Over the last few years, the Indian Premier League has not only been a platform for intense cricketing action or for glitz and glamour, it has also been a very important medium for cricket diplomacy!
After hosting the tournament in the United Arab Emirates for two years, the IPL was held from start to finish in India this time around and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ensured that the final of the tournament at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad was a star-studded affair. The who’s who of world cricket attended the final at the world’s largest cricket stadium where music composer A.R. Rahman and Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh mesmerised a 1,04,859-strong crowd during the closing ceremony.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Sports Minister Anurag Thakur (former BCCI president) attended the game. International Cricket Council president Greg Barclay, CEO Geoff Allardice and officials from all other international cricket boards — barring Pakistan — were present to witness the grand show.
The guests were put up in a plush five-star hotel in Gandhinagar, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Representatives from all the state associations were also present for the big event. “This was a perfect opportunity to meet and greet with representatives from different cricket boards and exchange ideas. The BCCI has done an incredible job by hosting the entire tournament at home and by inviting the other board members,” an official from one of the associate nations, who attended the IPL final in India for the first time, said.
If you were at the Gandhinagar hotel on the morning of the final, you would’ve surely come across many photo-worthy moments including the sight of BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly obliging everyone’s requests for ‘selfies’ several. Former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin was also spotted discussing ways to improve the game in the sub-continent with the top bosses from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh giving him a patient hearing.
Love from the batch of 2008
When Sanju Samson and his men took the field for the final against Gujarat Titans, they had a few special guests cheering for them from the stands!
Quite a few Indian members from Rajasthan Royals' batch of 2008 — which won the inaugural edition of the IPL — were invited by the franchise to watch the special game at the Narendra Modi Stadium.
Mohammad Kaif, Munaf Patel, Yusuf Pathan, Swapnil Asnodkar, Dinesh Salunkhe, Parag More, Siddharth Trivedi watched the game from the box and motivated the team.
“We got a call from the Royals management a day before the final, inviting us for the big match. It was a lovely gesture to invite the members of the 2008 team, which won the first and only IPL title for Rajasthan Royals. It was nice to catch up with all the old friends,” Yusuf told Sportstar .
While Yusuf, Kaif and a few others posted pictures and videos along with the team’s owner Manoj Badale, they all surely missed Shane Warne. The class of 2008 had a perfect monitor in Warne, who was more like an elder brother and mentor to all the players. After the auction, not many thought that Rajasthan Royals could make an impact in the tournament as it was packed with rookies and uncapped players, along with a few internationals - including Warne, who had announced his retirement from international cricket the previous year.
But during the course of the tournament, Warne ensured that he made heroes out of inexperienced, raw talents. “When I look back, it feels strange that in that team apart from Warne and Graeme Smith, others were mostly young and inexperienced guys. Ravindra Jadeja, Yusuf, Kamran Akmal, Shane Watson, Sohail Tanveer — back then, they all were upcoming cricketers. But Warne did not differentiate between seniors and juniors. It was one happy unit…” Asnodkar said about Warne, who passed away in March.
The franchise left no stone unturned to celebrate the moment, but in the end, it was heartbreak for Sanju and his men!
Thanking the unsung heroes
After a successful completion of the IPL, the BCCI announced a prize money of Rs 1.25 crore for the curators and groundsmen who helped in conducting the tournament across six venues.
“We’ve witnessed some high-octane games and I would like to thank each one of them for their hard work. 25 lacs each for CCI, Wankhede, DY Patil and MCA, Pune. 12.5 lacs for Eden and Narendra Modi Stadium,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah tweeted.
This year, 70 league matches were held across Mumbai and Pune, while the playoffs were held in Kolkata and Ahmedabad.
Keeping the bio-bubble in mind, it was decided that the group stage fixtures of the IPL will be played at the four grounds — the Wankhede Stadium, Brabourne Stadium and DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai along with the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune.
With so many matches being played at those venues, there were apprehensions that the wickets may have worn out as the temperature soared in April and May. But most games in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai turned out to be high-scoring, even though bowlers, too, had something in it for them.
In Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Kolkata, about 150 groundsmen worked hard to ensure that the standard was maintained and there were no complaints about the surfaces. The players and coaches also lauded the wickets prepared for the tournament.
The playoffs in Kolkata turned out to be run fests. The surface initially aided the bowlers during the final in Ahmedabad, with the batters coming to the party as the match progressed.