Asked how he felt playing against former teammates in what was called an Old Delhi vs New Delhi game, Virender Sehwag cut through the clutter to come up with a gem. "We are professionals, he said in his quiet yet firm manner. We play the opposing team, not the players."
But the Kotla did look like an extended Daredevils' reunion as former players turned up for Bangalore, led this season by Daniel Vettori. Former Daredevil, Tillakaratne Dilshan, has recently been appointed Sri Lanka captain and AB de Villiers could be SA's next skipper. For Anil Kumble (president of Karnataka cricket/mentor of the Bangalore franchise), Delhi is special because of his perfect-10 in a Test against Pakistan. At the Kotla, he sat in the players' dugout, in RCB colours, while his longtime colleague (and secretary of Karnataka cricket) Javagal Srinath, the IPL match referee, wore a sharp black jacket and occupied the box next to the player's dressing room.
Before play started, both walked up to the track to look closely at the surface. And after some discussion decided that it was hard and well-rolled. Their pitch report: Batsmen friendly but not a belter.
Also around, though in different roles, were other colleagues of these stalwarts. One of them, Ajit Agarkar, stretched his hamstring while Zaheer Khan, in an adjoining net, gave tips to left-armer Arvind. Not far from them, Vettori went through his pre-game drill, assisted by Venkatesh Prasad, an excellent coach with terrific work ethic. While the teams trained, some interested observers watched from a distance. For instance, Kepler Wessels, a former South Africa captain. Once known for his grit and inflexible style, Kepler, part of the IPL broadcast team, now comes across as an unbiased and perceptive expert.
So is K Srikkanth, chairman of the selection committee. He thinks only those teams that have the right Indian talent will succeed in the IPL. His formula: Pick hungry players from Ranji who have no pressure of playing for India, no reputations to protect and no fear of justifying high auction prices.