IPL, a different ball game
The cricket on offer till now has been both interesting and bizarre, writes Amrit Mathur. Warne & No 23Updated: May 05, 2008, 11:14 IST
Now that the noise about the tournament has subsided somewhat, and the cheerleaders clothed appropriately, the focus has shifted to the core business — Cricket.
What is evident is that the IPL is a new product and everyone involved is learning as the event unfolds. The cricket on offer till now has been both interesting and bizarre.
On-field action has been outstanding, the cricket quite compelling. T20 is a batsman's game, much more than normal ODIs, and players have shown that chasing down 10 an over is no big deal. Batsmen are more brutal than before, they have produced breathtaking shots to send even perfectly good balls into orbit. On occasions, bowlers (notably the elderly McGrath) have fought back but this is not a game they can really enjoy.
The bowlers are not the only ones feeling the heat, cricket has changed for all players and everyone is under huge pressure. This shift is subtle, but the message going out is clear: in this format every player is on his own, alone and unprotected.
When Harbhajan did what he did to his colleague there were no statements from team mates in support, no dharnas, no posturing about 'backing' him, and certainly no confusion about national pride coming in the way. The issue was simple; an instance of misconduct, and this was dealt with swiftly according to the law.
One reason this was concluded professionally was the act itself was blatant and left no room for doubt. But given that, Harbhajan had nobody standing behind him. He had to take the brunt, because he created the messy situation in the first place.
Compared to him, much more bizarre was what happened to Ganguly. Warne had a few things to say about Ganguly (and there is a history to their mutual dislike) but the friendly fire he attracted from team mate Umar Gul was really surprising. It is not often that a junior player openly accuses his captain of inexperience!
This indicates that players are passing through an uncertain phase in the IPL. The franchisees have made them rock stars and given them obscene salaries. But at another level they are left naked and exposed to impulses that are beyond their control. For the first time the market is supreme, and in this economic evaluation reputations or past achievements count for little.
Whether it is Harbhajan, Ganguly or anyone else, the writing is clearly on the wall: nobody, the icon or the non-icon, is above the market. This game is different, for people and the players.