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Cream of the crop

Merciless batting, stinging bowling and spicy controversies — we look at the Season 4 of the circus called IPL.

india Updated: May 23, 2011 02:26 IST
Hindustan Times

The Gayle storm
Everyone knows Chris Gayle can be destructive, but perhaps he has never been as devastating as this. He has finished matches off in just one over, plundering as many as 37 runs off it. And that's not just one-off instance, the easy going West Indian did something spectacular almost every time he came out to bat.

Larger than life Warne
Shane Warne's last few days in the IPL give a snapshot of his entire life. Showing little respect for rules and regulations, speaking his mind without any restraint and fear, and relentless in his pursuit of love and its display - he did it all. Smoking at the most inappropriate places, like in the stadium and the airports, not being discreet about his lip-locks with Liz Hurley in full public view, rubbing the BCCI bigwigs the wrong way, he was a larger than life. But that's how he has been all his life. And in the middle of all this, the Rajasthan Royals skipper was good on the field as always.

And this is what makes him the rare genius.

The comeback man

Perhaps no one knows, maybe except for the man himself, why Sourav Ganguly was so desperate to play in the IPL. It looked all but over when KKR didn't retain him, and others didn't buy him in the auction. Yet, he didn't give up on his dream, even as everyone else did and came back with the Pune Warriors, who offered him a berth towards the fag end of the league. Now, he hasn't set the stage on fire, but the man deserves some credit for his grit and perseverance.

Warne-Dixit row
As if the real world wasn't enough, they took their ugly quarrel to the virtual world. They almost came to blows at the stadium in Jaipur over the pitch and other issues, and then slugged it out on Twitter, Warne calling the Rajasthan association secretary Sanjay Dixit an egoist and the latter calling him 'flawed'. Before they could get into a fight-to-finish mode, the BCCI stopped the contest, handing Warne a $50,000 (R 22,47,000) fine.

Controversy kid
If controversy is in the air, Sreesanth can't be far away. The soft-spoken Kochi Tuskers skipper Mahela Jayawardene bore the brunt of his tantrums this time. The stalwart would look perplexed whenever the media asked him how he was handling the temperamental paceman. But the former Sri Lanka skipper, however, would have understood that better when the pacer sulked, yelled and kicked around after he was dropped for the game against Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Going now, going then
A missive from the Sri Lankan sports minister asking the players to return home from the IPL midway to prepare for their England tour appeared the genesis of a major row. What followed next provided the IPL with some added drama as paceman Lasith Malinga announced his retirment from Tests following the announcement. Eventually, they left, with just a few days before the league stage ended, but that too in three diffrent batches!

Warnie's woman
The IPL's glamour quotient went up by quite a few notches the moment Hollywood beauty Liz Hurley touched down in Jaipur to cheer for her man. Her lips locks with Warne in full public view must have given sleepless nights to those intrigued even by Preity Zinta's tight hugs to her players.

Gone cheerless
Not a single IPL season goes by without the cheerleaders causing some stir. And this time, South African Gabriella Pasqualotto set the alarm bells ringing by blogging some saucy details of cricketers and their 'indulgences'. She was given the sack before her blog could raise a storm. But if the grapevines are true, she may be up for a bigger stage to gyrate - aka, Bollywood.

Bhai bhai
The monkey-gate protagonists left everyone wondering for long about whether or not they were getting along in the same Mumbai Indians dressing room. The much-hyped story eventually turned out to be a damp squib with Harbhajan calling Symonds 'a great guy' and singing a "we are a family" tune.

One-sided matches
The charm of T20 matches lies in their razor-edge competitiveness, but not many provided that thrill this time with the results often becoming clear midway.

Unsuitable pitches
T20 is all about big-hitting but to make this happen, wickets have to be made as flat as possible. This wasn't the case, however, this time. Every now and then, someone was whining about the pitches.

Waning popularity
Unlike previous seasons, IPL 4 witnessed a drop in footfalls and eyeballs. Quite a few stadiums were half-empty. People weren't rushing home to catch it on television either. Some blamed spectator fatigue after the World Cup while another, more worrying for the organisers, suggests that the novelty factor is wearing off.

Slow starts
Chris Gayle has been an exception, but there has been a major change in approach with many opting not to lose early wickets and build a platform.

Bad fielding

Fielding is one feature that got the thumbs down this time. Interestingly, it's something the IPL bosses had bragged about and they weren't wide of the mark as fielding was really world class in the previous seasons.

This time it has been pedestrian save for some fine individual efforts. Catching in particular has been ordinary with Indian players in particular putting down many sitters.

Malinga mayhem
The Sri Lankan was simply brilliant for the Mumbai Indians. His slingy deliveries were lethal and his yorkers were like laser-guided missiles. He even bowled a maiden over to Virender Sehwag, who said it was perhaps the only maiden he might have played in the last decade!

Pollard's agility
With compatriot Chris Gayle playing the 'Hit Man' for RCB, the West Indian found a new discipline to shine in for the Mumbai Indians. While fielding standards dipped otherwise, Pollard made jaws drop with breathtaking catches and stunning stops. For a man of his size, his agility is remarkable.

Smashing Gilly
Adam Gilchrist had an average outing with the bat and it had appeared age had caught up with the Australian who was skipper for Kings XI Punjab this season. But the fresh mountain air of Dharamsala re-invigorated his spirit, and soon followed a typically blazing Gilchrist knock. Watching the Aussie smash bowlers half his age to the foothills of the Dhauladhar range was simply amazing and brought back memories.

War of Words
Munaf Patel vs Amit Mishra: It was unwarranted and presented an ugly sight as the two India players squared up - all because Mishra had scored a few boundaries off Munaf's bowling. Equally unnecessary was Kiwi Jesse Ryder chatting up Manoj Tiwary.

One of the shabbiest IPLs when it came media accreditations. Many journos didn't get their accreditations till the event had reached the halfway mark. Even Kings XI bowling coach Jason Gillespie had to sit outside due to accreditation woes.

First Published: May 23, 2011 00:16 IST