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IPL, elections: Let the games begin!

India’s two most addictive passions – the IPL and general elections – play out almost simultaneously this year. The IPL kicks off on Saturday, the first phase of the elections is on April 11. Both reach their climax on May 19. Given the stakes involved in both fields, the next eight weeks promise to be high on excitement and cacophony.

Whether the elections should have been stretched so long is debatable, but what’s important from the perspective of cricket lovers is that it has not impeded the IPL from being played in India. The general elections in 2009 had forced the League to be shifted to South Africa; and in 2014, it was divided between UAE and India.

This time there has thankfully been no such impediment. While preserving law and order during elections is always a primary concern, I believe that on those two occasions, the authorities were being a tad alarmist in shifting the IPL to foreign soil and depriving fans here of their own tournament.

One has to trust the maturity of the people, and if the IPL does not become a platform for politicking – as the BCCI’s regulations stipulate and has been ratified – there is no reason why both events can’t be held successfully together.

Credit here must be given to the BCCI on two counts. One, for hammering out the feasibility of holding the tournament at home with the government, two for devising an itinerary that allows all teams to play their home matches unhindered.

The staggered elections created many logistical issues but these have been surmounted with ingenious planning. It will be hectic for teams as they crisscross the country to accommodate polling in various states. But no team can complain that it has been given the short shrift.

I’ll leave predicting the outcome of elections to other worthies, but what about the IPL? This comes loaded with great hazard. The beauty about the IPL is that the spread of talent is pretty even. Every team on paper looks as strong as any other. More importantly, just the presence of formidable names is no guarantee to success. Resilience, sustenance of form and ambition for the duration of the tournament – and not a little luck – are crucial factors.

Even a slight shortfall in these attributes can lead to topsy-turvy results. For instance, the first edition of the IPL (2008) was won by unfancied Rajashthan Royals, flush with young players under the inspirational Shane Warne. Last season, Chennai Super Kings, returning after a two-year suspension and chided for being a ‘Dad’s Army’, pulled off an unexpected win.

On the other hand, Royal Challengers Bangalore, always star-studded and at one stage boasting of players of the calibre of Chris Gayle, A B de Villiers, Virat Kohli, Mitchel Starc and Daniel Vettori in the squad has still to win the title.

With stellar players scattered across different franchises, a major concern of the BCCI was whether the IPL’s city-based structure would divide or consolidate fan loyalty. Over 11 seasons, this apprehension has been allayed. While Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni undoubtedly enjoy cult status in Mumbai (as everywhere in the country), when it comes to the IPL, a majority of cricket fans in the city will root for their `home team’.

I was at the Wankhede Stadium the other day, which was already bustling with excitement of fans in anticipation for Mumbai Indians’ first match of the season, against Delhi Capitals, on Sunday. The question I was asked most was whether the team is good enough to atone for last season’s disappointing performance. For reasons mentioned earlier, there is no guarantee, but there’s good reason to believe it can?

The team’s got impressive legacy (thrice winners), excellent management, high quality support staff and a fine clutch of players, beefed up this year with the inclusion of seasoned pros, Lasith Malinga and Yuvraj Singh, to cover up for the inexperience betrayed last season in crunch situations.

A winning start on Sunday will rev up the mood in the Mumbai Indians camp, give the team early momentum, which it lacked last season. And yes, there’s a point to prove too. Best of luck Rohit Sharma & Co!

First Published:
Mar 22, 2019 01:05 IST

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