Things come thick and fast in Indian sport these days. In the 89 days since the turn of the year, the nation has played host to a stunning array of top-draw sporting events.
There were 15 limited-overs cricket matches against Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia, the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Women’s Premier League, Tata Open Maharashtra ATP 250, Hockey World Cup, Boxing World Championships, India Open badminton and Indian Open golf to name a few.
No longer seasonal
Gone are the days when sport was a pastime, a touristy affair to be enjoyed seasonally. It is now a 24x7/365 enterprise, with an ever-growing list of competitions waiting to be shoehorned into the calendar.
Yet, since 2008, about two months of the Indian summer — but for the General Election years of 2009 and 2014, and the COVID-19 pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 — have been exclusively reserved for the Indian Premier League (IPL), arguably the world’s most popular cricketing extravaganza.
Families and friends either throng stadiums or embellish their living rooms with large TV screens, as the world’s best cricketers reveal their secret graces, for there is nothing finer in life than its physical enjoyment.
From Friday, it will be that time of the year again as IPL 2023 gets underway at the Narendra Modi Stadium here with a match between Gujarat Titans and Chennai Super Kings.
After three years spent under the shadow of the pandemic, it will be a rebirth of sorts with the return of the home-and-away format, allowing players to bounce off the audience’s energy like showmen would in a theatre.
This season’s IPL will demand that both players and fans recalibrate their minds.
If the differing conditions and varying boundary sizes are a throwback to earlier times, the move to introduce Impact Player substitution and allow naming of the playing XIs after the toss have given rise to intrigue.
The slated aim is to “add a new tactical/strategic dimension to the game” and “maintain IPL’s position at the forefront of innovative cricket.”
This is in tune with how the IPL has evolved over the last 15 years, a revolution that has wiped out many things ingrained in cricket. But sometimes, it may bring back a few forgotten ones.
Joe Root will feature in his first-ever IPL, with the Englishman auditioning rather well with ramp shots over the cordon in Test cricket!
The seemingly done-and-dusted Kane Williamson returns, rejuvenated and hungry.
Among the other attractions are Shubman Gill, widely touted as the next Indian batting great, Harry Brook, who best represents England’s transformation under Brendon McCullum, and Cameron Green, the Australian all-rounder of endless possibilities.
Maverick Jofra Archer is set to play his first IPL since 2020, a much-awaited moment.
The absence of Jasprit Bumrah, Rishabh Pant and Shreyas Iyer (for at least the first half) will hurt their teams and the appeal of the tournament. Bumrah’s and Shreyas’ back injuries, in particular, have reignited the debate on whether too much cricket is being played.
It doesn’t help that India’s World Test Championship (WTC) final against Australia is scheduled just over a week after the IPL ends.
But those are worries for another day, for when the clock strikes 7.30 on Friday evening, it will be showtime!
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