So here we go again, doing that thing we do. Season III of the Indian Premier League begins today and it’s set to be bigger, better and more beautiful than ever. And I’m not talking of Bollywood’s best here, or our cheerleading imports — though they’re pretty high on the cool quotient scale — I’m talking about us, the players.
Simply put, the IPL has forever changed our lives and the way we see each other.
Here’s how. At the T20 World Cup last year in England, on the eve of South Africa’s semifinal, I got an SOS visit from my Delhi Daredevils’ mate, AB de Villiers in Trent Bridge. India, unfortunately, were already out of the championship and AB, one of the mainstays of the Proteas line-up, had broken all his bats.
He dropped in and asked if he could borrow one of mine. I just said, “My kitbag’s over there, open it and take what you want. We’re out, you’re in, they're all yours”.
Before the IPL, before we men from different nations became fast friends, travelling, living, eating together, backing each other up on the field, swapping stories of love and war and bonding off it, it would never have occurred to AB to ask me for help or for me to tell him to take what he wanted. We've changed — for the better.
Our understanding of one another has become much better. The teams (national, not franchise) have become less hostile towards each other, because somewhere in that opposing team, when tempers begin fraying and the pressure mounts, you spot a friendly face, someone you've shared a dressing room with for two months, and then that calms you down.
And that's also because beyond all the glamour, the hype over the money at stake and prices on players' heads, beyond the fight for eyeballs and TRP ratings and everything else showbizzy, the IPL, essentially, is about cricket.
As cricketers, we know this. At the end of the day, all the razzmatazz fades away and what's left is the 22 of us, out there on the field, battling to be the best.
Just so you know, even in a business sense, your value is upped if your cricket's up there. But, in any case, as professional sportsmen, our job is to go out there and do the best we can. And for every one of us, it's a job we're passionate about. I know I am.
(Gautam Gambir is captaining Delhi Daredevils)