So the Kings XI Punjab finally won a match this IPL on Thursday at the Captain Amarinder Singh Stadium - or the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium, or whatever they call it at Mohali near Chandigarh.
Which is just as well considering that their defeat less than a week before at the Subroto Roy Sahara Stadium - or the MCA Pune International Cricket Centre Stadium, or whatever they call it at Gahunje near Pune - against the Pune Warriors must have given credence to many folks banking on unadulterated nostalgia that Sourav 'No chin guard for the multi-chinned' Ganguly was on a blazing comeback trip. So we had 40-year-old KXIP skipper Adam Gilchrist whopping 39-year-old Warriors captain Ganguly and evening out the tally.
Which on a meditative Friday the 13th proves three things to me.
One, that the IPL, no matter how entertaining and democratic it may be, reaching out as it does to people beyond cricket boffins, will forever be more visible as a tournament played by famous players who have peaked a while ago and are delaying their future as cricket commentators and less Red Bulled companion-pundits to Navjot Sidhu (although far more proficient in Hindi than Pandit Harsha Bhogle).
These has-beens of the national squad are either hoping to make a Christ-like comeback or doing a 'Beckham for LA Galaxy'. About the resurrection, I would consider that till now, the IPL has been as much about the return of Subroto Roy as it is about Ganguly's re-emergence. Roy, whose anguish at being treated shabbily by the BCCI that led to Sahara pulling out its sponsorship of Team India almost made me burst into chit funfed tears, was Phoenix Mall-like in his return in a stadium named after him. But folks from UP, I suppose, don't have problems naming stadia or parks after themselves before they're dead, and good for them.
As for Ganguly doing a Beckham, the former England captain - who, unlike Ganguly, was tipped to make a bid to lead the England side in the London Olympics this summer - has done a Ganguly instead. News from LA has it that the 36-year-old ex-great midfielder is having a lousy Major League Soccer (MLS) season, so lousy that he was substituted at half-time in the last match that LA Galaxy played and lost 1-3 last fortnight against a team whose name doesn't matter. And Beckham led a two-time MLS champion team since the five years he's been with them. Ganguly, on the other hand, since his five years in the IPL has headed, been, ousted from a bloated KKR and then played and now is heading a team that is yet to gain its street cred, this year's supposed 'dark horse', the Pune Warriors.
Line and Length
The second thing I figured from the Mohali match is that a great line and length works in frivolous T20 cricket as effectively as it does in ODIs as it does in Test cricket as well as in galli cricket. The Kings' England seamer Dimitri Mascarenhas didn't earn his five wickets for 25 because the Pune batsmen were getting distracted by a jumping Preity Zinta's dimpled dimples. Mascarenhas laid it out and got his just desert picking up Ganguly, Marlon Samuels, Robin Uthappa, Mithun Manhas and Rahul Sharma in cool stamp collection-style. The rest was left to Shaun Marsh's plucky 64* and some imaginative bad fielding from the Warriors to give Punjab's faithful a happy pre-Baisakhi gift.
The third noticeable thing I noted was that the organisers must have done their 'random' match scheduling by using the rather inefficient method of 'scissors-paper-stone'. How else can one explain a return match on Match No. 14 on April 12 after the Pune Warriors and the Kings XI met on Match No. 8 on April 8? I had to check the IPL schedule to see whether either of the two sides were playing today thereby making it worth my delaying this column lest people get c'onfused about which match I'm talking about.
Oh, and there is a fourth point about the IPL that I have noted from Thursday's match at Mohali. Ex-Kings XI Punjab player and Chandigarh boy Yuvraj Singh, out of the Pune Warriors squad this season for medical reasons, could prove to be the model for ex-KKR player and Kolkata boy Ganguly (who replaced Singh as Warriors skipper this season). Singh as captain flunked last year when the Pune Warriors came second last in the league. Ganguly will face his 'Yuvraj moment' at the Eden Gardens as skipper of the Warriors against his old team on May 5. Now, that will be a 'return' match that should be fun.