So, to the last part of our IPL3 A-Z, which just to recap summarises our thoughts on our first experience of the IPL. We haven’t watched every game. In fact we haven’t even watched half of them, but we have seen enough to present our take on IPL3 in the form of an A-Z, with A-I two days ago, J-Q yesterday and finally R-Z today.
We cannot be the only ones to notice that the IPL at times resembles a rather lucrative retirement home for old and not so needy cricketers. Four of the eight sides are captained by players who have retired from international cricket. Indeed, Gilchrist and Warne have retired from all cricket except the IPL and it shows especially with the former in their somewhat diminished powers. Warne is a classic case. He spends most of his time playing poker, winding up the English and hawking underwear and for six weeks a year he plays cricket. Occasionally, as in the match against Deccan Chargers, he rolls back the years and produces a vintage display but he seems to be mainly in situ for his captaincy and talent spotting than his once formidable leg spin. For other retirement home incumbents see the mongoose wiedling Hayden, Vaas and Brad Hodge amongst others. Some like Damien Martyn are considered too decrepit and are slung out after a game or two.
He may have missed out in the semi-final last night, but the undoubted batting giant of IPL3 has been the great man himself. His consistency at the top of the order for Mumbai Indians has been remarkable and his previously castigated captaincy has been impressive as his side has waltzed its way serenely to the final. If Sachin was in the Indian squad for the World T20 they would be favourites; without him they are likely to fall short. Genius.
Probably the most annoying invention of the IPL is the completely unnecessary 'strategic timeouts'. Not only is it another attempt to Americanise the sport that God would play, but it is clearly just an excuse to have yet more advertising. Cricket does not need timeouts. Please get rid of them, Modi.
Say what you like about the IPL. It may be too glitzy and hyped up with advertising that would shame America and commentary that makes Channel 9 look like Test Match Special, but one thing it isn’t is predictable. The salary cap and player auction process ensures that the sides are more or less evenly matched; unlike the English Premier League for example. T20 is a great leveller, but Kings XI Punjab apart (and even they dramatically improved towards the end of the season and beat the pacesetting Mumbai), every team still had a chance of reaching the semi-finals in their last match. This leads to exciting and unpredictable cricket and the competition is all the better for it.
In every drama there is a villain of the peace and the IPL is no different. We have already covered the administrators, avarice, advertising and the commentators, but villains exist amongst the player fraternity too. We have already mentioned the slightly deranged Sreesanth, but our vote for the biggest villain amongst the cricketers is his Punjab team mate Yuvraj Singh, who appears to have an ego the size of Jupiter. Yuvraj is not as good as he seems to think he is (although that would be impossible) and if the numerous stories are true, has unsettled KXIP to such an extent that he is allegedly the main reason for their dismal season. Apparently he has been sulking about not having the captaincy, appears disinterested and unfit, and has ruined the karma created by King Kumar. If even some of this is true, Yuvraj needs to buck his ideas up.
Yes these do occur occasionally in IPL amidst all the boundaries and DLF maximums. And it seems that the main weapon to get wickets is spin. Look at the leading wicket takers and you will see Pragyan Ojha (20), Harbhajan Singh (17) and Amit Mishra (17) at the top of the table. Several sides have opted to start with spinners with mixed results, but any format of the game where spin appears to hold the key is fine by us. In terms of seam, it appears extreme pace and the ability to bowl yorkers holds the key with Lasith Malinga (15), Zaheer Khan (14) and Dale Steyn (14) riding high.
No, not the the idiotic but admittedly lucrative creation of Simon Cowell, but the team with the best sprinkling of the X Factor within its ranks. Whilst most teams seem to load themselves with star batsmen (see Delhi Daredevils and Kolkata Knight Riders), the secret to success (as in any form of cricket) is to ensure that both the batting and bowling departments are equally strong. The team that has done this is by sheer coincidence the standout side of the tournament. I am referring to Mumbai Indians, of course. The X-Factor is spread evenly throughout the line-up with Tendulkar, Tiwary, Duminy and Pollard with the willow, and Harbhajan, Zaheer Khan and Malinga with the ball. Other franchises should take note.
Yusuf, Robbie, Vijay & Pollard
There seem to be two types of batsmen in the IPL. The lovers like Sachin and Kallis caress the ball and aim to provide pleasure for as long as possible. Then there are the shaggers who can't be bothered with the foreplay of playing themselves in and start banging away from ball one. Mostly this leads to a disappointing two pumps and a squirt, but when it comes off it provides ecstasy. It can even last all night as evidenced by M (don't call me Murali) Vijay's innings of 127 off 56 balls in the runfest between Chennai and Rajasthan. Some can do it on a more regular basis like Robin Uthappa, some prefer a quick shag like Kieron Pollard, whilst others can even earn superlatives such as being called the best shag they'd ever had. Witness Shane Warne's exaggerated appreciation of Yusuf Pathan's 37 ball 100 against Mumbai in the early stages of the competition.
The number of wickets taken by Brett Lee in four matches for Punjab this season before his premature exit with another injury. He may be an Australian, but this Pom wishes him well and hopes he is back for the World T20. Lee is definitely one of cricket's good guys, if not one of its best singers as evidenced by this ditty featuring none other than King Kumar Sangakkara.