When the Indian Premier League began in 2008, it was a unique concept for most of us. Before this, you would not even have imagined that players from different countries could play in the same team. It was a new thing, and the players did not know how long it would last, but a few seasons later, all of us knew that the league was here to stay.
It has given an identity to a lot of young players and also a sense of security in terms of money. But, initially, it was not easy to cope with the pace of the league.
Then, there were post-match parties, which of course, were not mandatory for the players. I have never been a party person, so I would mostly skip these. But we ensured that we did not miss out on fun, so almost every night a few of us would sit in one of our hotel rooms and chat for long. We would organise a home-cooked meal and relish it together. When I was playing for Chennai Super Kings, one of my friends from Chennai would get lip-smacking food and all the players would have a feast. I remember how Michael Hussey used to wait for the Paya to arrive. He enjoyed it!
The IPL also involved a lot of travel. You were always on the move. Most of the games would finish late and by the time we reached the hotel, it would be around 2 a.m. And then, you would fly out to another destination in the next few hours. So, there was a rush to pack things and get ready for the next stop. It was difficult.
There would hardly be any time to sleep, so I made it a point to pack my bags before leaving for the game because that way, I could catch some sleep after returning to the hotel. Another way of saving time was to pack my breakfast and have it in the team bus or at the airport. By doing this, I could save some time and utilise it for sleeping.
Most of the players would try and catch some sleep on the flight. But as the seasons progressed, both the players and the franchises made peace with the travelling bit.
I also remember, in the 2008 edition, we had a turbulent flight to Bengaluru. I still recollect how scared my dear friend Brett Lee was. His expression said it all.
In the first edition, flight connectivity was poor from Chandigarh. Delhi was the hub and we had to take early morning flights from Chandigarh and end up waiting in Delhi for the connecting flight.
But now, the franchises have become accommodating, and have decided to book by the late evening flights. This way, the players at least get a chance to recover properly and at the same time, catch some sleep and stay refreshed.
People also speak a lot about the interference of the franchise owners. I played the first two seasons for Kings XI Punjab and later for Chennai Super Kings. In CSK, the captain and the coach are the main people. They are thoroughly professional. Some franchisees do get involved, but Mumbai Indians and CSK run it their own way.
For us, it was different in the first season at Kings XI, where Preity Zinta was the face of the team. She got involved with the captain and the coach, but she knew when to take her foot off the pedal.
She was the coolest member and had a nice way of keeping the team together. I remember her making aloo paratha for all the players during the 2009 edition. The team was in South Africa and the players were missing home food. So, in the hotel, she arranged for all the ingredients and made the dish herself. It was a nice gesture and a unique way for an owner to be involved with the team. She wanted to take the franchise to the top and kept herself well informed. It was a new thing because in Indian cricket, the BCCI president doesn’t get involved in the selection process, but here it was entirely different.
It posed challenges initially, but over the years, the IPL has been a big boost to international cricket.
As told to Shayan Acharya.
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