It is always good when a new team rises to the top and that is what happened in this year's IPL final with the Kolkata Knight Riders winning their first title.
MS Dhoni's team was not very consistent till the final stages but they still scraped to victory many times to reach the final. Still, KKR held their nerve in what turned out to be a wonderful run chase.
By and large, from what I have seen, things are improving in the IPL. But when a new city comes up, a lot of riff-raff will also come to live in it. The controversies and issues we see in the IPL are like that.
Let me start with the positives in the IPL. It has been very good for our batsmen. I am not talking about players of the stature of Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Chris Gayle or the other greats but the younger lot.
They have now got a lot of confidence to face bowlers like Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Sunil Narine. They hit them for sixes over mid-on, mid-off and midwicket and that has given courage to the young boys.
Same is the case with our bowlers. Any of our bowlers bowling to batsmen like Jacques Kallis and other great players, even when they get thrashed, can only gain in confidence.
This is something the IPL has given to the young Indian players. And as far as the country is concerned, today, parents want their children to play cricket because they realise they can make a good living out of the game.
There was a time when parents used to pay fees for special tuitions. Then they started paying to give the children coaching in a sport. Still, it was mainly golf and tennis that used to be sought after. But now, the IPL has given a new life to cricket.
Also, look at the way fielding has improved. We used to be among the worst fielders. In my playing days, I used to be frustrated the fine-leg fielder was not running in to back up when the ball was fielded at mid-off and thrown to the ’keeper, and vice-versa. Today, players dive for the sake of the team.
They are taught to do that by the coaches and that is heartening. The IPL has also encouraged relay catches. India players were the worst when it came to running between the wickets, but see how well our young players run!
And then the kind of shots they play! Even though I was an enterprising batsman, I never imagined someone can play shots like the reverse-sweep and hit a six.
The players who are ahead in this are David Warner and AB de Villiers and Kevin Pietersen, who plays the switch-hit so well, as well as others. Dwayne Bravo hit many stunning, one-handed shots over cover point. All this is because of the changed attitude of batsmen thanks to the IPL.
But there are big concerns as well. The IPL has brought a lot of money into the game, which is a good thing. But I hear a number of players want to play IPL but don't mind sacrificing their chances to play ODIs or Tests, basically to represent their country.
I wonder whether such an attitude change is because of the money in IPL or the fame it brings.
How can club be placed over the country? I don't say reduce the IPL money, but I would advise that the Board should raise the bar for ODIs and Tests so that a player can't say he is not available to play for the country. The Test matches, ODIs and IPL are all run by the same organisation — the BCCI.
That means the BCCI needs to incorporate the good points from IPL in national cricket.
Not a good sign
The other concern is, thanks to the IPL, promising batsmen only look to hit out. A young boy wanted to know from me how to hit a six. I am not against attacking cricket, but if the focus is only on hitting out, where will the next generation of classic batsmen, like Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and other greats who made this game so popular, come from?
And then I saw even a bowler like Steyn, who swings the ball at such high pace, bowl his first delivery with a cross-seam grip.
The idea was to bowl straight and contain runs rather than take wickets. Now, that is not a good sign as far as making sure the skill sets are not affected. The upcoming bowlers should focus on getting basics right.
Now, I'm not against players going to parties, but it is important they maintain a balance. The youngsters must be educated by the BCCI on where to draw the line. Here, I would like to remind them how professional Gavaskar was as a player. He was unfairly called arrogant, but he was reluctant to attend parties as he was worried the heavy smoke in the room would affect his eyesight, so important for an opening batsman. Sunny also avoided getting pictures clicked in the night to avoid the flash.
I would also like to say well done Gautam Gambhir! Well done Shah Rukh! On the Shah Rukh incident at the Wankhede Stadium, I feel sad a person of his caliber, who has come into the game, should be stopped. We must thank the owners of all the teams for promoting the game.
Sometimes, the BCCI is high-handed and I don't know whether Shah Rukh or the Mumbai association is wrong.
But I feel a compromise should be worked out before a verdict on the ban is announced. Today, I respect Shah Rukh more than I ever have because after the final he took the mike and said he was sorry about the Mumbai incident.
That makes him a bigger person in my mind. We see the IPL as an extension of franchise sports in America, where marketing is the focus and many famous people come on to the ground. So, if an owner comes on to the ground here, it should be welcome.
Finally, I would like to talk about one major concern under the code of conduct of the game. That has to do with allegations of spot-fixing as well as media reports that some players have said black money is in circulation in the IPL.
If the BCCI is not careful, it is in for serious trouble. I don't know all the details of financial controversies, but the Board should realise the league is five years old and any wrong practice that was adopted in the past should be discontinued.
Running the BCCI has become a bigger task than running a company. But unfortunately, every politician and industrialist is involved in running my beautiful game.
As far as the players are concerned, they should be aware the taxmen will be watching them.