The best T20 league in the world has begun and for cricket lovers, evenings are never going to be the same till the end of May. The opening game itself was a nail biter with a last ball win for the Bangalore team which looks to have more depth in both the batting and bowling departments this year and so will be a serious contender for the trophy which has eluded it for the last 13 years.
Two other teams, Delhi Capitals and Punjab Kings have also not got their names on the winners list and will be keen to dethrone Mumbai which is looking for a hat-trick of wins and has won it for five times. All the teams look balanced and it’s hard to pick out a favourite and as always the team that handles pressure is going to take home the trophy.
There’s been a lot of talk about the bio bubble that players will be in and the hardships that it entails where players, especially the foreigners, will be without family and the comforts of their home for such a long time. It is no doubt extremely hard to be away from one’s family and dear ones but the silver lining is that they are getting to go out and do what they love and that is to play cricket. Rohit Sharma, the Mumbai captain, got it right when he said as much that while others are locked at home and many can’t even work and earn, the IPL guys can go and do just that. It will certainly make the lockdown a bit easy for cricket lovers if there are more results like the first game which went down to the wire. Last year’s IPL had two super over finishes in a day and that too on a Sunday and that kept the viewers glued to their TV monitors. There were two super overs in one match last year and so this time around the playing conditions stipulate that there will be as many super overs as can be had in one hour.
There is another interesting addition to the playing conditions that the 20th over must start before 90 minutes are completed else there will be penalties. This is most necessary as games often go on for over an hour of the prescribed time. This happens in tight finishes where the team defending the total takes a lot of time towards the end in setting fields and making bowling changes.
How this playing condition is going to be implemented will be interesting to see as the tournament goes on. There will be allowances made for the time taken for the ball going into the empty stands and being retrieved or replaced, for any injury to players or for sight screen adjustment and also for every wicket that falls. For the latter, there is a two minute allowance given which is too much considering players are now sitting in the dug out on the ground and so take less than a minute to reach the batting crease when a wicket falls. That time should be reduced to one minute and the calculation made accordingly. In fact, this should be done for all formats of the game now and not just for the T20 leagues.
There’s another law that caused a debate over the last few days and that was the one about fake fielding. The key element in this is the intent and there’s no way the umpires on the ground nor in the TV room are ever going to get it right about the intent of the fielders. Firstly, any sporting encounter is about deception without which there would hardly ever be a winner. It’s deception that makes a player win, so to penalise a player or a team for that is ridiculous to say the least. In cricket it is totally the batsman’s responsibility to be aware at every moment where the ball is. If he is going to be deceived by the fielder or the wicketkeeper then he really shouldn’t be playing the game. This is one more rule favouring the batsman and the sooner it is done away the better.
Many years back a World Cup-winning captain brought to the discussion table at the ICC cricket committee meeting, instances of a spinner occasionally grunting a ‘no’ as he delivered the ball. This often made the batsman think it was the umpire calling a no-ball and so he would go for a wild hit. Fortunately there were no instances of the batsman getting out but the deception possibility was enormous. Since there had been no examples of batsmen being dismissed, the discussion on it was basically laughed out but the fact remains that it was a possibility that at a crucial stage a batting side could lose a wicket to a fake ‘no-ball’ call.
Today, of course, the no-ball call will be made by the TV umpire and while in limited-overs cricket there is a free hit off the next delivery, in Test match cricket the slight advantage that a batsman had is no longer there.
TV now dominates the conversation with the need to avoid errors being the main topic. That has taken away the innocence that the game had when we started playing it so many years ago. These days, winning is everything and that’s why it is no longer a gentleman’s game.