror to cricket

A week after India clinched the Test series against Australia at Dharamsala, the memory of both the fine victory and the bad blood that marred those matches can be pushed to the sidelines. Such is the nature of frenetic cricket calendars that the Indian Premier League has already rolled in, its tenth edition commencing with the match between the defending champion, Sunrisers Hyderabad, and last year’s runner-up, Royal Challengers Bangalore, on April 5. Spread over 47 days and featuring 60 matches, the IPL has over the years blended the instant gratification of the Twenty20 format with a sense of longevity, having prospered since its inception in 2008. On the field, suspense and sixes, upsets and consistency, flair and acrobatic fielding have all combined to energise the league. The inaugural event witnessed a classic reprise of David vs Goliath. Unheralded Rajasthan Royals stunned the fancied Chennai Super Kings (CSK), and ironically both teams are currently serving a two-year suspension, a just punishment following ghastly violations that negated the spirit of the game. If S. Sreesanth, Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan’s alleged forays into spot-fixing dented the Royals in 2013, further damage was caused to the league when CSK’s Gurunath Meiyappan was deemed guilty of betting. Even Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra fell in the same category, and tragically for the IPL, the thrills on the ground were marred by the problems that shadowed its fringes.
Ironically, the IPL has actually held a mirror up to and drawn more scrutiny into the affairs of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) than have the game’s longer, more traditional formats. The cosy-club atmosphere that sullied the richest cricket board, the nepotism and an indifference to probity, all came into full public view, with the Supreme Court sitting up and taking notice. The repercussions of the 2013 spot-fixing and betting controversy are even now felt as it sowed the seeds for the wide-ranging reforms suggested by the Justice R.M. Lodha Panel, and now the Committee of Administrators appointed by the court has its hands full. A summer sporting carnival, a domestic tournament with an international flavour, as Rahul Dravid described it, had inexplicably gone beyond its pulsating cricket and virtually prised out the BCCI’s heart. The IPL not only changed the way cricket was played, increasing the tempo and adding big bucks to the players’ kitty, it also inadvertently ushered in a course-correction for the BCCI. Surely, the league has come a long way since it started with a leg-bye when Kolkata Knight Rider’s skipper Sourav Ganguly squared up to Royal Challengers Bangalore’s Praveen Kumar in the first match in 2008 in Bangalore. It was the lull before the storm unleashed by Brendon McCullum’s savage unbeaten 158 off just 73 balls. There have been many other storms since and as for what will happen this time around, no one can hazard a guess.

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