Twenty20 is more than just a strategy contest
What is it about sport that makes normally composed people lose their cool? Ordinary fans scream and shout and cheer their teams but why do normal people, otherwise as composed as sadhus, undergo a dramatic makeover in public behaviour at a cricket match?
Of course some of the bhangra, high fives and whooping with joy is activated by the sight of TV cameras, but for others it is cricket that controls the excitable pulse. The sport transports everyone the boss and the babu into a new world of spills and thrills, and converts adults into children.
In films, we were told only SRK and sex sells but with the IPL even the King has realised that nothing sells better than cricket in India. While much has been said and written about the powerful impulses triggered by the IPL, a few interesting remarks made by key players have gone unnoticed.
Considering its basic commercial character, the competing IPL teams prepared and trained in a different manner. Most brought in fresh thought into the planning process but Jaipur skipper Shane Warne heaped scorn on the so-called management gurus, junked the computer and instead trusted his instinct and commonsense to make decisions.
The success of his team demonstrates that there is no substitute for smartness, and that clear thought comes from experience, not by clicking a mouse or hammering away on laptops. Coaches and computers can do this much and no more; matches are won or lost by players not programmed machines.
In a different way, MS Dhoni endorsed Warne’s position. Speaking after a narrow loss to Bangalore recently, he regretted the fact that players did their thinking in the dressing room instead of in the middle! Which once again is proof that players must be alert to think and react as the match unfolds. Cricket has no single decided script, T20 is an unpredictable lottery and in this context the computer is just a toy.
Delhi skipper Sehwag, celebrated for his uncluttered and refreshing approach, also dismissed elaborate planning and treating each match as a major strategy contest.
Asked to comment on a rival team claim that they had sorted him out, Sehwag rubbished the claim saying, “If I play well, nobody can stop me.”
Yuvraj and Dravid have also made interesting comments. At a post-match presentation the Mohali captain expressed disappointment about the crowd failing to appreciate his players, an observation that points to the way ahead for future spectator behaviour at the IPL. From now on, the fans will be fiercely biased; Tendulkar could be god in one city, a common citizen in another.
One-sided fan support surprised Dravid too, saying good cricket of the visiting side went unacknowledged. What he found more shocking was the treatment meted out to his team after their ordinary run in the tournament. Dravid is too correct to make a noise in public but a chance remark — about being relieved — after the team pulled one back said it all.