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The Kohinoor of Indian cricket (Comment: Close-In)



The Kohinoor, the famous Indian diamond in Persian means, the 'Mountain of Light'. Presently, it is set in the crown of Queen Elizabeth and exhibited in the Tower of London. India has been vociferously asking for it to be returned, unfortunately, without much success. The Indian Premier League (IPL) is the Kohinoor of Indian and World cricket and truly a mountain of light for any young aspiring cricketer.

Indian cricket needs to ensure, that this gem, does not lose its shine and glitter for years to come. The International Cricket Council (ICC), one gathers from some of their recent press reports, seems to be wanting to control and monitor the IPL and the other T20 leagues that have mushroomed in other parts of the cricketing world. The Indian board needs to be firm in keeping this gemstone away from any possible raiders.

The franchise-based tournament, that had its inception in 2008, has proven to be a phenomenal success, not only for the cricketers but also for the millions of cricket fans. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) with IMG brought about a sparkling gem, the IPL, that revolutionised Indian cricket. The commercially viable league has attracted innovative marketers and corporate honchos. This should, in the next decade of the IPL, from the way its blossoming, bring forth technological brilliance for followers and viewers of the game.

The IPL has been a blessing for the present as well as for the past cricketers. Cricket-related jobs that once were non-existent have now become lucrative options for cricketers from all around the globe. The money that is being poured into the league has brought in professionalism into every aspect of the game. The buzz that the 2019 IPL has already created is phenomenal for Indian cricket. The popular cricket platform has cricket legends past and present dissecting performances and analyzing it to the hilt. Cricket has touched the masses like never before.

The T20 format was looked upon as a cricket circus, an entertainment to enjoy and thereafter to forget. One never ever imagined that the 3+ hours cricket tournament would be considered in the same vein as Bollywood movie entertainment. The suspense that emerges from a make belief story of the cinema world would give way to a real live tale on the cricket field. The performers in this case are not actors but real life heroes. The script in this case was not written on paper but made in heaven. The actors were cricket players with none of them being portrayed in the leading role.

The 2008 IPL was the blockbuster that created a classic that India had never experienced before, especially in the world of sport. T20 Cricket became simple to follow and it soon became a family drama enjoyed by everyone. The shorter format made the game more uncertain and the cricket critics, who reveled in their knowledge of cricket and records, were no more seen as somebody special.

The mathematics of cricket was made simple through the number of overs that a team played. Runs scored was all that mattered and in whatsoever manner a player and team could. Cricket was shortened timewise and there was a definite outcome at the end. The IPL 2008 was, what one can term, as blessed in many ways. The phenomenal century in the first match by Brendon McCullum for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), owned by Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, truly established the IPL as a thriller.

Rajasthan Royals (RR), the final winners, brought that additional spice to the league after their nail biting victory against Chennai. The team was never ever thought of as one of the favourites to win and therefore, the result was ideal for popularizing the tournament. Shane Warne, the master spinner, captained the side in the John Wayne style of a leading actor. His star performer from India was Yousuf Pathan, whom he communicated with more by body language than words.

However, the icing on the cake was an unknown Indian cricketer from Goa, S. Asnodkar, who at that time became a household name. The young cricketer brought in the Indian family warmth and hospitality, when he had Shane Warne and the RR team in Goa for a meal at his house. This was just the script the IPL required to showcase friendship, camaraderie and a feeling of oneness amongst the players themselves.

Since then, Indian cricket has had many unknown faces becoming stars overnight. Jasprit Bumrah, considered the best limited overs bowler in the world at present, is one of them. The IPL highlighted the performance of many young batsmen especially the likes of Paul Valthaty, Manish Pandey, Rahul Tripathi, Rishabh Pant, Shreyas Iyer, Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Mandeep Singh and Naman Ojha. Some of them did make it to the Indian side, but most remained as a one off success. 

However, unknowingly, the maximum benefit that Indian cricket has derived is from the bowlers. Jasprit Bumrah, Yazvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, R. Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Pragyan Ojha, Mohit Sharma, Axar Patel, Jayant Yadav, Vinay Kumar, Dhaval Kulkarni, Kunal and Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Manpreet Gony, Jaydev Unadkat, Siddarth Kaul have all played for the country.

The IPL has been instrumental in bringing these talented Indian cricketers to the fore. The established Indian cricketers, as Virat Kohli has rightly stated, should play to enjoy the IPL. However, there are still two batting slots to be filled up for the World Cup. The IPL fever cannot be underestimated, the field is open for an Indian batter to become the darling of this crowd. An unknown superstar being catapulted onto the world stage, would be just what dreams are made of, for an aspiring cricketer.

(The writer is a former Test cricketer)

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