India losing a one-day series at home after four years should have made headlines. That it didn’t was because everybody’s attention was on the soon-to-commence Indian Premier League. Maybe not everybody because the support staff of the Indian team – coach Rahul Dravid and his colleagues, who cannot be linked with any IPL franchise – will have the whole of the IPL to look at the areas that need improvement.
What the loss showed was that the batting certainly needs to be looked at. If anything, Indian batting isn’t as reliable as earlier. The bowling has come on very well, and fielding overall has improved too.
There are far too many batting collapses in all formats of the game, and that is a cause for concern. The openers lay down the foundation, but this is where the team has struggled in recent times. If the start is not good, the middle order is under enormous pressure as batters have the twin responsibility of consolidating the innings and then taking the attack to the opposition. Owing to the emphasis in white-ball games on rapid run-making, the skill of defending the good deliveries is being lost. If luck is not in favour, the batter gets exposed badly.
The glitz and glamour of the finest T20 league in the world, it is hoped, will not erase the memory of the series loss. The loss should rankle and make the players motivated to get their back on the opposition again.
A few new rules will add a new dimension to the IPL this season. Captains will be allowed to decide their playing eleven after the toss. Maybe next year they will look at doing away with the toss, and every visiting team will be given the option of choosing whether to bat or bowl first. Innovation is good as long as the basics of cricket stay the same.
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Cricket is a game played between eleven players in a team, and with the ‘impact player’ proviso, teams will effectively feature 12 men. Everybody likes to see something fresh and new, and thus, this year’s ‘impact player’ rule will be followed avidly by cricket lovers to see what real difference it makes to the game’s dynamics.
The 10 teams seem well balanced, but injuries to some key players may make some teams a tad nervous. That said, the format is such a fast-paced one that there is no time to brood over whether a player could or should have played, but isn’t.
Last year, the two teams at the bottom of the table were those that had won the title nine times between them. They will be determined to show that what happened last year was an aberration. The team that can call itself defending champion this season was taking part in the tournament for the first time last year, and this team, on the other hand, will be keen to show that last year’s victory wasn’t a fluke.
There are three teams that haven’t won the trophy yet despite having played 15 seasons. They will want to win the elusive title.
Every year, the IPL gets more and more exciting, and throws up new talent. This year shouldn’t be any different. It is truly the tournament where talent meets opportunity.
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