IPL 2024 moved many needles, changed cricket’s grammar | Crickit
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IPL 2024 moved many needles, changed cricket’s grammar

ByAmrit Mathur, New Delhi
May 29, 2024 09:54 PM IST

Stung by critical voices that questioned his royal status, King Kohli silenced ‘outside noise’ by raising his game to acquire new robes, writes Amrit Mathur.

After two months and 74 games, IPL 2024 is done and dusted. Stadiums are empty and families are switching television channels to select their dose of evening entertainment. Cricket pundits and commentators are experiencing workload management issues, cheerleaders are resting weary limbs, stretched to the limit to celebrate the record 1,260 sixes smashed this season.

Kolkata Knight Riders players celebrate after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 final cricket match against Sunrisers Hyderabad (PTI) PREMIUM
Kolkata Knight Riders players celebrate after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 final cricket match against Sunrisers Hyderabad (PTI)

Players packed their coffins and dumped them in a corner now that the season is over. Some look back with satisfaction at pleasant on-field moments and time spent in the dressing room. Those who came through successfully are cautiously optimistic about retention, or at least interest in the next auction. Others who missed out (batters who failed to strike at over 150, bowlers who went for plenty in the death overs) are corroded by anxiety.

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Getting into IPL is tough, making the eleven is not easy, getting noticed is a challenge. IPL is an unforgiving Mt. Everest, a modern version of snakes and ladders, a tricky game which has a large number of snakes and the supply of ladders is limited.

Among those who scaled IPL’s peak are two kings, from different fields but both with a proud lineage. One is SRK, the Bollywood badshah, an IPL team owner who wears a winner’s halo. His films rule the box office. His team conquered franchise cricket’s biggest summit.

SRK wears fame lightly and is known for his dignified conduct, for trusting professionals and respecting players. While one team owner chided his captain in a disgraceful public outburst, SRK hugged and kissed everyone in sight. He lovingly spreads his arms (his signature romantic move) to embrace knight riders and others. His policy is ‘love all’ and the jadu ki jhappi is result neutral – it does not matter whether KKR is jeetbo or harbo.

King Kohli too aced IPL. Stung by critical voices that questioned his royal status, the king silenced ‘outside noise’ by raising his game (and strike rate) to acquire new robes. Kohli is a batting ATM who bossed the scene to retain his crown and his red-hot form gained him the orange cap.

This year’s IPL also saw a new dynamic – emergence of the fan, faceless and ignored till now. Cricket’s fantasy game numbers went through the roof and when they play with stakes, fans have skin in the game. They also have a strong voice, which Hardik Pandya found out when he received a collective mouthful for abandoning GT and handing Rohit Sharma a dubious decision which he couldn’t review. Fans thought Pandya was a villain and booed him at home and away games.

Apart from the Pandya episode, fans rose in support of players. In Chennai, the devotion of fans directed towards MS Dhoni increased even as Thala’s appearances became shorter with each game. MSD played a mere 71 balls in the tournament; he kept pushing himself down the order even as fans waited patiently for one last fleeting glimpse of the icon.

The question remains: Will MSD return next year for a final darshan? The CSK CEO says he does not know, an honest admission because MSD exists in a no connectivity territory and is forever out of network range. But Rayudu, an old CSK hand, is convinced MSD will dance one more time, and play one more innings, to answer the fervent prayers of his devoted fans.

IPL was witness to a ‘player calling player’ exchange as Kohli reacted sharply to television experts’ criticism. That players don’t take kindly to any negative comment is known, most times they ask the toxic ‘kitna khela hai’ question to ridicule the credentials of those making unpleasant comments. But this time the script changed because the negative remarks originated from past legends. Hence, displaying smart shot selection, the comeback was that ex-players didn’t have first-hand experience of the T20 format! Moral of the story: players and media will remain in two separate corners – it’s always us versus them.

But more than anything else, this IPL was remarkable because fearless batters moved the needle. Stats tell the story: 549 runs in a game, 125 in the power play, 167 chased down in less than 10, teams just a touch away from getting 300 in 20.

Is this a result of batters shaking off a mental block or a spirit of liberation because of the impact sub that encourages them to swing hard? Will teams strive to get 200 in the World Cup or will sanity be restored? We’ll find out, but it’s certain IPL 2024 has redefined cricket’s grammar.

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