The IPL has been a learning curve for everyone — organisers, young domestic cricketers and journalist like me.
While seven teams have been crisscrossing the country, Mumbai have been lucky as they have 17 days at a stretch in their base.
With a six-day break between their match against Jaipur (on May 7) and Chennai (on May 14), some of the cricketers went to their hometowns for a couple of nights. Not only the locals, who were able to have aamti-bhat (dal-rice), even Sanath Jayasuriya spent two nights in Sri Lanka.
The Indian youngsters would be well served if they can learn some media management skills — something that most Indian cricketers are weak at — from the overseas recruits.
For instance, when Mumbai's media manager informed Dwayne Bravo, while he was having his lunch, that he had to address the media, the West Indian requested the journalists to wait for five minutes.
Sure enough, he was back within five minutes after changing into the Mumbai team tee and blue jeans from his red track pant. Taking media commitments seriously is something the younger generation of Indian cricketers can pick up from the foreign players.
With Mumbai, Amol Karhadkar
Get, set, go: Dilli living the Indian experience
The public has been told of the millions the players make from this tournament; Dhoni has written how the Chennai team has made the fashionable Dublin nightclub its “hub”; lifestyle TV channels have provided sneak peeks into the Bollywood-style high profile parties that the players are treated to. But there's more to this tournament.
From May 11-19, the Delhi team will have played five matches in three venues in eight days. In that span they would have checked in and out of three hotels, flown from the extreme west (Jaipur) to the east (Kolkata), back north (Delhi) to the far south (Bangalore). In no tournament or competition are the players subjected to such bruising travel.
“If our condition is like this then what's yours like?” a Delhi player asked. For the players it's about winning.
For the rest on this bandwagon just surviving the different shades of an Indian summer will suffice.
Wth Delhi, Anand Vasu
For Kolkatans, it is going from bad to worse
Matches getting over at midnight, early morning flights, just about catching some sleep after that or having to make do with whatever you get on board, the IPL is not designed to make things pleasant for the players and those following them. It was an interesting experience initially, but four weeks of this is bad.
It may turn worse because it's not over yet. The players say more or less the same thing and the whole thing is accentuated by the fact that they have to train and play in unhelpful weather conditions.
They also question the reason behind this “mindless scheduling” but can't go on record for obvious reasons. Actually they don’t have to. The sight of tired bodies on board the aircraft says it all.
Wth Kolkata, A Mukhopadhyay
Waiting for benevolence
Like everyone else, I knew how popular our cricketers are. But then it's one thing to know something and quite another to actually witness it.
It's been quite an experience to see the commotion at the airports when the cricketers arrive or depart. Almost everyone present, including the airport staff, stand rooted while the more enthusiastic ones go ahead for an autograph or photograph.
But the amazing part has been how they deal with all this adulation.
To see Yuvraj Singh, Irfan Pathan and Sreesanth — they are the most sought after — being friendly and obliging autographs seekers as far as possible came as a pleasant surprise as was how a few lines scribbled by them on a piece of paper could make someone's day.
One just wishes they are equally generous to interview-seeking journalists as well.
I haven't managed an interview with Yuvraj yet, but I haven't lost hope.
Wth Mohali, Subhash Rajta
Star power: Chennai players waiting to exhale
Following a team has its advantages. As far as I am concerned, it has helped me understand the kind of strain that comes with the amount of travelling the cricketers do in between matches.
The Chennai team members are virtually living out of their suitcases. More often than not, they are on board an aircraft within eight hours of a match and are at the ground within two hours of landing in a city. This can be demanding if you are travelling to cities like Jaipur, Delhi or Chennai in the peak of the summer.
If one thought the players got rest during the flight, think again. Star-struck passengers line-up for autographs and a few even want to get photographed if the player in question is M.S. Dhoni or Muttiah Muralitharan. So much for the valuable two hours of sleep. But there are exceptions like the tireless Makhaya Ntini. He is always up to pranks and cracking jokes and is the loudest mouth on board even as the younger enjoy the newfound attention.
With Chennai, K.R Guruprasad
Walking the talk
Dale Steyn and his partner Jeanne Kitzmann like exploring the cities they have been visiting. When I bumped into the couple outside the team hotel in Chandigarh, Steyn asked, “Where are you coming from?” I replied, “From my hotel, which is about seven kilometers.”
“Did you come walking?” was his next query. I thought he was joking given my large physique. “No, I came by taxi. Only an athlete like you can walk that distance and still look fresh,” was my answer. Encouraged, he walked off with Jeanne to explore Chandigarh.
Inside the hotel, another amusing experience awaited me. An enthusiastic senior citizen approached Cameron White, the Bangalore all-rounder. “You Australians talk well and straight from the heart. You are fun loving. There is a misconception about Australians and their behaviour,” he told White, without knowing his identity.
The gentleman crosschecked with me if he was Shane Watson! No, not Shane Watson, he plays for Jaipur. “Ok, not Watson. Isn't he the Australian fast bowler Brett Lee?” He has already left Mohali for national duty, I replied. White finally revealed his identity to the elderly man and said he was going to the West Indies after the IPL.
“What is happening there,” he asked. At this, White hastened towards the team bus.
With Bangalore, G. Krishnan
“You know you have been flying way too often when you board the flight and realise that you have read the monthly magazine cover-to-cover.”
“It can get a little tiring, can't it?”
This is what a cricketer had to say when I asked him what he thought of all the travelling the IPL teams were having to do. Crazy travel schedules was something all the players knew they would have to contend with once the event got underway, but for some staying away from home is proving a little difficult.
But while the Indians have the luxury of sneaking in a day or two at home, it is not quite a similar case for the foreign players. They are on their own here till the tournament finishes, or their team gets knocked out, and often devise novel ways of staying in ‘touch’ with home.
The Aussies can be seen teaching their Indian teammates how to play a game of Aussie Rules, and while the results of that exercise have varied from moderately successful to complete disasters, the Aussies seem to be enjoying the ‘Indian’ way of playing the game, like one of them told me at practice.
“It's like they are taking the term ‘It's a whole new ball game’ to a whole new level!”
With Hyderabad, Arjun Sen
Heading into desert, a tale of two disparate teams
Nothing succeeds like success, and the Jaipur players are experiencing just that.
Having turned into tournament's top dogs after winning seven out of their nine matches, the Jaipur team has been the story of the IPL so far.
It seems to have caught the fancy of not just the starry-eyed commoners, but also of their compatriots, something that many regard as the true measure of success.
Having found oneself sandwiched between the Bangalore team and few players of the Jaipur franchise, one got to see how success on the field impresses all and sundry.
The reticent Rahul Dravid could not hide his appreciation for Jaipur's pluck to Mohammad Kaif.
The soft-spoken Anil Kumble too patted Kaif on his back and had some kind words.
Not everyone is reaping the rewards of success though. Not Dimitri Mascarenhas at least, the lone Englishman in the IPL.
On a flight to Delhi, two youngsters may have gauged that Mascarenhas was a Jaipur player — probably because he was carrying the official handbag — they didn't know his name.
Undeterred, they proceeded to ask for his autograph and as soon as the Englishman had finished scribbling, one of them politely asked: “But what's your name!”
Now that's what you call a reality check!
With Jaipur, Varun Gupta