It is fair to say that the Indian Premier League has found its flow, now. The match fixing cloud that hung over it at the start of the tournament was lifted by some bright cricket in the UAE and was entirely at the back of the mind by the time Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders played out a thrilling finale on Indian soil in Bangalore.
Long term credibility is not for now. The match fixing allegations and the poisonous vein that clearly runs from the top of the Indian game to the bottom, is something that needs removing very quickly. The unfortunate ascension of N Srinivasan, recently suspended chief of the BCCI, to the power seat at the ICC, suggests that cricket may well have to get worse before it gets better in this regard.
The zest with which the IPL was embraced throughout, however, is clear indicator that this tournament is going nowhere. There is too much commercial interest and enthusiasm from genuine cricket fans for it to just disappear.
It reminds me, somewhat, of Italy’s premier soccer league, Serie A. Often dogged by controversy from doping to fixing, it rumbles on, often producing scintillating football and players. At its most recent worst, during the infamous Calciopoli scandal, Italy even won the 2006 World Cup. Poor and corrupt administration is no guideline as to the quality of the sporting product.
Anyone who tuned into Sunday’s IPL final would surely agree. A flat track and a raucous crowd combined to yield over 400 runs and a final over finish as the tension ratcheted up. After all his glory on the Test fields of late, blowing away England and South Africa on behalf of Australia, it was Mitchell Johnson who cost Kings XI the final with a misguided bumper at Piyush Chawla that the wee leggie of KKR hoiked into the stands off the last ball of the 19th over to leave a final over chase of just five runs.
Johnson, who had removed 2014’s top run scorer, Robin Uthappa in the first over of KKR’s 200 chase, was left to berate himself and hold his head in his hands as the realisation of what he had just done, sank in. A highly paid overseas star he may be, but make no mistake; everyone wanted to win this and the desperation on Mitch’s face spoke volumes for the attitude of the players.
As did the pre-game decision of Sunil Narine. He was required to be at the West Indies training camp on Sunday to be considered for selection against New Zealand in the first Test. An IPL final or a Test cap? Should the players have to decide? Can they not showcase their skills on both platforms?
It is not the IPL that is searching for acceptance anymore. Players want to play in it and no longer just because of the money, although a whopping pay day always oils the cogs…
IPL 2014 in numbers
– Robin Uthappa scored 660 runs to take the orange cap by 94 runs from CSK’s Dwayne Smith. This was the first time that the winner of the orange cap, representative of the tournament’s top run scorer, has been on the side that has won the trophy.
– Glenn Maxwell hit 36 sixes in 2014, the most at the tournament. This is a record amongst mere mortals. Chris Gayle is not a mere mortal and hit 59 maximums in 2012. Then 51 in 2013 having hit 44 in 2011.
– Gayle added 12 sixes to his tally in 2014 taking him to 192 from 68 games. That’s 2.8 sixes per game on average. Maxwell has 40 from 21, or 1.9 per game.
– Maxwell does, however, now have the best strike rate in IPL history, 178.91, ahead of Virender Sehwag, 157.33 and Gayle, 154.56.
– Mohit Sharma claimed the purple cap, representative of the tournament’s top wicket taker, with 23 scalps. Dwayne Bravo still holds the record for most wickets in a season with 32, in 2013.
– Despite the influence of spin, as highlighted again by Narine, only one spinner has ever won the purple cap, Pragyan Ojha in 2010.
– To further highlight the influence of a good spinner, of bowlers with over 30 IPL wickets to their name, Narine has comfortably the best economy rate at 5.77. In fact, he’s the only bowler with an economy rate below 6.53.
By Miles Reucroft