Some have called the Indian Premier League tamasha cricket and few have termed it as the future of the game. On Friday at the PCA Stadium in Mohali on the eve of the IPL tie between Mohali IPL team and the Chennai IPL team, it seemed both assertions are correct.
While both the teams practiced as seriously as any cricket squad worth its salt would, there were loud bhangra numbers blasting out of humungous speakers placed in the stands. A large dance troupe practiced the traditional Punjabi dance.
It made for a confusing sight. But what was heartening was to see both Punjab XI coach Tom Moody and the Chennai team’s coach Kepler Wessels not losing the focus on the basic reason for them being here --- cricket.
Both the teams had exhaustive fielding sessions and then some extended batting and bowling at the nets.
Chennai’s Parthiv Patel kept wickets at the nets, almost a sure sign that captain MS Dhoni is not too keen to keep wickets, at least for Saturday’s game.
This is one game worth a watch to see how Mohali IPL captain Yuvraj Singh deals with his national T20 skipper Dhoni.
Also, this match would see Chennai’s Mutthiah Muralitharan bowl to his Sri Lankan teammates but opponents in this event - Mahela Jayawardene and Kumara Sangakkara.
Both Jaywardene and Sangakkara arrived late on Friday afternoon. They are expected to play on Saturday “mainly to counter the Murali threat”, Moody said.
But Chennai clearly appears a better team to bet on. Not only because they have a strong batting line-up but also that they have been together for a couple of weeks and possibly are better prepared.
Moody, though, said, “But this holds true for all the teams. Most of the overseas players have joined their teams late. Moreover, we have played a couple of practise games at the home ground, which Chennai have not. So, it is an advantage for us.”
However, Wessels said that spending some time together has helped his team bond better.
“We have been together for a few weeks now. And the integration of the local players as well as the overseas players has gone well,” he said. “Hopefully as the tournament progresses it will get better and better.”
It would boil down to a point where the match is a contest between Chennai’s batting strength and Mohali’s bowling, which has Brett Lee, Irfan Pathan and S Sreesanth.
Chennai has Matthew Hayden, Dhoni, Stephen Fleming, Michael Hussey and S Badrinath. They can thus dent any serious bowling attack.
For Chennai bowlers, Yuvraj remains the biggest headache. “Yuvraj is a dangerous player,” said Wessels. “We have a strategy for him as well as for others but I am not going to reveal it.”
Wessels also said that he has his playing eleven ready though he would not give it away to the press.
Moody, however, was more generous as he named his 15-member squad.
Wessels is handicapped with the absence of his main bowlers Makhaya Ntini and Albie Morkel. “But we have Murali and Jacob Oram is a good all-rounder. We have a couple of young fast bowlers like Manpreet Goni. We expect the pitch to seam and we have that aspect covered up.”
Long after the players left the ground, the stadium still reverberated to the bhangra and Bollywood numbers as dancers prepared to perform before the game.
But on Saturday, when dancers leave the field, the cricketers will take over and the order will be restored.