The IPL V may not have garnered the same eyeballs as the first three seasons, but the cricket has been entertaining thus far. It's been three weeks and pre-tournament favorites like the Super Kings, Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers have fallen more often than expected, while dark horses like the Delhi Daredevils and Rajasthan Royals have started looking like making it to the play-offs.
Lesser known players too like Shahbaz Nadeem and Parvinder Awana have taken centre stage. The unpredictability of T20 has started to come to the fore.
Besides this, there's something else that ought to catch everyone's eye. Unlike the previous seasons, some of the legends, who have lost contact with top-flight cricket, are finding it tough to keep up with the demands of T20 cricket. Gilchrist has looked a pale shadow of the swashbuckling player we knew him as and Ganguly too is no longer the 'god of the off-side'.
We've revered these players for long, so the sight of them struggling like mortals is painful. Hence, we secretly wish them to turn the clock back and show glimpses of their old self.
Who doesn't fail?
Yet, their failure to perform says a thing or two about the credibility of the IPL. Before you call me a sadist, let me elaborate. At the inception of the IPL, the league needed the marquee players to participate, perform and carry the tournament on their shoulders. These players responded magnificently to the cause and captivated the audience with the sheer brilliance of their skill and the IPL became a runaway hit.
But five years down, had the same players continued to play on their muscle memory and perform as well as the ones who are sweating it out in international cricket, the relevance of this format would have come under scrutiny. Many believe T20 cricket to be nothing more than a hit and a giggle, and if these players continued to rule the roost long after losing contact with competitive cricket, the naysayers would have had a field day.
So, in a warped way, their non-performance has proved that IPL indeed is serious business. It's only plausible to believe that handling Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel in their pomp should require the batsman to be on top of his form and skill.
Then, there are the likes of Paul Valthaty, Saurabh Tiwary, Amit Singh, the relatively lesser-known first-class cricketers, who are touted as T20 specialists. They emerge from oblivion for this eight-week tournament, perform well and disappear only to resurface the next season. Their failure in the current edition could work as a lesson for a lot of domestic players that to perform in the IPL, you've got to be on top of your game throughout the year. It's relatively easier to convert your first-class form into T20 success but to turn on the ignition just for the IPL isn't going to work.
The IPL has given a wonderful opportunity to players wanting to showcase their wares. It would be only wise to realise that while T20 may look like non-serious business, it's still very serious.
(The former India opener plays for Rajasthan in domestic cricket)