What IPL means to me?
Love it or hate it, but you cannot ignore it - that in a nutshell - was my first impression about the Indian Premier League (IPL) when it became a runaway hit in it’s first edition in 2008. After 13 years of a tumultous journey during which it has weathered a many a storm, my strongest feeling is that it had been one of the most spectacular stories in brand-building out of India which has changed the landscape of cricket throughout the world.
While Lalit Modi, the cavalier founding chairman of IPL, is given a lot of credit for giving birth to an unique concept in the lines of Premier League football, some of the best creative minds of the country’s marketing and advertising industry had been at work over the years to build this exceptional product. No amount of scandal, recession or even uncertainty over the event has been able to cast a negative impact on the product’s appeal - which has formed a robust business model over the years.
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At another level, the IPL has lived up to it’s theme which is carved out in Sanskrit on the glittering trophy which means: ‘‘Where talent meets opportunity.’’ While most of the biggest names of the sport want to prove themselves on the IPL stage for the fat pay cheque, it’s also a platform where we have seen so many rags-to-riches stories being made. Be it the Pandya brothers from the dusty streets of Baroda, or a Mohammed Shiraj - the son of an autorickshaw driver in Hyderabad - there are simply no end to such fascinating stories of wish fulfillment. This is also another plus for me from the IPL.
Chennai Super Kings may make amends
It’s always a million dollar question as to who will win the title. After the dominant performance of Mumbai Indians in the UAE on their way to a fifth title, one would be tempted to go with them but I would like to stick my neck out and count on Chennai Super Kings to bounce back for a shot at what could be their fourth title. A combination of factors led to their undoing last time when they finished seventh - the lack of enough quality batsmen in the middle order to give their innings momentum, Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s abysmal form with the bat and the spinners lacking teeth made them lose their way on the unfamiliar terrain of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.
Suresh Raina, whose absence at No.3, was felt acutely last time, is back while Chennai has roped in two experienced campaigners in Cheteshwar Pujara and Robin Uthappa. They may not exactly look like hot properties on paper, but can provide the spine that CSK were lacking so sorely last time. The new ball attack rests on the capable hands of Deepak Chahar, wily Shardul Thakur and the ever improving Sam Curran.
The spin department has also received a fillip with the arrival of Moeen Ali, who alongwith Ravindra Jadeja and Karn Charma, can prove to be a different kettle of fish on Indian conditions!