Ruturaj Gaikwad of Chennai Super Kings with the IPL trophy in front of the fans after a thrilling season 14 in the UAE
Ruturaj Gaikwad of Chennai Super Kings with the IPL trophy in front of the fans after a thrilling season 14 in the UAE Image Credit: ANI

Chennai Super Kings prevailed over Kolkata Knight Riders in Dubai on Friday night, bringing the curtain down on a thrilling and unique Indian Premier League 2021 campaign. With the competition suspended in May and relocated to the UAE, resuming in September it was a season like no other. Similarly, Gulf News covered the matches in a unique way, with fans from each of the teams giving live feedback alongside our experts each night both online and on video. Let’s take a look at how the experience was first-hand from each of them.

THE READERS

An invaluable insight and experience for all involved

Dr Romit Purohit, Rajasthan Royals
Gulf News & Mr Cricket UAE went ‘next level’ for IPL in UAE. Letting us fans to live every ball, wicket and boundary ‘live’ with them. The witty, quirky and nail-biting banter live on Twitter — ball by ball — did not only did raise our adrenalin, but for the readers too. It was a unique and ubiquitous method of coverage that stormed social media. Our analysis was up there competing with the Gavaskars, Bhogles and Haydens. Then came the best element: post-match analyses. To be honest, we felt more like analysts than cricket enthusiasts: debating and discussing with Gulf News experts such as Matt, Shyam, Satish, Gautam and — of course the top banter with Mr Cricket UAE himself, Anis Sajan — memories of a lifetime and something never before so enterprising. By the way, my Twitter handle reached 300K plus too!

Amarpreet and Arjan Singh, Chennai Super Kings
IPL is known as the ‘Festival of Cricket’ and the UAE has been fortunate enough to host it for two consecutive years. Coming from a cricket-crazy nation, Indians love to have an opinion on every aspect of the game — from team selection, to the toss, to having a view on each and every ball, we love to share, discuss and debate with others. Gulf News and Mr Cricket UAE came up with this innovative mode of cricket reporting where fans like us are involved. This approach has brought in a never-before-seen intense and passionate indulgence of Gulf News followers over the past four weeks.

Both my son Arjan and myself enjoyed the vibrancy of opinions shared during matches. The post-match discussions have been the highlight, with entertaining and enriching experiences for both of us. From fiery discussions on team prospects to the enjoyable banter among franchise fans, the sessions have been memorable for both fans and readers.

Sai Prasad, Mumbai Indians
If I were to compare my experience of being part of the reader’s panel in cricketing parlance, it would be like hitting a six in every match. Dissecting Mumbai and their strategies was enriching. As a Gulf News reader for over two decades, it was during this session I truly connected to the newspaper. Commenting from the sidelines during the match is like child’s play, but the opportunity of airing my views on such a credible platform with the experts made it empowering. This exercise was a true example of how a media outlet truly gives back to it readers. The social media interactions that accompanied post-match discussions also show how Gulf News has a finger on the pulse of what its readers love and want. We usually say may the best team win but here I am compelled to believe that I was a true winner in all of this.

Gulf News has a finger on the pulse of what its readers love and want

- Sai Prasad, Mumbai fan

Abhijit Roy, Kolkata Knight Riders
This year’s IPL was a real roller-coaster for me as a KKR fan and also as part of the GN team. I got to see my team in the final but we came up short, which was both great and agonising. The one thing that made it even more special was the interaction. I loved joining in with Gulf News and all the other fans — it was an experience like no other, even if the result did not come in our favour. Sharing our thoughts, emotions — and disagreements — on tweets, and then discussing the game face on video was fantastic. Such a great way of doing things.

Hussain Yousuf, Royal Challengers Bangalore
Analysing each game in-depth with the GN experts and Mr Cricket was a great experience, and I got to learn insights about each team. Not to forget the healthy banter with everyone involved. The icing on the cake was the live video chat with the panel, it helped me develop my analytical skills. The IPL brought us so many friends which, in turn turned us into a small family. Lastly, a great shout out to Gulf News for executing this great idea and making me a part of this.

The IPL brought us so many friends which, in turn turned us into a small family

- Hussain Yousuf, RCB fan

Shah Inayath, Sunrisers Hyderabad
We played when we were young, we cheered from the stands as we grew up — this time we fans reported and analysed cricket games that we were passionate about. Thanks to Mr Cricket UAE Anis Sajan and the Gulf News team, we now have something to treasure for life. That banter on tweets when went live, we felt totally like star reporters. Those witty moments on post cricket analysis, was like: “Eh you nailed me!!” Absolute cricketomaniacs were we. In the end, I have never felt cricket so ball-by-ball and soulful.

Arif Vasaya, Punjab Kings
This was a wonderful experience and, first of all, I have to express my gratitude to Gulf News and Mr Cricket UAE for granting me such a great and unique opportunity. Secondly, the concept of involving us fans in the live online and video coverage was totally top-notch. I really had an amazing chat and experience. It was my privilege to put forward my perspective towards all the other experts.

Maaz Ahmad, Delhi Capitals
Cricket is my passion and I got the opportunity to live my passion with Gulf News. Being a huge cricket fan and watching almost all the matches, it was a great experience to share my predictions, knowledge, analysis and point of view with great cricket experts from Gulf News and Mr Cricket UAE Anis Sajan himself. Being part of the team at such a huge brand as GN was a great achievement for me and I am looking forward to working with everyone for the upcoming cricket events as well.

Being part of the team at such a huge brand as GN was a great achievement for me

- Maaz Ahmad, DC fan

Chennai Super Kings celebrated in front of the fans in Dubai on Friday
Chennai Super Kings celebrated in front of the fans in Dubai on Friday Image Credit: IPL

THE EXPERTS

Readers take it to another level and prove they are as classy as game itself

Matthew Smith, Sports Editor
When a huge event like the IPL comes to your own doorstep, it is crucial to cover it in an innovative way, unlike coverage you can just pick up from any outlet or website. The Gulf News readers’ really opened up our coverage in a new direction, allowing the greater audience to get the feel of what it is like to be a fan watching the match and going through the roller-coaster of emotions. It also allowed us at Gulf News to learn from the fans themselves and gain a valuable insight into how they read the match for the supporter’s viewpoint, rather than a neutral reporter. Fascinating.

Shyam A. Krishna, Senior Associate Editor
The IPL is all about passion. A passion that spills from the stands to the field. So when ardent cricket fans write about the action on the field, passion becomes a part of it. That’s what happened when Gulf News asked readers to cover the IPL 2021. I found that passion was not the sole driving force of the readers. They are students of the game as well. Their insights and analyses often surprised me. It helped provide me with a good idea of what the readers are looking for. More surprising was the readers confidence in their knowledge of cricket, when live blogging or during the video chats. They didn’t hold back even when criticising the captaincy of Virat Kohli or the slow scoring of Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Brave, indeed.

Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor
The journey through the UAE leg of IPL 2021 was a rather new experience for me — and I say this after been through every edition of the league since 2008 with Gulf News. Talk of making the IPL coverage an interactive experience and here it was: each of these eight fans — who ranged from being the dad of a wonderkid CSK fan, a doctor, professionals and a student — kept us on our toes. They were passionate, knowledgable but at the end of the day sporting, always ready for banter and a laugh at the expense of their respective franchises especially when they didn’t perform well. And then there was Mr Cricket UAE Anis Sajan, whose enthusiasm for the game can be infectious — not to speak of his ability to draw on past performances and parallels. It was fun, but at the same time, a learning experience.

Each of these eight fans — ranging from wonderkid CSK fan, a doctor, professionals and a student — kept us on our toes

- Gautam Bhattacharyya, Senior Associate Editor

Mr Cricket UAE, Anis Sajan
When it comes to cricket, and especially the IPL, it is the fans who lift a team. They are like the 12th man of every franchise. They have become more important in this difficult period of Covid-19 which has restrictions on fans going in to the stadium, hence the engagement of every fan on Gulf News was like a shout out for their favourite franchise. And I can say with conviction and having spoken to many cricketers who were part of this IPL, they followed their views, banter and loved it. Fans give them motivation to perform and give their best for their teams. And this initiative by Gulf News was followed by most of the franchises as I got messages from players how happy they feel when their fans cheer them even though they are not present in the stadium. Chennai won the IPL title this time but the real winners for me are the fans who interacted passionately with Gulf News page and took it to another level.

A.K.S. Satish, Assistant Editor
When it comes to the knowledge of cricket, the IPL in particular, there is not much of a difference between a fan and an ‘expert’ — every expert is a fan of some franchise, either from their city or due to the stars in those teams. This is the realisation I got from the Season 14. This IPL gave me a chance to interact with some of those fans, who have very high knowledge of the game, and Mr Cricket UAE. I enjoyed the banter with the fans and Anis, which made it more interesting and entertaining as we agreed to disagree on a few occasions. On the whole, it provided an insight into the standard of our readers and fans. And the takeaway for me is, it is better to be a fan as they can open their hearts out and show unrestrained bias towards their teams, as an expert one has to show some restraint and stay neutral and can’t say anything you want to!

Imran Malik, Assistant Editor
Cricket has always been known as the gentleman’s game. I am pleased to see that it still retains this title and it’s thanks to our Gulf News readers. Fair play is associated most with cricket and this has shone through not just in the thrilling matches but via our interactions with our passionate fans. They ensured to maintain their decorum — even when their teams were losing — they kept the banter playful and didn’t resort to sledging. Kolkata tweeted a congratulatory message to Chennai after losing the final which was ever so classy — just like the sport still is, and our readers are.